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Baby steps: 6-month-olds are using smart phones, tablets, study suggests

Denise Thevenot and her son Frankie Thevenot, 3, play with an iPad in his bedroom at their home in Metairie, La., on Oct. 21, 2011.
Denise Thevenot and her son Frankie Thevenot, 3, play with an iPad in his bedroom at their home in Metairie, La., on Oct. 21, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP - Gerald Herbert

Forget about naps and pacifiers: new research suggests that more than one third of one-year-old babies are already using smart phones and tablets.

Before they’ve even learned to walk or talk, one in seven babies and toddlers are spending about an hour a day on these devices, according to an Einstein Healthcare Network study.

“We didn’t expect children were using the devices from the age of six months. Some children [at that age] were on the screen for as long as 30 minutes,” lead author, Dr. Hilda Kabali, said in a statement.
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Kabali and her team of pediatricians asked 370 U.S. parents about their kids’ media usage while at a clinic. The families had kids between six months and four years old and from low-income, minority neighbourhoods in Philadelphia. Across the board, electronic devices were ubiquitous: 97 per cent of families had a TV, 83 per cent had tablets, 77 per cent had smart phones and 59 per cent had Internet access.

READ MORE: Are smart phones to blame for distracted parenting?

Fifty-two per cent of kids who were under the age of one were watching TV, 36 per cent were using touch screens, 24 per cent had called someone and 15 per cent had used apps.

In most instances, the parents were handing their phones and tablets to their kids while doing household chores, running errands or calming their kids down. This is a trend: previous research has pointed to parents using TV or even junk food to pacify their kids.

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As the kids got older, they spent more time on these devices.

READ MORE: Can children become addicted to technology?

Last weekend, researchers studying how families felt about their kids using mobile devices found that, for the most part, parents are worried.

The researchers say scientific literature isn’t keeping up with how technology is shaping family life. For their study, they interviewed 35 parents.

Most parents felt like they had to buy their kids tablets to keep up with the educational system and make sure their skills matched their peers in school.

They described their kids as “hooked” or “addicted,” and even conceded that their kids were spending more time looking at screens instead of socializing.

READ MORE: Your child’s weight in kindergarten could predict obesity later on

“One of the striking things about these interviews was that parents thanked us for letting them take part…for letting them vent their strong feelings and uncertainties about parenting and technology and for letting them speak with other parents who were going through similar experiences,” lead author, Dr. Jenny Radesky, said in a statement.

At what age should kids start using smart phones and tablets? Do you think your kids spend too much time looking at computer screens? Tell us what you think on Facebook.

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carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

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