This is your child's brain on Apple

But according to many experts, so much screen time can have permanent effects on the brain. The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages any media use by children younger than 2. Dr. David Hill, a member of American Association of Pediatrics' Council on Communications and the Media and the author of the forthcoming book "Dad to Dad: Parenting Like a Pro," agrees and recommends that any child over the age of 2 limit screen time to two hours a day.

"Evidence suggests that viewing the sorts of rapid fire images present in videos or video games can lead to future problems in children's ability to concentrate," he says, adding that some research suggests a strong link between media exposure and ADHD. He says problems are likely to surface when the device is used as a substitute for communication between parent and child. A YouTube video posted in October showing a 1-year-old trying to use a paper magazine like an iPad proved how impressionable children can be. The video has more than 3.5 million views to date and thousands of heated comments.

Jane M. Healy, an educational psychologist who specializes in the effect of computer technology on growing brains and the author of "Different Learners: Identifying, Preventing and Treating Your Child's Learning Problems," says technology offers no benefits to young children.

"All indications are that instead of increasing their intelligence, it's going to dull it down," she says. What's most important for a young child's brain development is participating in conversation, a skill that children preoccupied with an iPad, cellphone or computer fail to practice, she says. "It's language that will later help them become physicists, scientists and imaginative computer programmers."

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Having a child's brain respond to a stimulus in directed play is a very low level type of learning compared with open-ended play, says Healy. Further, these devices can be addictive, so children long to spend more time with them. "You're basically horsing around with your child's brain chemistry in a way that's not very good for him or her," she says. Texting or online communication often supplants face-to-face time that older children need to develop social skills, resulting in difficulty with interpersonal communication, says Elizabeth Englander, a professor of psychology and the director of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center at Bridgewater State University.

But Nancy Willard, director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, says technology is here to stay, so parents can't shun it. "We need to make sure kids run, play and interact with others. If their lives are in balance, the use of these technologies will simply increase their repertoire." That's the argument that technology developers are sure to continue making as they continue profiting from this fast-growing industry.

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