Tablets as Babysitters: Alarming Number of Parents Admit to Giving Mobile Devices to Babies

by Matt Klassen on May 5, 2015

“Don’t be surprised if baby’s first word is ‘iPhone’ or ‘tablet’ instead of ‘Mama’ or ‘Dada.’ A surprisingly high number of infants are spending time in front of screens long before they can talk or walk,” TakePart’s Samantha Cowan writes, as the seeds of mobile addiction are being planted far earlier than any of us likely imagined.

For years parents have been warned about the deleterious effects of technology on young minds, a warning, I’ll admit, that most of us parents often fail to consistently heed. Despite the fact, though, that such counsel has now been coupled with an alarming rise in Internet addiction, childhood obesity, and a host of mental health issues associated with online bullying and other digital interactions, children have become increasingly attached to their mobile devices, the only truly surprising thing, a recent study found, is just how young that attachment begins.

According to a study presented at the Paediatric Academic Society this week, more than one-third of parents surveyed admitted that their child has “touched or scrolled a screen” before their first birthday, with some children as young as 6 months found to have some attachment to a mobile device.

Now no doubt you’ve employed or witnessed the mobile babysitter: parents keeping their kids occupied with smartphones or tablets. It’s a way to keep kids quiet in public; it’s a way to keep kids focused when you’re busy; it’s a way to take a breath. But unfortunately for parents in this mobile world, it’s also a way we could be radically altering the development of our kids’ brains, making them more dependent on technology and thus hindering their social development.

While it will come as no surprise that children are becoming increasingly attached to their media devices, for study author Hilda Kabali the real surprise was when this process first begins; far younger than anyone really expected.

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

According to Science Daily, the results of the study showed a disconcerting level of media exposure for children under the age of 3. “Children younger than 1 year of age were exposed to media devices in surprisingly large numbers: 52 percent had watched TV shows, 36 percent had touched or scrolled a screen, 24 percent had called someone, 15 percent used apps and 12 percent played video games….By 2 years of age, most children were using mobile devices.”

What’s even more surprising is that the tech industry seems to know, at least to some extent, that their products are not beneficial to children, despite the fact that they often market directly to kids. For his part, technocratic genius Steve Jobs reportedly resisted giving his kids any of Apple’s latest gadgets, noting that he “limited” the presence of technology in his home.

Simply put, this study is yet further proof of what we’ve seen out of both research and many of the technological elite themselves, that technological addiction stands as one of the greatest threats to our kids, that while apps and games and phones and tablets are great ways to keep our kids quiet and entertained, they have been shown to have a detrimental impact on a child’s development, altering the way they think and react to the world.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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