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Toddler Tweets? Maybe Not So Far Off

Apr 27 2015
Hilda Kabali
Dr. Hilda Kabali, a third year resident in pediatrics at Einstein Healthcare Network

Baby with cellphoneChildren younger than a year old are using smartphones and tablets before they know how to walk - some are even making phone calls. Three quarters of children are using the devices by the time they're two years old, and almost all of them are plugged into mobile media by the time they're four.

This is according to a groundbreaking study conducted at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia by Hilda Kabali, MD, a third-year pediatrics resident.

"We didn't expect children to be using the devices from the age of six months," Dr. Kabali said. "Some of them were on the screen for as long as 30 minutes at a time."

The surprising data was revealed in a survey of 370 parents of children, aged six months to four years, who completed a questionnaire at Einstein's outpatient pediatrics clinic. The study was presented this past weekend at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in San Diego.

Nearly a quarter of the children under a year old made a phone call. More than half of them watched TV on a mobile device. Others played video games, used apps or touched and scrolled the screen. By one year of age, 14 percent of children were spending an hour a day using mobile media, 26 percent by age 2 and 38 percent by age 4.

Many parents used their smart phones and tablets to occupy their children when they were running errands or doing chores. They also used them to calm their children and put them to sleep.

While the study makes no recommendations for limiting use, Dr. Kabali said it underscores the need for parents to set guidelines for their children. "All the guidelines we have are based on TV, with the recommendation that viewing be limited to two hours as day," Dr. Kabali said. "But most children aren't spending time on TV any more. They're using tablets and smartphones."

"Prolonged engagement in such activities limits parental interaction and can affect a child's capacity for social development," Dr. Kabali said. "Not to mention that too much sedentary entertainment can contribute to obesity. Parents of children under the age of three should set significant limits and focus on reading and interacting," Dr. Kabali said. "And once they're over three, they should also emphasize physical activity."

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