BY KAREN KAPLAN
LOS ANGELES TIMES/TNS
Have you ever been befuddled by a feature on your iPhone, only to have your 6-year-old show you how it works? A new study helps explain how this happens.
Most children have been using smartphones and digital tablets practically since birth — literally.
Fully 36 percent of parents who answered a recent survey said their children had “touched or scrolled a screen” before they had celebrated their first birthday. An additional 33 percent of parents said their kids had done so when they were 1 year old.
Only 2 percent of the parents surveyed said they had waited until their children were 4 to introduce them to the wonders of the touch-screen.
In case you were figuring that these children must have been born in the heart of Silicon Valley, think again.
The researchers said they conducted their survey of 370 families in a pediatric clinic that caters to “an urban, low-income, minority community” in Philadelphia.
Using apps at 2
In fact, 13 percent of the parents who took the survey had not finished high school. Still, 77 percent of them said they had a smartphone, 83 percent had a tablet and 59 percent had Internet access.
Many of the infants and toddlers may have been poking randomly at their digital screens, but at least some of them were doing something purposeful, according to the parents.
Fifteen percent of the children had used an app before they turned 1, and 24 percent had called someone, the researchers reported. The most common age to start using apps was 2, when 36 percent of the children tried them. Likewise, 36 percent of the kids started playing video games when they were 2.
If the children enjoyed playing with the digital devices, the parents seemed to benefit too. Nearly two-thirds of the parents said they handed over their mobile media gadgets to calm their children, and 29 percent said they used them to get their children to sleep.
Source of entertainment
The devices also served to entertain children while their parents did chores around the house (according to 73 percent of the survey takers) and ran errands (60 percent of them said).
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that children should avoid screens until they turn 2.
“A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens,” the academy says.
However, only 30 percent of the parents surveyed said they had discussed screen time and other media use with their pediatricians.
The results appeared to surprise the researchers from Philadelphia’s Einstein Medical Center, who conducted the survey in October and November 2014.
“We didn’t expect children are using the devices from the age of 6 months,” Dr. Hilda Kabali, a pediatrics resident who led the study, said in a statement. “Some of the children were using the screen for as long as 30 minutes.”
The research was presented last week at a Pediatrics Academic Societies meeting in San Diego.