In a parental survey, researchers found that the most popular mobile gadget among kids is a tablet and even toddlers as young as one year old use them for 20 minutes everyday, on average.
One of the study authors, Dr. Matilde Irigoyen, who is chair of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia stated, “access to, familiarity with and skill using mobile devices are the first steps in achieving digital literacy.”
The findings have been published in the Nov. 2 online edition of the journal Pediatrics. Some experts find this new trend rather disturbing as it suggests that some of the parents could be making use of digital devices as a surrogate babysitter.
Almost all preschoolers aged 4 years and below have used a mobile gadget like a smartphone or tablet and a majority uses them everyday for an average of 20 minutes.
Researchers conducted a study on 350 kids with a low-income background from a minority community. The findings show that children in low-income households are especially prone to being “babysat” by tablets.
Irigoyen also said that the amount of time parents spend with their kids and parental guidance are most important factors when it comes to helping toddlers integrate digital devices into family life.
For the research, scientists sent out a questionnaire to the 350 set of parents and their kids were between ages 6 months to 4 years. All of them made visits to a Philadelphia pediatric clinic in October and November of 2014. All these parents responded to questions on the time their kids spent on various digital devices and TV.
Dr. Danelle Fisher, vice chair of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, Calif. “Children need parental interaction for many reasons and this trend is, overall, worrisome. Parents in this study admitted to using mobile media for their children to keep them quiet or entertained in public places or in place of the interaction at bedtime.”
The results suggest that a high 97% homes owned a TV, 83% had tablets, 77% owned tablets and 77% had smartphones. It was also seen that just above 50% had video gaming consoles. It was also seen that as the age of these children increased, they owned their own digital devices and access to technology.
From the time these kids turned 4 years old, 75% of them had their independent mobile phones and 50% had their personal TV. Only 3% kids had never used a smartphone till 4 years of age.
Most parents simply allowed their kids to use the smartphones or tablets to keep them calm in public places. Fisher said, “mobile media cannot take the place of parenting.” She added that the use of tablets and smartphones “in place of human interaction and instead of other sources of information or play time, such as reading books, is disturbing.”
“We were not surprised to see infants and toddlers using the mobile devices; we saw that in the clinic every day,” Irigoyen said. “But we were very surprised to see how often the children used the mobile devices, how many of them owned a personal device, how many could use the device without assistance, and how many engaged in media multitasking.”
Findings suggest that 50% of the 4 years old could use these digital devices without any help. Though 28% parents stated that they even used the smartphone to make them sleep, 70% agreed that they would let their kids use these digital devices to complete chores.