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Parents should monitor children's time on mobile devices

In Our Opinion

 


The digital age has put a difficult debate on the table for parents. Smartphones and tablets have become the next big frontier for child entertainment, learning and engagement. Today’s younger generation is being raised to be connected at all times — from their GPS navigation to text communication with friends.

According to a 2013 survey conducted by GfK for Common Sense Media, three out of four kids have access to mobile devices at home. Since 2011, children’s use of mobile devices has gone from 38 to 72 percent.

It’s obvious these devices aren’t going away anytime soon and no matter how hard we try, it is unlikely that banning children from them completely is realistic.

Children’s exposure and access to these devices — especially from infancy to age 2 — should be in moderation. Be a role model for your children on how you want them to interact with the digital age.

The habitual use of mobile devices needs a second glance when it comes to young children, especially when toddlers are becoming tech savvy.

Thirty-eight percent of all kids under 2 years old have used a mobile device, according to the GfK survey, an increase from 10 percent in 2011.

According to “Parenting in the Age of Digital Technology: A National Survey” by Northwestern University, of parents with children 0-8 years old, 37 percent are likely to keep their child busy around the house with a mobile device.

While out at restaurants, parents are 38 percent likely to give their kids a mobile device to occupy them.

Parents need to start looking at these devices as a tool for their children, not as a way to distract them or keep them from throwing tantrums. They should find ways to use them to interact with their child, or as an educational supplement.

While there has been a big increase in playing games, using apps, watching videos, TV and movies on mobile devices — the major concerns of causing behavioral, social and emotional issues — reading on mobile devices has also jumped from 4 to 30 percent from 2011-2013, according to the survey.

Sixty percent of parents do not supervise their child’s technology usage, according to a Kaiser Foundation 2010 study cited in Cris Rowan’s Huffington Post article “10 reasons why handheld devices should be banned for children under the age of 12.”

Young children are still in the developing stages — their brain is nowhere near fully developed and toddlers are still figuring out how to process all the sensory intakes from their environment. When you put these digital screens in front of them for extended periods, ­the brain is in a state of constant stimulation, much like it was when television was the new craze.

“Researchers worry that constant digital stimulation like this creates attention problems for children with brains that are still developing, who already struggle to set priorities and resist impulses,” according to Matt Richtel’s New York Times article “Attached to technology and paying a price.”

Seventy-five percent of 9- and 10-year-olds are sleep deprived to the point of negatively affecting their grades, according to a Boston College 2012 study cited in Rowan’s article.

Instead of just handing off your mobile device to your child, sit down with them to talk about the apps their using and use them as supplement for human interaction rather than a replacement. Use these devices as a tool to help educate your child rather than as a passive distraction.

 

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