Those of us who have used traditional computers for a while think the iPad is pretty magical. t's super fast, super portable, and the direct interactivity is a very different experience from what we're used to with a mouse and keyboard. But those comparisons aren't as valid for children who are growing up with this technology. While the iPad is a sea change for traditional computer users, the effect of using it on young minds is still mostly undetermined.
This article in the Wall Street Journal talks about the scientists currently studying that effect. Studies on developmental experimentation usually take about three to five years, so with the iPad only available to the public for a little over two, actual research is still forthcoming. But so far, there are both good and bad effects for children using the iPad.
First, because it is so direct and interactive, scientists have seen that kids are much more easily immersed in material they read and browse on Apple's tablet. Books, especially, are ideal on tablets, because they can use sound, video, and other forms of interaction to bring students right into the content.
But the flip side of that is that kids can apparently get too immersed. Because the iPad is so focused and easy to use, too much screen time can interfere with childrens' development. On the other hand, too much of anything is obviously a mistake for toddlers. As with everything, iPad use will have to come down to what parents think is healthy, and best for that individual child.