The correlation between video games and childhood obesity has been studied since the rise of video games in the early 80’s. Since then, video games have become more enticing, more realistic, and more compelling than the video games of old. The iPad and similar devices are new platforms that lead to this path of larger children and adults because of its portability and long battery life. Children are spending more time with their iPads than they are engaging in physical activity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), obesity in 6-11 year old children has gone from 7% in 1980 to nearly 20% in 2008. There was an increase within adolescents aged 12-19 from 5% to 18%. Many media outlets emphasize the need for children and iPads as a replacement for the television and video games, though that doesn’t answer the original question about whether these forms of distraction are good in the first place.
In order to remain healthy, the CDC recommends that the average child do at least 1 hour of physical activity each day. Here are some of the differences between obese and healthy children:
- Are at higher risk for heart disease.
- Are more likely to develop diabetes.
- Are at greater risk for bone and joint problems.
- Are candidates for psychological problems such as poor self esteem.
- Are at an increased risk for certain types of cancers.
- Have increased physical activity.
- Have lower risk of types of cancers.
- Have healthy eating habits.
Not only do iPads increase the likelihood of obesity, but they stem the child’s cognitive abilities as well. The iPad acts as a babysitter, and children’s attention spans are lowering. The number of iPad apps for children is rising as a result of this trend. With more children having iPads and mobile devices at their disposal, the market is becoming saturated with educational applications.
Benefits of Children and iPads
The iPad can also positively influence a child’s cognitive ability. Because of the interactive nature of the iPad, children are learning their numbers and letters, engaging with shapes, and more. A few positive applications include: Fish School, an application which teaches children their numbers and letters, Math Bingo, where children get to fill out math problems on a bingo card, and 123 World Geography, a coloring exercise for children to learn their world geography.
Developers are also creating iPad apps for children with special needs. Those special needs children are becoming more socially adept, receiving language skills, and more. There is also an increase in confidence with special needs children as a result of their interaction with the iPad.
While obesity and cognitive dysfunction are concerns when children use iPads, the positive effects of iPads and children can be accentuated with limited use. Parents should limit their child’s iPad use to between 1 and 2 hours a day, and use the remaining time for interaction, physical activity, and unstructured play.