SAN DIEGO – Two pediatricians who participated in a point-counterpoint session aimed at asking if toddlers should be using or exposed to touch-screen devices and other electronic devices disagree on whether to encourage the behavior.

Doctors Dimitri Christakis and Donald Shifrin debated at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition Octover 13 at the San Diego Convention Center.

In 2011 the AAP’s position on device exposure for children under the age of 2 was to keep the kids “screen-free”. More is known today about early brain development and how children learn. Various types of stimulation and activities impact the learning process, and these factors impact the AAP’s position on the subject.

At that time 90 percent of parents allowed their children under age 2 to watch some form of electronic media, whether it was television or on a computer. By the age of 3 almost a third of children in the United States had a television in their bedrooms.

And although the AAP has revised its media policy as research findings emerge, its message impacting toddler media exposure has remained the same.

Christakis said touchscreens are merely a platform that is no different than a child watching a movie on a DVD player. He also said he feels tablets can be used to read books to children and that high-quality apps are similar to toys.

Shifrin is opposed to exposing young children to so much technology, and worries that if parents believe mobile device apps are educational they may over expose their children to them.

Both Christakis and Shifrin, however, agree that hard and fast rules limiting toddler exposure to devices are a hard sell.

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