For a time, toy companies did a bang up business in fake cell phone toys for tiny tots.
Now? Little ones’ first exposure to mobile phones and mobile media is likely to be via the real thing.
A recent study conducted by researchers in the pediatrics division at the Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia has documented an amazing trend. In fact, 36 percent of babies less than one year old scroll screens and 52 percent watch movies via their parents’ mobile phones.
“First Exposure and Use of Mobile Media in Young Children” started with a simple premise.
Study authors noted that “Smartphones and tablets are the fastest growing technology in human history and mobile devices are becoming the preferred means for children to access media and its content. Little is known about children’s age of initial exposure to mobile media and frequency of use.”
The study’s objective? “To determine age of initial exposure and use of mobile media among young children.”
Of course, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence for the trend of younger and younger children being exposed to mobile media. And anyone who is a parent knows that even babies will want to “play” with the same “toy” that is engaging Mom or Dad.
The upshot? In a nutshell: children begin to master mobile before they’re potty trained.
“Most parents let children play with mobile media while running errands (60 percent), doing chores around the house (73 percent), to calm the child (65 percent), and to put the child to sleep (29 percent),” noted the study authors. “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.”
Interestingly, a mere 30 percent of parents said they discuss media use with their child’s pediatrician.
The researchers believe more research is necessary — and soon.
“Children are exposed to mobile media devices very early in life, and most children are using them by age two years,” they said. “A better understanding of the use of mobile media in young children and how it varies by population groups is critical to help develop educational strategies for both parents and health providers.”
Indeed. It doesn’t seem a far-fetched scenario to envision a world in which even the tiniest tots become Facebook members while they’re still wearing diapers.