iPads aren't evil. They are nifty little gadgets, I think we can all agree. After all, tablets have saved many travelling parents from descending into outright madness. It's a fact.
Yet the key may not lie solely in moderation as it does in strategic timing.
Did You Know You Can Be Allergic To Your iPad?
New research suggests that using tablets to pacify our kids could inadvertently be hurting our kids' emotional development. When you pass the iPad to stop your child from screaming the house down, in effect what you are doing is stunting their ability to manage and regulate their emotions.
So what may seem like a handy and effective distraction in the short term is robbing our kids of a crucial learning curve in the long run.
Think about the last time you feel upset. You probably distracted yourself by Facebook surfing or by obsessive scouring (when she's pissed, my friend's stove sparkles!) But unlike our kids, we are mature enough to return to our emotional processing after these numbing tasks.
This Is What Happens When Kids Give Up Tech For A Week
Kids haven't yet developed those emotional muscles. They have to learn to sort out the big feelings without "masking them with distracting programs or games." So say researchers at Boston University School of Medicine.
"It has been well-studied that increased television time decreases a child's development of language and social skills," said Dr Jenny Radesky, Boston University's clinical instructor in Developmental-Behavioural Pediatrics. "Mobile media use similarly replaces the amount of time spent engaging in direct human-human interaction."
And when you have a child with autism, as I have, those human-human interactions are like gold dust.
So the consensus is this: while some educational apps are amazing for kids (preschool and older), using iPads as tools of distraction can be detrimental to social and emotional development. They are best played interactively with parents and friends, or at designated times.
"Heavy device use during young childhood could interfere with development of empathy, social and problem solving skills that are typically obtained by exploring, unstructured play and interacting with friends," said Dr Radesky.
Occupational therapists even suggest that excessive tablet time could wreak havoc on children's physical development, affecting fine-motor skills.
While some studies seem designed to scaremonger, perhaps some of us need to be a little scared. I know firsthand how easy and convenient it is to hand over the iPad every time I need to get something done...
No denying it, tablets are a great tool, but only if we use them right. And it's up to us to make sure our kids are using them right.