TDmonthly Magazine!
August 2020 | Vol. XIX - No. 8


Are iPads Replacing Children’s Toys? Part I

Children are Leaning Towards iPads and Away from Barbie Dolls

Part II of this article is below the sources (towards the bottom of this page).

iPads, iPod touch’s, iPhones, and similar electronic media are steadily and rapidly replacing toys in the hands of children. This is due to several factors, including the addictive potential of electronic media, the fact that electronic media is interactive, and that it seems to be endorsed by most parents even for very young toddler’s and infants. The replacement of traditional toys by electronic media could spell the end for the toy industry and potentially cause damage to our children.

Children are Leaning Towards iPads and Away from Barbie Dolls

It seems that more and more frequently, children are leaning towards iPads and other forms of electronic media instead of toys. With retailers like Toys R’ Us filing for bankruptcy, it is becoming apparent that the hands of children are reaching towards iPads instead of action figures or Barbie Dolls. Many are asking what this will mean for the toy industry, and more importantly, what it will mean for our children. To investigate this phenomenon, numerous online articles and youtube videos were researched and studied concerning the replacement of toys by electronic media, and its effects on children.  

Over 60% of Parents let their Children use Touch Screens

About 60% of parents are reporting that their children are using touch screens ‘often’ and 38% report that their children are using them ‘Very often’, according to Prigg [4]. “Researchers found that over 70% of children in all income levels are living in homes with smartphones, and over 55% with tablets” [5]. It appears that the vast majority of children are using touch screens to play games, with over 60% of tablet use associated with gaming among children from birth to twelve years old [6].


Tablets let children interact with their favorite franchises

There are several theories as to why children are demanding iPads and iPod touch’s over more traditional toys. One of them is the versatility of electronic devices such as iPads. They contain multiple forms of media, such as videos, internet access, and video games [7]. With Children’s franchises such as Toy Story, companies will release multiple forms of media to support these franchises such as movies, books, comics, toys, and even apps directed towards children. The ipad allows the child to access multiple forms of media associated with their favorite franchises [8].

Touch screens can act as electronic babysitters

Parents are also contributing to this phenomenon. Some parents see the iPad as an electronic babysitter, providing hours of entertainment for their kids [9]. If your child is having a tantrum, and you hand them an iPad, and they calm down, there is no wonder why parents are buying these products for their children. Raising a child is a demanding process, especially when it comes to young children who may be hyperactive and temperamental.

66% of children wanted iPads for Christmas

Wattanajantra reported that “The iPhone 4, iPod touch and iPad were the three most wanted gifts among children aged 5 to 16 [1].”  This trend affected both male and female children, meaning that the demand for electronic media among children is universal and that there is no gender bias [2]. As children got older, it appeared that their demand for electronic media increased, with 17% of 5-8 year olds asking for iPads for Christmas, 50% of 9-12 year olds, and 66% of 13-16 year olds [3]. Doll and action figure sales are steadily declining while the sale of iPads and iPod touch’s increases to rise.

Are tablets hurting our children? 

It is clear why children are opting for iPads over toys, but the question still remains, what is this doing to our kids? What are the long term ramifications of children replacing their toys with electronic forms of media? Some fear that this is contributing to childhood obesity [10]. Instead of actively playing with a toy, or playing with friends, when a child uses an iPad, they simply sit in one place and do not move for hours. Childhood obesity is an epidemic in the United States and abroad, and the sedentary nature of playing with iPads cannot be helping this issue.

Can iPads lower attention spans?

Other people question what electronic media is doing to our kids attention spans. With constant stimulation and entertainment at only a swipe or button press away, our kids may have a more difficult time paying attention in school. Children may develop difficulties with their attention spans in school if they are used to the immediate gratification that electronic media offers at home. The long term effects of electronic media on children’s attention spans cannot currently be studied, but we will only find out through experience.  Instead of kids using their imaginations when playing with toys, they’re simply watching videos or playing simple video games that are meant to be as addictive as possible and that are filled with micro-transactions, putting strain on their parents wallets as well. Imagination based play is important to child development, and the experience of creating something using Legos or Lincoln logs is not something that can be substituted by playing Minecraft [11].

Tablets may challenge childhood social skill development 

Children may lose the social aspect of playing with toys if they are replaced by tablets [12]. Instead of inviting friends over or going over to their houses to play with toys, kids are playing with iPads by themselves. Some video games involve cooperative play, but most of the games kids are playing do not, instead simply involving swiping or pressing buttons on a touch screen. So it seems that yes, sadly, toys are being rapidly replaced by iPads and iPod touch’s. The addictive nature of these electronic forms of media coupled with their interactive nature and rapidly increasing technology means that more and more children are asking their parents for iPads instead of Legos or Barbie Dolls.

Part II of this article is below the sources.


Wattanajantra, Asavin. “Kid Want iPhones and iPads rather than toys for Christmas.” October 25, 2010. (Accessed July 29, 2020).

Heidi. “Toy Comparison: Traditional vs. Electronic, Blocks or iPad?” December 5, 2019. (Accessed July 29, 2020).

Elgan, Mike. “Why iPad is the ‘Children’s Toy of the Year’.” March 11, 2020. (Accessed July 29, 2020).

Prigg, Mark. “How the iPad replaced the toy chest: Researchers find children play with touchscreens more than traditional toys.” February 21, 2014. (Accessed July 29, 2020).

Bailey, Nancy. “Worry in Toys ‘R’ Us News: Children Prefer Tablets Over Toys.” September 20, 2017. (Accessed July 29, 2020).

[1] Asavin Wattanajantra, “Kids Want iPhones and iPads rather than toys for Christmas,” (October 25, 2010).
[2] Wattanajantra, “Kids Want iPhones”
[3] Wattanajantra, “Kids Want iPhones”
[4] Mark Prigg, “How the iPad Replaced the Toy Chest: Researchers find children play with touchscreens more than traditional toys,” (February 21, 2014).
[5] Prigg, “How the iPad Replaced the toy chest”
[6] Prigg, “How the iPad Replaced the toy chest”
[7] Mike Elgan, “Why iPad is the ‘Children’s Toy of the Year’,” (March 11 2010).
[8] Elgan, “iPad is Children’s Toy of the Year”
[9] Elgan, “iPad is children’s Toy of the Year”
[10] Heidi, “Toy Comparison: Traditional vs. Electronic, Blocks, or Ipad,” (December 5, 2019).
[11] Nancy Bailey, “Worry in Toys ‘R’ Us News: Children Prefer Tablets Over Toys,” (September 20, 2017).
[12] Heidi, “Toy Comparison”


Added on August 10, 2020:

Part II:

Some believe that iPads can actually be beneficial to children

Murkoff reports that using iPads will not harm childhood development as long as they are used in moderation: “Good for you for giving her fascination real thought, but you can lose the guilt on this issue: Though experts haven’t fully figured out the downsides or benefits of iPads for kids (you might not remember how you ever lived without it, but the iPad was only introduced in 2010), there is no evidence that using an iPad will harm your toddler’s physical or cognitive development — as long as you practice moderation” [1]. Allowing children to learn how to access and use technology from an early age could potentially serve as an asset in an increasingly digital world.

iPads can serve educational purposes as well

There are some indications that iPads can actually aid the development of vocabulary and math skills, and that children with cognitive disabilities can potentially be aided by iPads as well by boosting language usage [2]. There are now many educational apps geared towards children available on the app store as well. However, it has still been noted that too much screen time can have harmful effects on children.

How much is too much?

Murkoff notes that too much screen time can be detrimental to children: “Even though there may be benefits of iPads for kids, that doesn't mean you should let your child use an iPad for hours on end or stick a screen in front of her face every time she’s in a waiting room, since that’ll keep her from learning how to occupy herself with her thoughts and imagination [3].” The benefits of playing with toys in regards to a child’s imagination cannot be refuted. Murkoff also agrees that iPads cannot and should not completely replace toys: “Also keep in mind that iPad use should not crowd out other toys, games, physical activity, creative free play and face-to-face social interaction. After all, a screen offers a limited sensory environment and no physical exertion” [4].

How can parents limit screen time?

Murkoff suggests that parents follow the guidelines that the American Association of Pediatrics has set forth. Children 18 months to 2 years old should not be allowed screen time at all unless they’re video chatting. For children aged 2 to five years old, it is suggested that they are allowed only one hour of screen time per day [5]. These guidelines may not be completely realistic, as it has been reported that usage of touchscreens by children is actually significantly higher. Children under 2 have been reported to use touchscreens for an average of 42 minutes a day, and kids aged 2 to 4 using devices for a whopping two hours and 39 minutes a day, far above the AAP guidelines [6].

There are certain things that a tablet cannot do

iPads cannot replace all other childhood experiences. They serve as an addition to a child’s life, not a substitute for healthy play, socialization, exercise, and imagination: “Your child can’t feel an app the way she can feel her stuffed animal or her dress-up clothes. She can’t smell an app the way she can smell the cookies you bake together. She can’t hold and manipulate an app the way she can hold and stack blocks or Legos. She can’t run with an app the way she can romp in the fresh air, and she can’t connect with an app the way she can when she hugs you. All of these real-world activities offer rich opportunities for your toddler to use her body and experience her environment and human relationships. So while you don’t need to feel guilty about letting her use your iPad in moderation, make sure it’s just one of many activities she gets to learn from, explore and enjoy” [7].


Murkoff, Heidi. “Kids and iPads: The Pros and Cons.” March 21, 2019. (Accessed August 7, 2020).

Gagne, Claire. “This is the average screen time for kids. How do your kids measure up?” October 19, 2017. (Accessed August 7, 2020).

[1] Murkoff, Heidi, “Kid and iPads: The Pros and Cons”,, March 21, 2019.
[2] Murkoff, “Kids and iPads”
[3] Murkoff, “Kids and iPads”
[4] Murkoff, “Kids and iPads”
[5] Murkoff, “Kids and iPads”
[6] Gagne, Claire, “This is the average screen time for kids. How do your kids measure up?”, (October 19, 2017).
[7] Murkoff, “Kids and iPads”

Writer's Bio: A recent college graduate in English Literature. He is a talented researcher and technical writer. Read more articles by this author


Back to TDmonthly's front page

Advertise on TDmonthly

Related Product Archives

Educational Insights Circuit Explorer Rover Beginning Circuits
» More Information

LeapFrog 100 Animals Book
» More Information

LEGO City Advent Calendar 60268 Playset - 6 City Adventures
» More Information