More than one-third of babies are tapping on smartphones and tablets even before they learn to walk or talk, according to a new US study. Also Read - Smartphones to cost more with import duty hike on displays: Everything you need to know
The study also found that by one year of age, one in seven toddlers is using devices for at least an hour a day. Researchers developed a 20-item survey to find out when young children are first exposed to mobile media and how they use devices. Parents of children ages 6 months to 4 years old who were at a hospital-based paediatric clinic that serves a low-income, minority community were recruited to fill out the survey. Participants were asked about what types of media devices they have in their household, children’s age at initial exposure to mobile media, frequency of use, types of activities and if their pediatrician had discussed media use with them. Also Read - How to use your smartphone camera to attend video calls instead of the webcam
Results from 370 parents showed that 74 per cent were African-American, 14 percent were Hispanic and 13 percent had less than a high school education. Media devices were ubiquitous, with 97 percent having TVs, 83 percent having tablets, 77 percent having smartphones and 59 percent having Internet access. Children younger than one year of age were exposed to media devices in surprisingly large numbers: 52 percent had watched TV shows, 36 percent had touched or scrolled a screen, 24 percent had called someone, 15 percent used apps and 12 percent played video games. Also Read - The xHelper malware explained: Why it is so dangerous and how to get rid of it?
By 2 years of age, most children were using mobile devices. “We didn’t expect children were using the devices from the age of 6 months,” lead author Hilda Kabali, a third-year resident in the Pediatrics Department at Einstein Healthcare Network, said. “Some children were on the screen for as long as 30 minutes,” she said. Results also showed 73 percent of parents let their children play with mobile devices while doing household chores, 60 percent while running errands, 65 percent to calm a child and 29 percent to put a child to sleep. Time spent on devices increased with age, with 26 percent of 2-year-olds and 38 percent of 4-year-olds using devices for at least an hour a day.
Finally, only 30 percent of parents said their child’s pediatrician had discussed media use with them. The study was presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in San Diego.