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Communications of the ACM


Portable Device Fears Show Power of Social Development

girl with tablet

Credit: Ty Lim

Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated its guidelines on how much access children should have to electronic devices amid growing concerns among parents of the effects of electronic media. Yet extrapolation of the evidence linking television and behavior may obscure potentially more subtle and diverse effects. Recent developments in work with interactive devices represent an increased understanding of how children learn and the importance of social interaction.

Concerns over the mental effects of electronic devices have been largely driven by fears that the prevalence of conditions such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) seem to follow their adoption. In 2011, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported an increase of 33% in ADHD prevalence among children from 1997 to 2008. A 2016 follow-up study by the CDC found the increase continued to 2012, but then began to fall through 2015 among children of poorer families, although that reduction was not reflected in wealthier homes.


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