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Mobile Media Devices and Toddlers: How Common Is Their Usage? :

November 4, 2015

How often do you see a toddler in a public place asking to use their parent’s smart phone or tablet if they don’t already have their own? Are toddlers really using these devices just as much as watching television (despite the AAP’s current recommendation to limit screen time to two hours a day—REF the policy)?

How often
do you see a toddler in a public place asking to use their parent’s smart phone or tablet if they don’t already have their own? Are toddlers really using these devices just as much as watching television (despite the AAP’s current recommendation to limit screen time to two hours a day—REF the policy)? Kabali et al. (doi/10.1542/peds.2015-2151) share the results of a cross-sectional study of parents of 350 children ages 6 months to 4 years surveyed in a pediatric clinic located in a low income, urban minority community. Parents were asked about toddler exposure to mobile media devices (e.g tablets or smart phones) as well as televisions. The results are dramatic even if they are what you expect with the vast majority of toddlers having access to a mobile device and half having their own television in their room. As to how much they used these devices, that is also concerning data worth reading about and sharing with families of toddlers in your practice.

If you think that these toddlers need their parents’ help using tablets and smart phones, think again, because many are fine figuring out by themselves how to work them. And if you want to know what they’re watching, sadly the study suggests they’re viewing programming on “YouTube” and “Netflix”. While those programs may be fine for adults to watch, one has to question the benefits for toddlers. Interestingly, the level of parent education had no bearing on the results in this survey study.

Clearly we need to do more to guide parents in how best to use or not use these devices with their young children, and the AAP’s Committee on Communications and Media is working on a revision of their policy statement from several years ago right now—which you’ll hopefully be reading about in a future issue of our journal. For now, do you agree with the findings in this study? Are your toddler patients using these devices in your office? Have you found a strategy to reduce the frequency of their usage while encouraging more play and reading time with parents? Share with us your thoughts on use of mobile media devices in young children by responding to this blog, sending us an e-letter or posting a comment on our Facebook or Twitter sites.
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