Keeping your kids calm before they undergo surgery may be as simple as handing them an iPad, suggests new preliminary research presented this week at the annual World Congress of Anesthesiologists held in Hong Kong.

French researchers recruited over 100 children and their parents to take part in a simple experiment. As the children, ages 4 to 10, prepared to undergo outpatient surgery that required general anesthesia, half were given a sedative called midazolam, and the other half were instead allowed to play gaming apps on an iPad tablet. Both groups of families reported similar levels of anxiety relief immediately before the surgery, but the parents were more satisfied with how the anesthesia process went in the iPad group, as did the nurses personally involved in the procedures.

"Our study showed that child and parental anxiety before anesthesia are equally blunted by midazolam or use of the iPad,” said senior author Dr. Dominique Chassard, an anesthesiologist at the Hospices Civils de Lyon. ”However, the quality of induction of anesthesia, as well as parental satisfaction, were judged better in the iPad group.”

iPads and similar electronic devices have already been shown to help children deal with the stress of being separated from their parents before surgery, and some doctors have speculated that they could provide the same benefits as midazolam without any of the added potential harm. While midazolam is effective at reducing preoperative anxiety, the drug can lead to longer than needed drowsiness and even paradoxically cause the very same agitation it was hoping to prevent on rare occasions.

Given their popularity and ease, tablets are quickly finding their way into doctors’ offices and hospitals. Elsewhere, doctors have used them to educate patients about their upcoming surgeries, the hospital’s safety procedures during their inpatient stays, and about their treatment plans once they’ve been discharged. Doctors have also used tablets to improve how they manage their physical therapy patients and search up medical records.

For all the grief that technologies like smartphones and iPads get about turning us into antisocial robots, it seems that they can also make our lives — and our surgeries — that much less worrisome.

Source: De Queiroz Siqueira M, Tosseti S, Maréchal C, et al. Effect of Ipad Tablet on Children and Parental Anxiety During Anesthesia. World Congress of Anesthesiologists. 2016.