Toddlers might soon start tweeting and blogging
If you thought millennials were tech savvy, the next generation might have a digital sixth sense by the time they hit the third grade.
According to a study conducted at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, children younger than a year old are using smartphones and tablets before they know how to walk – some are even making phone calls.
The study, conducted by Dr. Hilda Kabali, a third-year pediatrics resident, also concluded that three quarters of children are using the devices by the time they’re 2 years old, and almost all of them are plugged into mobile media by the time they’re 4.
“We didn’t expect children to be using the devices from the age of 6 months,” Kabali said. “Some of them were on the screen for as long as 30 minutes at a time.”
The results were revealed in a survey of 370 parents of children, aged 6 months to 4 years, who completed a questionnaire at Einstein’s outpatient pediatrics clinic. The study was presented this past weekend at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in San Diego.
Nearly a quarter of the children under a year old made a phone call. More than half of them watched TV on a mobile device. Others played video games, used apps or touched and scrolled the screen.
By 1 year old, 14 percent of children were spending an hour a day using mobile media, 26 percent by age 2 and 38 percent by age 4.
According to the study, many parents used their smart phones and tablets to occupy their children when they were running errands or doing chores. They also used them to calm their children and put them to sleep.
While the study makes no recommendations for limiting use, Kabali said it underscores the need for parents to set guidelines for their children. “All the guidelines we have are based on TV, with the recommendation that viewing be limited to two hours as day,” Kabali said. “But most children aren’t spending time on TV any more. They’re using tablets and smartphones.”
Kabali said prolonged engagement in such activities limits parental interaction and can affect a child’s capacity for social development. Not to mention that too much sedentary entertainment can contribute to obesity.
“Parents of children under the age of 3 should set significant limits and focus on reading and interacting,” Kabali said. “And once they’re over 3, they should also emphasize physical activity.”