According to a new survey, 80% percent of North American teens use at least one “i-Device” daily, meaning a smartphone or tablet like the iPad.

Experts say these gadgets are revolutionizing how kids learn and interact with others. However, the research is still mixed on whether or not that’s a good thing. In fact, let’s review what we know about i-Devices, starting with the good stuff:

  • First: They’re helping kids be more engaged in school. In fact, educational apps are so effective that a growing number of schools are now providing iPads loaded with study materials and textbooks for all their students.

  • Another upside to i-Devices: They’re preparing today’s kids for tomorrow’s tech-heavy jobs. Experts say the logical thinking required to use these gadgets helps kids become better problem solvers. That’s important because jobs in technology and science are growing twice as fast as any other industry! Plus, consider what happened to 14-year-old Cameron Cohen. While recovering from surgery recently, he used an iPhone to watch online videos about computer programming.

    Then, he used what he learned to create an app called iSketch, which has been downloaded more than 50,000 times! That’s why experts say the sooner kids are exposed to new technology, the better.

So, what’s the downside to letting kids use iDevices? 

  • For example: Some studies show a strong link between increased i-Device use and cases of attention deficit disorder. Experts say it’s because the rapid-fire images on those small video screens are as damaging as watching TV, and can lead to problems with concentration. That’s why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting “screen time” for most older children to 2 hours a day, and they discourage all media use for children under 2. 

  • Another worry is that the more time kids spend using i-Devices, the less time they spend interacting with each other. Dr. Jane Healy is a psychologist who says the most important skill that affects a young child’s brain development is conversation, because no matter how smart you are, you’ll never become successful in life if you can’t communicate with other people!And Dr. Healy says online chats and text messages are no substitute for face-to-face conversation. 

  • Plus, some studies show that electronic devices are addicting, and are destroying children’s ability to function in the real world. As an example, you may have seen the popular YouTube video of a toddler struggling to turn the pages of a magazine, because she kept swiping the paper pages as if they were the screen of an iPad!

But I want to hear what you think! Weigh in at Facebook.com/JohnTesh.