(U.S.) – A recent student suggests parents may actually know less than they think about the use of electronics by their small children.
We know as parents, and research backs us, that understanding smartphones and tablets offer a variety of developmental tools and advantages for our children, but research also indicates there can be ‘too much’ of a good thing. While the American Academy of Pediatrics admits the effects of mobile devices, for example, on young children remains unclear, but recommendations still encourage parents to limit the use of electronics as much as possible.
However, a recent study published recently in ‘Pediatrics’ finds that parents simply do not know exactly how much their children use smartphones and tablets. Researchers found that in families surveyed, 35 percent of children ages 3-5 had their own tables and that many of the children in the study were using devices well before they turned 1-year-of-age.
The study titled, “Young Children Use of Smartphones and Tablets,” electronically tracked use by young children through an app that was installed on Android devices and through screenshots from Apple device. The study then compared the data to what parents’ estimated in terms of their children’s media use. The study included 346 English-speaking parents and guardians of children ages 3-5 and was conducted through email, online surveys, and mobile device sampling.
The study determined the average daily use for the 121 children who had their own devices was just more than 115 minutes and about 60 percent of the entire test group used their devices for more than an hour each day. 18 children, roughly 15%, used their devices at least four hours each day.
Researchers also discovered the most commonly used applications included YouTube, YouTube Kids, Internet browsers, streaming videos, and quick search or Siri.
The study indicated parents not only were unaware of just how much their children used the devices, with roughly 36% underestimating usage, but they also did not know what content their children were viewing. Authors of the study also noted that the children in the test used hundreds of apps that included some intended for teenage or mature audiences such as games, gambling apps, and even violent content.
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The APP continues to encourage access to media in all forms including TV, Computers, and smartphones, be limited. Experts recommend children younger than 2 should have access to media only when an adult is available to co-view, talk about the media, and teach lessons involved with the media. Additionally, screen time should be limited to no more than one hour a day for children ages 2-5, and parents and guardians are encouraged to seek out activities for children that are healthy for their development. Experts indicate when media is used, it should be educational, interactive, and non-violent.
Experts add overuse of media has the potential to lead to sleep deprivation, learning delays, behavioral problems, and obesity. Healthychidlren.org, an extension of AAP, offers the following tips for parents, caregivers, and families:
- Monitor children’s media.
- Do not feel pressured to introduce technology too early.
- Turn TVs and other devices off when not in use.
- Keep bedrooms, mealtimes, and parent-child playtime screen-free and unplugged for children and parents.
- Avoid exposure to devices or screens one hour before bedtime.
- Avoid using media as the only way to calm children.