Where has childhood gone? Or has it just changed so drastically with the introduction of handheld devices that I feel nostalgic for simpler times? Sorry. I’m admittedly feeling a tad morose upon reading about a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics, reporting 75 percent of 4-year-olds have their very own mobile device.
According to the study – which looked at mobile device usage and exposure among 350 kids ages 6 months to 4 years from one urban, low-income, minority community – most households had televisions, tablets and smartphones. But half of the 4-year-olds had their own TV, and three-fourths had their own mobile device.
What’s more, nearly all kids used mobile devices, but many began using these gadgets before they were 1-year-old. So young!
The top reasons parents gave their children these devices, according to the study? To keep them occupied while mom or dad is performing chores, to keep them calm, and at bedtime.
Look, this technology is now a huge part of our world and to ignore that fact would be stupid. It would be impossible for kids to never interact with these devices, and because it’s not practical (and that would be extreme in another sense), that’s not what I’m arguing here. But is it over exposure for toddlers as young as 4 to have access to their very own iPads? Or to give them a tablet every time they’re fussy (which let’s be real, can be often)?
This information about toddler and babies’ device usage comes after another study published in the January 2015 issue of the journal Pediatrics, which found that using a mobile device before 30 months of age in a non-education way can be “detrimental to the social-emotional development of the child,” the Washington Post reports.
While this particular study is a small one, focused on just a slice of the population, it sent me a big reminder: My most fond memories of childhood don’t involve the time I spent in front of a screen. Nothing can replace time together, connecting sans smartphones. But today, I know I’m guilty of allowing my phone to distract me during a conversation. Call me old fashioned, but I’d love to see everyone get back to bonding face-to-face – even if it’s just for a few more minutes a day.
To say there are no benefits to certain kids’ programming and apps on these devices would not be fair. And this isn’t about making any parent feel bad for handing their kid a smartphone. This is about making sure we’re not missing valuable time – whether it is with kids, parents, spouses or friends. The cutting-edge devices will always be there, and kids will learn to use them soon enough. Those precious moments of daily life with your toddler, however, don’t last forever.
Am I out of line thinking technology for tots has gone too far, or do you agree? Share your opinion in the comments!