Today’s Babies Are Racking Up Serious Screen Time

Today’s Babies Are Racking Up Serious Screen Time Photo (cc) by jenny downing

If you think the time teenagers devote to electronic devices is bad, get this: one-third of babies are tapping away on smartphones and other mobile media devices before they can walk.

According to a recent study on babies’ mobile use presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in April, some babies and toddlers are racking up some serious screen time.

While a third of infants are exposed to mobile devices before their first birthday, the study found that by the age of 1 year, 1 in 7 toddlers is spending an hour or more a day on a digital device.

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the use of tablets, smartphones and computers by children younger than 2.

The study’s lead author, Hilda Kabili, a third-year pediatric resident at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, said the 370 survey participants included parents of children ages 6 months to 4 years, who visited a clinic that serves an urban, low-income, minority community.

Kabili said she was surprised by the survey findings.

“We didn’t expect children were using the devices from the age of 6 months,” she said. “Some children were on the screen for as long as 30 minutes.”

The parents who participated in the survey said they give their children digital devices to play with when they’re running errands (60 percent), doing household chores (73 percent), to calm the child (65 percent), or to put the child to sleep (29 percent).

Not surprisingly, the study found that time spent on mobile devices increased with age. More than a quarter of 2-year-olds are using electronic devices for at least an hour a day. By the time they’re 4 years old, 38 percent of kids are racking up a minimum of an hour of screen time.

“Although mobile devices are ubiquitous in young children’s lives, we don’t yet know the impact mobile devices can have on young children,” Kabali said. “What is realistic is for parents to guide their children’s media experience.”

My 2-year-old loves to tap away on an Elmo app I have on my phone, though I don’t give him my phone very often. My almost 5-year-old would probably play on my phone or iPad all day if I’d let her. However, we try to limit her screen time to her “rest” time, because she no longer takes naps. But when we’re traveling in the car for long periods of time, she has her own iPod Touch that is chock-full of kids’ games and apps that she plays on.

What do you think about babies and young children using smartphones and other mobile devices? Share your comments below.

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