How iPads Are Becoming Sedatives for Kids

August 30, 2016, 3:13 PM UTC
Steve Jobs was a stickler for detail, requiring final approval on everything from ads to wording on his Keynote presentations. It's no surprise then that the company he built places similar attention to detail when choosing apps to highlight in its ads and new product promotions. Apple won't talk about the selection process (a spokesman declined to comment), but there's little doubt that inclusion in an Apple commercial, or better yet, a launch video at one of Apple's major press events, can help boost an app's popularity. Developers agree to the company's Program Licensing Agreement before apps move to the App Store, giving the company full license to use material as it sees fit. Many app developers are therefore pleasantly surprised when their apps become part of Apple's marketing campaign. Tread through the comments section of any Apple commercial uploaded to YouTube, and you'll find numerous requests from viewers trying to identify the featured apps. Astronomy apps Star Walk and Solar Walk, both created by Vito Technology, have been featured in multiple Apple advertisements, including the iPad 3 presentation. Vito CEO Victor Toporkov says that inclusion in Apple promotions doesn't dramatically increase app sales for his astronomy apps, but it does help them retain a top position in the App Store. (Star Walk currently sits at No. 7 on the list of Top 10 education apps in the U.K. and routinely holds a Top 10 rating in the U.S.) Apple highlights apps from a number of categories, including travel, education, music, news, and games. But some simply appear more often, or with more fanfare, than others. Here's a look at some of the company's favorite apps.
Courtesy: Apple

As many parents know, the secret to getting a child to relax can sometimes means simply handing them an iPad. Apparently, that move has a scientific basis, too. According to a small new study, giving children who were about to undergo surgery an iPads was as effective at calming them down than giving them a sedative.

In the report, which was presented at the World Congress of Anaesthesiologists in Hong Kong, researchers compared the effect of using an iPad (AAPL) to taking a sedative called midazolam on children’s anxiety before anesthesia and surgery. The kids, who were between the ages of 4 and 10, were randomly assigned to either take the sedative or play with an iPad—they could play games like Angry Birds and Monster Dash—20 minutes before they were given anesthesia.

The researchers measured the children’s anxiety at several different points throughout the day of surgery, including arrival at the hospital and when they were separated from their parents. The researchers also measured the parents’ satisfaction with the child’s procedure. They found that parent and child’s anxiety levels were similar between both groups, and parents were more satisfied with the experience when their child was given an iPad.

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The study authors suggest that using tablets could be a way to reduce stress before surgeries without medication.

The study size was very small with only 112 kids, but it’s not the first to suggest that distraction through technology could play a role in improved medical experiences. As TIME recently reported, some hospitals and pain clinics are embracing virtual reality as a way to lower pain by distracting people with animations and virtual worlds.

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Though the method is still being explored, researchers suggest that people can only focus on a couple things at a time, and that distracting them can take their mind away from the anxiety-inducing procedure at hand.

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