A new study has found what any parent with a baby already knows — that more than 30 percent babies as young as 6 months old are using smartphones. But the real question — the question that the study did not address — is whether or not this is a big deal.
For the study, researchers surveyed 370 parents of kids between the ages of 6 months to 4 years about their child’s exposure to media and electronics. The survey, which was presented recently at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual conference, asked parents 20 questions about when their child was first exposed to mobile media devices. What has everyone so alarmed is that the study found that children are being exposed to mobile devices earlier than ever before.
But before we all jump on the judgment train, let’s stop and think about how much more ubiquitous smartphones and tablets are now than they were even five years ago. It’s not that parents have gotten lazier, which some reporters have suggested. It’s that more parents have access to smartphones, devices that they can use to show family pictures to distract a colicky baby or play music that a toddler can dance with.
What the study didn’t address was how much time these babies are spending looking at smartphones. Nor did it assess what these babies are looking at. Is it five minutes of music in the grocery store while mom or dad gets the food into the cart? Or is it 30 minutes of watching videos while a parent sacks out on the couch? There is a big difference between the two scenarios. And just saying that babies are “using” smartphones is not enough information to determine whether or not there’s reason to panic.
By the numbers, the study found that among babies younger than 1 year old, 52 percent had watched television on mobile devices, 36 percent had been allowed to scroll the screen, 15 percent had used apps and 12 percent had played video games. Around 25 percent of kids had already called someone at this age.
The American Academy of Pediatrics frowns upon any screen time for children under the age of 2, so it’s easy to understand where the concern is coming from. This survey reveals that there’s good reason to study the issue further and assess how much time babies are spending on smartphones and what kind of apps or videos they’re using.
But I don’t think we need to necessarily panic or pass judgment on parents of young babies. I did not have a smartphone or even a cellphone when my girls were this age (I know, I’m old,) but I can tell you right now that if I had owned one, there would have been many occasions when I would have gladly handed over my phone to play music or a video or even a video game if it would have calmed a screaming baby. And they would have turned out just fine.
What do you think about babies using smartphones?
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