The news is startling pediatricians. A new medical study reveals that the tiniest Americans are tapping on smartphones and tablets even before they learn to walk or talk, and by 1 year of age, one in seven toddlers is using devices for at least an hour a day.
The research found that even a third of the babies under a year could scroll down the screen, while a fourth managed to actually call someone.
“We didn’t expect children were using the devices from the age of 6 months. Some children were on the screen for as long as 30 minutes,” says Dr. Hilda Kabali, lead author of the study, which was conducted among 370 parents and their babies at a pediatrics clinic in the Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia.
Mobile devices are becoming babysitters. Dr. Kabali found that 60 percent of the parents in the study allowed their toddlers to play with mobile media when it was time to run errands, almost three fourths did the same while they did chores. Another 65 percent used the device to “calm the child”, a third used it to put the child to sleep.
“By 1 year of age, 14 percent of children were spending at least one hour per day using mobile media, 26 percent by age 2, and 38 percent by age 4. Only 30 percent of parents reported discussing media use with their child’s pediatrician,” the study found.
The researchers also advise that the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the use of entertainment media such as televisions, computers, smartphones and tablets by children under age 2. The findings were revealed Saturday at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in San Diego.