Cell phones can be used to entertain, distract and even educate kids, but some experts warn toddlers are too young to benefit from smartphones and may instead incur harmful side effects. While the majority of kids don’t get their first cell phone until they are 6-years-old, most kids are using smartphones before their first birthday. It’s not just cell phones but televisions, sound systems, video games and tablets. The average parent spends around $462 per child to ensure they have the latest gadgets on the market.
Are Toddlers Too Young To Use Smartphones
Despite all of the money spent on technology for kids, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends no smartphone usage, or other form of screen time, for children under two-years-old.
How Many Children Use Cell Phones?
The American Academy of Pediatrics conducted a survey of 350 parents with children between 6-months and 5-years-old. They found that 75% of 4-year-olds have smartphones and 97% of kids under four have used a mobile device. Even more incredible, nearly 100% of kids started using smartphones before their first birthday.
The same study found parents admitted using electronic devices to distract and entertain their children. 70% of parents used devices to entertain kids while they were doing chores. 65% of parents used electronic devices to calm kids down, and 30% said that they gave their children electronic devices to help them fall asleep at bedtime.
The Negative Drawbacks To Toddlers Using Smartphones
Smartphones provide a lot of benefits, hence why parents are so fond of handing them out to their kids. But, at the same time, they present the potential for a number of risks. For instance, even though 30% of parents are giving their kids a smartphone to help them fall asleep, sleep experts warn that looking at screens even one hour before bed can disturb sleep quality.
Do Cell Phones Release Radiation That Is Harmful To Toddlers?
Some experts are concerned that the radiation emitted by smartphones could pose serious side effects, including altering DNA. On the other side of the fence, other experts say that the radiation released by cell phones isn’t strong enough to interfere with DNA. As of right now, we can’t say with certainty if one or the other is right. We are looking at the first generation of kids growing up with cellphones, meaning we don’t really know what sort of long-term implications we will see as a result.
Epidemiologist, toxicologist and cancer expert, Dr. Devra Davis is concerned that radio-frequency radiation is damaging to DNA and could even contribute to brain tumors. She has looked at years of research to come to the conclusion that cell phones present negative biological effects, especially on young children. She believes young children should not use smartphones at all, and she’s not the only one. France and Israel are two examples of countries that discourage the use of cell phones amongst young children.
In 2009, Time magazine reported a lengthy review of research by the Environmental Working Group that discussed how long-term cell phone usage related to increased rates of brain tumors, migraines and child behavioral issues.
Dr. Mark Burnett, a neurosurgeon from Austin, Texas said, “The structure of a child’s skull is just different than an adult, skulls are thinner and so if there is any radiation that comes through your cell phone that could be harmful, the concern is it can get through the brain and the skull and the neural tissue a little bit easier than it might an adult.”
When Should You Let Your Child Use A Cell Phone?
Many experts recommend waiting until your child is in preschool before they start using tablets and smartphones. This gives them enough time to explore life using their real-world senses, which is incredibly important to your child’s overall development.
In a supervised environment, children can begin using smartphones and tablets to play educational games. Yet, experts warn against letting your child use a smartphone without supervision until they are at least 11 to 13, depending on their maturity level at the time.
Moderation Is Key: Setting Time Limits For Toddlers On Smartphones
Kids need plenty of face-to-face interactions in order to develop important social skills and communication tactics, such as looking people in the eye, listening and relating to others. Regardless if you think smartphones increase the risk for brain tumors or alter DNA, too much screen time isn’t a good thing.
Even as your child ages and begins to use technology unsupervised, setting daily time limits is important in order to help offset the potential for negative health issues. Doctors advise no more than one-hour of screen time per sitting for children between 6 and 7 years old, and 2-hours for high school students. That means toddlers should be using technology for far less time, not even one hour a day, if that.
As a parent, the decision to buy or not to buy your child a phone is all yours. As is the decision to let your child use your cell phone. Smartphones are the bridge we use to communicate, learn new things and even work. While possessing a certain understanding of technology helps children in the future, smartphones present a lot of potential risks to your child’s health, both mentally and physically, as well as their overall wellbeing. Most of these risks arise with over usage, which is why moderation is so important.