media logos

1 in 3 Toddlers Use Cell Phones

217

It seems like children are getting their hands on smartphones at younger and younger ages. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a toddler with a smartphone in hand while in the line at the grocery store, or an elementary schooler playing a game on a phone in the parking lot. A new study was released earlier this week that indicates that smartphone usage is starting even earlier than anyone could have predicted—sometimes even before a child’s first birthday.

Researchers from the Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia conducted a survey of 370 parents from October to November 2014. In the survey, researchers asked parents how often and and at what age their children used smartphones, what activities they used smartphones and tablets for and why the parents gave children their smartphones. Their findings are, to me, a little shocking. Here are some of the findings:

  • 36% of children under one have scrolled or touched a device display
  • 14% of children age one use a smartphone for an hour a day
  • 26% of children age two use a smartphone for an hour a day
  • 38% of children age four  use a smartphone for an hour a day

A little scary, isn’t it? Well, here’s a graph pulled from the actual study brief itself showing the distribution of how children use these devices and at what age:

childrensmartphonestudy

The survey also looked at why parents allowed their children to access smartphones these were the top answers:

  • 65% of parents said they use devices to calm children down
  • 73% of parents said they let children play on devices while they do chores
  • 29% of parents said they use smartphones to help children get to sleep

All of the parents surveyed had children in the ages of 6 months to 4 years old. It is worth noting that 370 isn’t exactly a huge study, but I can’t say that I’d expect results to be much different with a larger sampling. Just from my personal observations, this seems pretty much to be in line with what I’ve seen.

While I personally don’t have kids I can’t help but think that it’s a little scary to see a child so young using a smartphone. Looking at the chart above it almost looks like it’s more the younger parents that are handing off their expensive cell phones to toddlers, as the four year olds have a far smaller smartphone use percentage. It will be interesting to see how the number grows.

Of course, it’s also possible that these statistics aren’t as scary as they look. I mean, if the parent dials a relative, puts the phone on speaker and lets the relative speak to the child, is that considered ‘making a call?’ It’s easy to blow such uses out of proportion, and I couldn’t find very much information or copy of the actual study. Still, I think that nobody can deny that technology—and smartphones in particular—are becoming more pervasive and younger generations are exposed to these things far before the older generations were. Heck, I didn’t get my first phone until I was in college.

So tell me what you think. Are kids getting and using cell phones too young? Is it right for parents to hand off devices to keep kids calm in the store? Let me know in the comments!