Rattle? Gimme the phone!
2 out of 5 babies have used a digital device before being able to speak sentences.
Image: via Shutterstock

A study has shown that 38% of children under the age of two have used a smartphone or tablet, according to mashable.com.

The figure shoots up to 72% of kids under the age of eight who have used a mobile device for playing games or viewing videos.

Recharging the babysitter

The dramatic rise in the use of mobile devices has elicited some cautionary advice from specialists who say that while children can benefit from exposure to technology, using mobile devices as “babysitters” may cause developmental issues in young children.

The report also claims that children under the age of eight are using the devices for longer periods than ever before- an average of 15 minutes per day.

The study, conducted by family advocacy group Common Sense Media, explored the exposure of children to various media. Following the findings, the group’s spokesperson has suggested that parents need to monitor their kid’s screen time and also the content which they are viewing. Additional advice from CSM to parents is that screen time should preferably be educational time and that the manufacturers of mobile devices should take into consideration that young children are using the devices and provide appropriate ethical adaptations including ensuring that apps do not encourage addictions and that they protect the privacy of families.

The rise in the use of mobile devices matches a decrease in activities such as viewing TV and DVDs.

As more parents provide access to touch-screen devices, children with limited language skills can use them to navigate their way through basic games or watch videos.

Watch out!


There have been several cases recently of young children making in-app purchases in games by buying additional resources without understanding that their parent’s credit card was being debited. These purchases have occasionally amounted to thousands of rands. This has led to calls for app developers to limit or prevent in-app purchases.

Most devices may be made more child-friendly with by installing software which prevents the child from accessing inappropriate material.

There are many sides to the debate on how much time a child should be exposed to mobile devices in a similar vein the debate on how much TV is appropriate for kids. The theories range from no exposure at all for kids under the age of two to limiting teen’s usage of mobile devices to under two hours per day.

In general, the consensus appears to be that parents should limit their child’s usage of mobile devices and that they should monitor how the devices are being used: Educational purposes are more valuable to the child than entertainment, for example.

One issue is that this generation is the first ever to be exposed en masse to touch screens, making high-end technology available to more people and easier for younger children to use, as icons may be used to navigate around the device even pre-literacy.

While this exposure may have some benefits in creating a tech-savvy generation, it is suggested that young children still need to conquer certain developmental milestones or risk being underdeveloped in some critical physical and intellectual areas.

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