Children younger than 12 months old with phones in their hands… who hasn’t seen this?
Is it healthy, is it wrong, or is it simply unavoidable for those born in the Digital Age?
Let’s look at some data to help us decide how we should feel about it. A study, presented at a pediatric conference (Pediatric Academic Societies), revealed that by the first year of life as many as one in seven children use smartphones and tablets at least one hour a day.
The survey was conducted by Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia. As the months go by, the time children spend using electronics increases. 26% of children under the age of two and 38% of 4-year-olds use electronics at least an hour a day.
What are the experts’ opinions on this issue?
The benefits of screen use at an early age
Sociologists and psychologists point out that the benefits children stand to gain from using tablets carefully and under supervision outweigh the risks.
More and more educational apps designed for children are popping up.
Even young children can benefit from digital devices when they are guided to use it for specific purposes.
Looking for examples? Just look to children who are learning foreign languages, doing logic exercises, and are freely using their imagination and creativity.
Problems arise when kids are exposed too soon and continuously
For technology not to be harmful but rather beneficial, adults must analyze how they let their children use electronics and guide them. Parents must not give in to the temptation to allow kids to use screen devices before it’s age-appropriate and appropriate for a particular situation. For example, it should not be used as a distraction for kids to keep them from throwing tantrums or complaining.
We have already addressed the issue of screens used to regulate toddlers’ emotions. When use becomes unregulated, children risk experiencing psychological isolation, deterioration of vision due to prolonged use of electronics, and having difficulty with the development of all five senses.
Research on the link between technology and the development of the five senses
Children need to understand the world using all five senses. They must learn how to use objects, experiment with different materials, and concentrate on sounds and smells.
Limiting children to screens, which allows them to engage only their sight and hearing, restricts the development of the other senses.
Parents should monitor children’s activities, varying them so that they exercise all five senses.
Following this thought, we reiterate the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines:
- For children under 18 months of age, avoid the use of electronics with screens (with the exception of video chatting). Parents of 18- to 24-month-olds who want to let their kids watch any type of video content should make sure it is high-quality and watch it with their children to help them understand what they are seeing.
- For children ages 2–5, limit screen use to one hour a day of high-quality content. Parents should enjoy using whatever media they choose together with their children to help them understand better what they see and apply it to the world around them.
- For children 6+ years old, set consistent limits on time spent using media and ensure that media does not replace adequate sleep, physical activity, and other essential healthy behaviors.
- For children of all ages: planning tech-free times together, such as at the dinner table or while driving, as well as tech-free areas at home, such as bedrooms.
And finally, as always, we parents should use a healthy dose of common sense. It is crucial to realize how much weight we give to technology in our relationships with our children. The tablet, TV, or cell phone are not always good babysitters.
The temptation to abuse these tools for convenience – at the expense of our children’s health – is ever-present.
Patience, determination, self-control, and a lot of good will are necessary to resist, knowing that there will be more stressful moments when we will need technology’s help. It is not sporadic instances that create permanent damage, but bad habits.