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Third of Babies Use Smartphones Before Walking or Talking

Babies as young as six months understand how to use a smartphone. But is there some risk in this kind of early media exposure?

Before some babies can even walk or talk, they know how to use a smartphone, and by year one, one in seven use the device for at least one hour a day, according to a recent study. This fact shouldn’t be much of a surprise. We see it all the time; kids at restaurants plopped down at the table and a smartphone put in front of them. It’s used as a distraction technique in public and possibly at home. But some parents may not know all the facts, like that the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages use of media devices with children.

They write that its use “should be avoided for infants and children under age 2.” The reason being, a “child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.” Indeed, past studies have revealed that it may negatively affect their language development, reading skills, and short-term memory.

But the researchers of this recent study wanted to find out how early children are being exposed to smartphones. The study is a bit skewed, as the researchers recruited parents to fill out their survey from a low-income hospital. Parents with a child age six months to four years old were asked questions, such as what kinds of media devices they have in their home, how early their child was introduced to smartphone media and their child’s frequency of use, what they use the smartphone for, and if their pediatrician had discussed media use with them.

They were able to gather data from 370 parents, who all owned some kind media device. Out of these parents, 97 percent had TVs, 83 percent tablets, 77 percent smartphones, and 59 percent had access to the internet. However, it becomes apparent that not many pediatricians had discussed the importance of keeping their child on a strict media diet when you begin to break down the rate of exposure.

Researchers found that out of the children who were younger than one, 52 percent had watched TV, 36 percent had interacted with a smartphone or tablet, 24 percent had made a phone call, 15 percent had used apps, and 12 percent played video games. By the age of two, researchers reported that most kids were using touch devices — 26 percent for at least an hour a day.

The lead author of the study, Hilda Kabali, commented on her surprise at the results in a press release:

“We didn’t expect children were using the devices from the age of six months. Some children were on the screen for as long as 30 minutes.”

The researchers concluded in their write-up:

“A better understanding of the use of mobile media in young children and how it varies by population groups is critical to help develop educational strategies for both parents and health providers.”

Read more atScience Daily.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


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