Monday, November 8, 2010

Tech Babies

The other day, I read an article in USAToday about technology use -- specifically the use of iPods, smartphones, and iPads -- among the very young. According to the author, many of today's tots "start waving their pudgy little hands over those glowing screens before their first birthday." The article featured several 2- 3- and 4-year-olds who apparently are more proficient with their parents' current toys than they are with the toys their parents played with when they were 2-, 3-, and 4-years-old.

According to USAToday, "studies done at, which places ads on smartphones, [found that] almost 5 million households with kids under 6 have smartphones. And 50 percent of iPhone moms let their kids use their phones; 29 percent of those moms have kids under 4. An additional 4.7 million households with kids 6 to 11 have smartphones." "And the number," says this writer, "is growing every month."

It isn't just preschoolers, of course, who are caught up in high-tech fever. According to a study reported by The Center on Media and Child Health (CMCH), 22 percent of children ages 6-9 have their own cell phones (five percent have their own smartphones); as well as 60 percent of tweens (ages 10-14), and 84 percent of teens (ages 15-18).

A recent WSJ article cites research by Nielsen Co., which found that the average 13- to 17-year-old sends and receives 3,339 texts a month (more than 100 a day!), with teen females averaging 4,050 texts per month, and males 2,539 monthly texts.

One wonders where they find the time -- although apparently most aren't just texting from home. The Pew Internet & American Life Project found that, even though most schools regulate cell phone use:
* 65 percent of cell-owning teens at schools that completely ban phones bring their phones to school every day.
* 58 percent of cell-owning teens at schools that ban phones have sent a text message during class.
* 43 percent of teens who take their phones to school say they text in class once a day or more.

More important than when they find the time, however, is the question of what today's kids, of all ages, aren't doing that they could/would be doing if they weren't texting...or browsing...or "waving their pudgy fingers over those glowing screens." And how is it going to affect them in the future?

CMCH reports on one study that found a link between cell phone use and low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression among teens. Other studies have suggested a correlation between heavy cell phone use and substance abuse. And what about the suspected link between sedentary technology use and childhood obesity?

The truth -- and the problem -- is that we just don't know what affect growing up tethered to iPods and iPads and smartphones and other technology toys and tools will have on today's tots and tweens and teens and those who follow them. In the USAToday article, Liz Perle, editor-in-chief at Common Sense Media, calls the use of technology by young children "the biggest experiment ever conducted on our children, in real time."

It certainly bears watching.

No comments:

Post a Comment