Up until the age of 2, children are discouraged from using media devices like smartphones and tablets, and from being exposed to television, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. A recent study, however, has found that more than a third of babies as young as 6 months-old have been staring and interacting with digital screens even before they learn to walk or talk. Presented at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, the study involved gathering data from 370 parents by asking them to complete a survey about their children’s first exposure and usage of devices. Gathered data showed surprisingly large numbers for children younger than 1 year of age: 52% had already watched TV, 36% had interacted with a touch screen device, 24% had called someone, 15% had used apps and 12% had played video games. “We didn’t expect children were using the devices from the age of 6 months,” said lead author Dr. Hilda Kabali, of the Pediatrics Department at Einstein Healthcare Network. “Some children were on the screen for as long as 30 minutes.” By 2 years old, most children were already using mobile devices. 26% of them were even on a device for at least an hour a day. Why were parents letting their babies use mobile devices? Results showed that 73% of parents let their children use the devices while they’re busy doing household chores, 60% while running errands, 65% to calm a child down and 29% to put a child to sleep. What’s the harm in preoccupying a child with a screen for a few minutes? Founder of Proactive Parenting Sharon Silver told Yahoo Parenting it’s because the screens are replacing the needed bonding time the parent and child could be having. “If parents use technology to pacify their children when they are young, they’re replacing the human contact and modeling needed to produce empathy, compassion, connection, and sense of belonging to the larger world we all live in,” she said.
Psychologist Rahil Briggs backed this up by telling Yahoo Parenting, “Interaction, even if it’s just coos and smiles, encourages proper brain development and helps foster a secure attachment to parents.”
In an article on SmartParenting.com.ph, author Andrea Herrera shared these tips to help you limit your kids' gadget usage:
1. Provide options Children are almost always looking for something to do and to keep busy with. If a mobile device is the only thing they can get their hands on, then they will use it. Instead of immediately offering a tablet or smartphone while eating at a restaurant, waiting at the doctor’s office, or traveling in the car, try to provide them with other options.
Keep an arsenal of stuff that can also keep them busy. Stick to things that your child finds interesting such as his favorite book or a new one he has not seen yet, some paper and writing materials, a small coloring book and crayons, a small container of carefully chosen LEGO pieces, an assortment of puzzles, a Rubik’s Cube, or anything else that can keep your child interested.
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It is also good to bring your child outdoors or to other places where she can run and play. The key is to provide other engaging activities as alternatives. Think back to when you were a child when there weren’t any smartphones or tablets – what did you do for fun?
2. Let the kids share Resist the temptation to get a tablet for each child even if you can afford it. Although this would definitely avoid fighting and bickering, it also means that each child will have potentially longer time using his device. On the other hand, if there is only one device available, the amount of time it is used gets shared among your kids, effectively reducing each child’s device use. This will also be a good opportunity to teach your children the value of sharing and taking turns.