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Starting younger: 6-month-old babies use phones before they walk, talk

In the age of technology and gadgets, a new milestone within infancy and toddlerhood known as 'Baby's First Tablet Tap' is looming large.

health and fitness Updated: Apr 27, 2015 15:33 IST

In the age of technology and gadgets, a new milestone within infancy and toddlerhood known as 'Baby's First Tablet Tap' is looming large.

More than one-third of babies are tapping on smartphones and tablets even before they learn to walk or talk, and by the age of one years, one in seven toddlers is using mobile devices for at least an hour a day, as per a study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in San Diego.

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the use of entertainment media such as televisions, computers, smartphones and tablets by children under age 2. Until now, little was known about when youngsters actually start using mobile phones.

Researchers developed a 20-item survey to find out when young children are first exposed to mobiles and how they use such devices. Parents of children aged between six months and four years, who were at a hospital-based pediatric clinic that serves a low-income, minority community were recruited to fill out the survey.

Results from 370 parents showed that 74% were African-American, 14% were Hispanic and 13% had less than a high school education. Media devices were ubiquitous, with 97% having TVs, 83% having tablets, 77% having smartphones and 59% having Internet access.

Children younger than one-year-old were exposed to mobile devices in surprisingly large numbers: 52% had watched TV shows, 36% had touched or scrolled a screen, 24% had called someone, 15% used apps and 12% played video games. By the age of two years, most children were using mobile devices.

Lead author Hilda Kabali said that they didn't expect that children were using mobile devices from the age of six months and some children were on the screen for as long as 30 minutes.

Results also showed 73% of parents let their children play with mobile devices while doing household chores, 60% while running errands, 65% to calm a child and 29% to put a child to sleep.

Time spent on smartphones increased with age, with 26% of two-year-olds and 38% of four-year-olds using devices for at least an hour a day. Finally, only 30% of parents said their child's pediatrician had discussed media use with them.

First Published: Apr 27, 2015 15:19 IST