38% of Toddlers Use Mobile Devices by the Time They Turn 2

Wednesday, October 30, 2013
(photo: Thomas Whisenand, AP)

Cell phones and other mobile devices have become part of life for a growing number of toddlers, a new study shows.


Thirty-eight percent of children under the age of two have used a mobile device, such as a tablet or smartphone, according to the report (pdf) from Common Sense Media.


That’s up from 10% only two years ago.


“This is quite an extraordinary shift for our young children,” James Steyer, chief executive and founder of Common Sense Media, told Agence France-Presse (AFP).


“The media children consume can have a profound impact on their learning, social development, and behavior, and the only way to maximize the positive impact—and minimize the negative—is to have an accurate understanding of the role it plays in their lives. These kids are true digital natives,” Steyer said.


Games constituted the most common mobile media activity among young children, 63% of parents reported.


Only 30% of kids used these devices for reading.


The study also found that children eight years and younger still spend more time with “traditional” screen media such as television, DVDs, computers, and video games.


But mobile devices are catching up, with the average time spent with them up 10 minutes, while screen time with traditional media is down by 21 minutes.


In the 0-8 age group, the average amount of time that kids spend using mobile devices has tripled, and the number of kids who use the devices has nearly doubled, from 38% to 72%, according to the study.


“I’ve never seen a new medium take hold among little kids this fast,” researcher Vicky Rideout told AFP. “As many little babies and one-year-olds have used smartphones or tablets today as all kids under eight had done just two years ago.”


Young kids still spend about half of their screen time in front of a TV, with 61% of them usually tuned in to an educational program.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Researchers: 38 Percent of Kids Use Mobile Devices Before They’re 2 Years Old (Agence France-Presse)

Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America 2013 (Common Sense Media) (pdf)

Hundreds of Apps for Children Collect Their Private Information without Alerting Parents (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)       


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