(HealthDay News) — Up to half of very young children use smartphones and tablets in some way before their first birthday, according to a new study. But parents still worry about their children’s use of mobile media, according to a separate study. Both studies were scheduled for presentation this weekend at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, held from April 25 to 28 in San Diego.
Hilda Kabali, M.D., a pediatric resident at Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, and colleagues conducted a study in which 370 parents from a mostly urban, low-income minority community answered questions about their young children’s mobile device use. By age 1 year, more than one-third of their babies had touched or scrolled the screen of a mobile device such as a smartphone. And by age 2, more than half had scrolled screens, called someone, watched a TV show on the device, played video games, or used an app, the researchers found. Also by 2 years of age, more than one-quarter were using mobile devices for at least an hour a day.
The other study, involving 30 in-depth interviews with the caregivers of children up to age 8, revealed that parents have a number of concerns about mobile media. Parents also worried about children’s social skills or imagination if they used too much mobile media or their ability to keep up in a tech-savvy world if they didn’t use the media at all. Limit-setting and enforcing also were challenging for parents, the survey showed. In some homes, mobile devices served to calm difficult children or provide a quiet time.
What effect this early exposure to mobile devices might have on children depends on several factors, study author Jenny Radesky, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine said, told HealthDay. Three key components that matter include content, amount, and co-viewing, she said. Beneficial content is age-appropriate, slow-paced, and educational, and children learn more from media when engaging with it with another adult, Radesky said. The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages any screen time, including televisions, computers, smartphones, and tablets, by children under age 2.