Would you encourage your baby to use your smartphone?

Would you encourage your baby to use your smartphone?

Summary: New evidence suggests that parents are pushing smart devices onto their babies despite concerns over the potential consequences.

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Smartphones and tablets are everywhere. And children are using them more and more often.

Users of one of the largest baby information sites in the UK, Babies.co.uk, responded to a poll on how much they allow their babies to play with their smartphone or tablet device. The results show that a significant amount of parents give their babies smartphones and tablets to "help them learn".

baby-and-phone
(Image: Babies.co.uk)

But 69 percent of parents feel that smartphone use could disconnect their children from a relationship with their parents.

More than half of parents admitted that they allow their baby to play with their phone or tablet device, and 14 percent of parents confessed to doing so for more than 4 hours every day.

"Given that babies between three to 12 months are awake for only around 10 hours per day, this is a huge proportion of their waking day," said James Macfarlane, managing director of Babies.co.uk.

"Although 81 percent of our users felt that children today spend too much time on smart devices, it has not put most of them off using them to entertain their baby," said Macfarlane.

"The real problem with babies playing with smart devices is what it leads to in the future"
— James Macfarlane, managing director, Babies.co.uk

"At what age will we teach them to sit patiently at the table in a restaurant, to make conversation with other people, or to simply cope with being bored in everyday situations without producing our smartphone for them?"

The survey results show that 55 percent of respondents said that they allowed their baby to use their device. What stands out in the survey results is that people are not confident that this form of entertainment is actually good for their child.

Whilst 50 percent of people felt than it could be educational, 69 percent of those questioned felt that too much play on a tablet or smartphone would, or might, disconnect their baby's relationship with them.

"It's clear that the convenience of these devices is winning over parents, even some of those who think it might not be good for their child's development," said Macfarlane.

"Tablets are helpful to parents in many situations, but it is their instantaneous effect that is probably their downfall," he said. "Once you establish them as an easy means of entertainment for your child, it becomes hard to draw the line on when to take it away."

Fifty percent of respondents said that they felt babies could learn from using these technologies, but advice suggests caution with this idea. Macfarlane reckons that it is "easier for us to justify our babies using smartphones and tablets if we feel they are learning something from it".

"But for them to get the most out of a smartphone app, you need to be involved, too — talking about what they're looking at, and helping them to understand the point of what they're doing."

Caution is also recommended where mobile devices might be substituting play that could be more beneficial for a baby's development.

Babies could be exploring their surroundings, interacting with their parents, or learning to move.

Dr Carolyn Jaynes, learning designer for Leapfrog Enterprises, said that children under two years of age learn best from real-world experiences and interactions.

"Each minute spent in front of a screen-based device is a minute when your child is not exploring the world and using their senses, which is extremely important in their development process."

But parents, desperate to quieten a fractious child, might take the easier, digital way out for peace and quiet.

Topic: Social Enterprise

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5 comments
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  • Too late

    That genie went out of the technological bottle years ago. Baby want cellphone - gimee.
    D.J. 43
  • Rewind 40 years, substitute

    television for smart phone, and replay the same argument. Rewind 100 years, substitute telephone for television and replay the same argument.
    baggins_z
  • Can't draw anything from this

    It's a questionnaire of parents, not an imprical study. Judging by the phrasing, it may have actually asked questions such as
    'Do you worry that letting your Child play with electronic devices may disconnect your relationship with them?'
    Which is leading to say the least, plus it only tells us what parents think, not what is happening.

    The baby stage is about motor skills and the beginnings of communication -the development of these leads to the toddler stage. My first degree in child development leads me to assume that a child would be better off playing with traditional, physical toys to advance nervous system development, but you can't take away from the fact that if the parent is playing with the thing all day, the baby wants to see why.

    There is also the flip side that people can rarely go without their smartphones for 10 minutes, and no one with half a brain lets a baby play with something that cost 500 quid and is prone to liquid and dropage unsupervised. This could mean that, like your photo, parents are spending the time with the baby, interacting with it, which is worth all the coloured rings and rattles in the world.

    I suspect for people to be saying they leave their babies with tablets for four hours a day they mean toddlers through to preschoolers as no one has made an app that can hold a babies attention for four hours. This drastically skews results. Preschoolers using tablets is certainly preferential to preschoolers spending all day watching TV, though behind playing with other children.

    I think that the real concern here is in the post toddler stage - 3 to five. It is very important for children to have playmates in this agegroup to learn the basics of social skills. Over the last two decades, we have seen massive reductions in siblings and an increase in children going to school early... Tablets will not help here.
    MarknWill
  • Sure

    It's perfectly fine with me if Mommy lets baby press random keys and icons. Maybe it will encourage Mommy to lock her phone.

    But I think I'd rather see my grandchildren play with each other than with a smartphone.
    John L. Ries
  • Man is (or should be) a social animal

    And one would have to ask the question, do we blame videos and DVDs for the dissassociation young people have with the world today? I agree that tablet technology could be a VERY useful tool for educational purposes (as well as play - playing is important too), but please, for the kids' sake, get them out in the garden, in the playpark, with other kids.
    Snak