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iPad vs. TV: Which is Better for Kids? Exploring the Impact of Digital Screens on Children’s Development and Well-being

Is it Better for Kids to Use an iPad or Watch TV? Here’s What Research Says


As parents, we often find ourselves grappling with the dilemma of whether it’s better for our children to use an iPad or watch TV. It’s a question that many of us can relate to, given that we grew up watching TV ourselves. But is there really a difference? In this article, we’ll explore the impact of digital devices on children’s development and well-being, drawing on the latest research and expert insights.

Exploring the Similarities

At a fundamental level, an iPad is essentially a smaller version of a TV screen that we can hold in our hands. According to Jacqueline Nesi, an assistant professor at Brown University, there’s no inherent difference between kids using an iPad or watching TV in terms of their overall development and well-being. So, let’s dive deeper into the considerations that parents should keep in mind when deciding which device is right for their child.

1. Turning it off

One common challenge many families face is ending screen time. It can be easier to turn off a TV and physically leave it behind, whereas an iPad poses a greater challenge. To overcome this, experts suggest designating a specific location for the iPad when not in use, ideally out of sight and reach of children.

2. Content

An iPad often features content with auto-play, related video suggestions, and rewards that can manipulate children’s engagement. It’s essential for parents to choose content wisely, regardless of the device, and be aware of the potential impact of such features. Quality content that is educational and age-appropriate is key.

3. Co-viewing

Research indicates that co-viewing, or actively engaging with screens together, offers benefits to children’s learning and development. While it’s possible to co-view on an iPad, the larger screen of a TV may make it easier and more enjoyable. Consider the viewing situation and determine what works best for your family.

4. Interactivity

Interactive media, where children actively participate and receive feedback, has been linked to effective learning. iPads offer a greater variety of interactive apps and games, provided they have been thoroughly vetted to ensure educational value. Resources like Common Sense Media’s app reviews can help parents make informed choices.

5. Sensory Considerations

Children have different sensory needs when it comes to screens. iPads offer a more tactile experience, with children physically engaging through swiping and holding the device. Monitor your child’s response and adjust accordingly to ensure their comfort and engagement.

6. Portability and Movement

When it comes to portability and movement, iPads have an edge. They are more convenient for activities like long flights or medical procedures, where entertainment or distraction is necessary. However, when watching TV at home, a child’s ability to move and engage physically may be better accommodated.

7. Distance from the Screen

Prolonged close-viewing of screens can lead to digital eye strain, which is more likely with iPads due to their close proximity. However, by adhering to recommended breaks and limiting screen time, these concerns can be mitigated regardless of the device being used.


Ultimately, there are various approaches parents can take when it comes to screen time for their children. Families may choose different combinations of TV and iPad usage, create specific guidelines, and curate appropriate content. It’s important to experiment and find what works best for your family, and remember that individual preferences and needs may differ. By staying informed, making mindful choices, and prioritizing healthy engagement, parents can navigate this digital age while promoting their children’s well-being.

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