Are your little ones becoming more interested in using your smartphone? If your answer is yes, then you belong to the almost 20% of parents who see their children using cell phones or even smartphones. Latest surveys show that almost 20% of children nowadays carry a mobile device such as a smartphone. What’s more surprising is the age of these children, some just around 5 to 7.
Other statistics reveal even younger children are joining this pack. According to certain experts, the early exposure of children to gadgets is a result of a “pass-back effect”, where the parents pass the device (such as smart phones) to their child and eventually the device becomes the child’s ultimate toy. But there is a compounding question: is it okay to introduce these types of devices to children?
According to expert opinion and research, screen time or exposure to devices, such as iPhones, tablets, smartphones and the like, should only be introduced if the child is past two years of age. This is because cognitive development from birth until 2 years of age is best achieved through human interactions and real life experiences. Human interactions and real life experiences provide the child the chance to explore and learn using their senses, and according to experts, this is the primary way a child learns.
Organizations dedicated to children’s health and well-being also have a strong hold on the screen time exposure for children. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends screen time not start until 2 years of age.
When is the Right Time?
Parents can introduce children to televisions, videos and high tech devices if they reach the age of two or if they are at a preschool age. Even if the child shows interest in the gadget at a younger age, parents should hold back and keep the devices or gadgets away from them. This display of interest does not mean the child is ready to use a laptop or a smartphone, the interest is mostly driven by curiosity and the drive for exploration.
The right time also depends on the level of supervision the child requires. If they go out unsupervised, it would be best to introduce them to such devices at age 11 to 13, but if supervision is there, parents can start introducing the child to a chosen device by age 4 or 5.
Combine Timing with Content
What the child sees on the smartphone is equally essential. Parents must ensure the devices used, incorporate child-friendly and age appropriate applications or software. What the children sees and what he or she plays is particularly significant, so parents must be able to differentiate apps or software that are for “entertainment” and those that are educational.
It is also important to choose an app that is age appropriate. For example, children 4-5 years old have been shown to learn math concepts and vocabulary from watching educational DVDs or TV shows, but if you introduce these to children of younger ages, they might not benefit that much.
Go for those that go beyond entertainment or those that combine both. Memory games, puzzles, spatial activities, nurturing digital pets, sketching, creating music and arts are just some of the categories to choose from. Remember that technology is a solution, if we use it the right way.