“Twice as many children have cell phones now as in 2004. Most teens—85% of those aged 14 to 17—have cell phones. So do 69% of 11-14-year-olds and 31% of kids aged 8-10, according to a 2010 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation,” says WebMD.com.
It’s the new normal, and it’s all happened really, really fast.
And so children born in recent years don’t really stand a chance against the lure of habitual technology use. Their parents wouldn’t dare leave the room without one of those gloriously growing things in their hand or pocket. It’s how they socialize, listening to music, play games, and watch shows.
And if it was a little too easy for Millennials to be raised or “babysat” by TV, oh, boy… Now that Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu are in the picture…
In crucial developmental years, today’s toddlers are not getting enough IRL time, and here are 20 ways it’s happening.
It’s just unavoidable, I suppose, to some extent. “The vast majority of [those in the US]–95%– now own a cellphone of some kind. The share of [those in the US]that own smartphones is now 77%,” says PewInternet.org. With stats like that, this is clearly something that has been influencing and will continue to affect the way today’s little ones are raised — in a big way.
This thing happens where new parents want to be out in the real world at least every now and then — to socialize and dine somewhere that’s not a table strewn with Cheerios. And so we attempt to eat at a restaurant, or maybe even sit a while in a garden serving hoppy delights. But before we have a chance to finish a pint or chew the rest of our chicken, the little ones get antsy — and this is why so many end up handing over the phone.
As kids get a bit older, out of the baby and toddler years, they tend to be allowed at least a bit of screen time, often on a pretty regular basis. So with the TV on or the iPad a-glowing, any little bros or sisters are sure to be introduced to no small amount of watching, gaming, and other interactions with alluringly lit screens.
Buy a family car lately, or, say, in the last decade? They often come equipped with screens that fold down and play movies for those long car rides. The problem is, these devices become very tempting to parents just trying to keep their tiny tots happy, and before ya know it, the thing’s on for almost every journey by automobile.
Moms need their phones. They need to interact with the rest of the world even if they are currently devoting their entire day to feeding and caring for a youngster in their charge. They need to talk to friends, shop on there, and have a connection to life outside of their regular realm. And so babies and toddlers inevitably end up seeing behaviors such as constantly checking the phone and always having it at hand.
People don’t always talk to each other much anymore. Unless it’s, like, your job to talk on the phone; even then, it’s all texting and stuff, right? It’s all social media. And so our little ones, of course, spend their formative years thinking that this is how people socialize — that it’s normal.
Once it’s time to upgrade, where does the old phone or other device go? Often into the hands of the younger generation of the house, for your Angry Birds and Barbie Dreamhouse and Netflix and beyond. And so you see even tiny kiddos carrying the things around or clutching them while in their car seats.
Before, the show would have commercials and then it would end. The tape or the DVD would be over. Now, it’s all online and streaming over Netflix and Hulu and all the rest let the shows go on and on and on and on… It’s endless. It’s binge-watching for babies.
“Screens are everywhere. As a result, controlling a child's screen time has become much harder for parents. To complicate matters, some screen time can be educational for children as well as support their social development,” says Mayo Clinic.“So how do you manage your child's screen time?” By being very mindful and setting limits, or else…
It’s what we now consider our “me time.” And when we’re not being paid to sit in front of a screen, we think it’s “relaxing” to lounge at home in front of a screen, often with the tiny one in our hand. If a parent comes home and makes this practice a habit, it’s something his child may very likely imitate — not to mention it taking away from face-to-face time together.
We constantly take pictures and videos. Sure, there’s that thing some people said for a while about how if it’s not online, it didn’t happen. Parents become more concerned with capturing the moment on camera, “sharing” it, and gathering "likes" than actually living in the moment and interacting with their cute kiddos. I heard parents at the zoo last week coercing their kid into posing instead of just enjoying the zoo.
Many parents have to do at least some amount of work from home, perhaps even just the work of running a household. We have to be using a computer or phone throughout the day, or at least part of it, ourselves. This necessarily takes away from the time that we are actually interacting with our families and also sets the example that screen staring is part of life — because it is.
A 2011 article covered by the BBC says, “A quarter of parents of young children in the UK admit using the television as a babysitter, research suggests. ... And 42% think it is a great way for children to learn, the poll suggests.” And that was almost a decade ago — before there quite so many streaming services and smartphones…
It’s convenient. They are everywhere. They are in our cars, and they are in our pockets. They are mounted proudly in every room of our homes, sometimes. They’re smaller and more portable than ever before, and so this makes it just so darn easy to have a screen that can quite easily happen to be in front of every family member’s face, even before said member is old enough for school.
I heard an elementary school principal speak on the topic of kindergarten preparedness and the place of technology in the young family’s home a few months back, and he said that he’s seen a change. Teachers notice that something is different about the level of interaction and intelligence displayed by incoming students, and not for the better. The way around this problem? Setting limits and creating a plan for how technology will be used in the home.
The same speaker mentioned above says he can’t believe how many times he’s mentioned about setting these limits to have the parents react with, “You mean I can say ‘no???'” It’s as if abundant use of tablets, phones, TVs, and other devices has become so widespread and constant that people don’t think they can get away from overusing it—or make their kids—especially when they just want their screaming toddler to be quiet.
Parents may be right if they allow some amount of screen time for even young children. Knowing how to use these devices is part of being ready for a world (and even a school system) that increasingly revolves around them. Just like we were plopped in front of giant monitors and told to learn how to type, at some point, kids will need to learn how to use today’s tech.
In a world where many things cost so much, where parents work so hard to provide the necessities and a better future for their little ones, it’s easy to offer up screen time for even young kids and toddlers simply because IT’S FREE. There’s YouTube and however many other free apps that mean entertainment via screen is just a touch away.
As touched on before, teachers today can tell that kids are being raised by iPhones. When kindergartners enter school, staffers are noticing that something is different, and it’s not in a good way. Smartphones have raised an entire generation at this point, meaning kids may be lacking in verbal and other skills (if tech isn’t used carefully and with limits).
I was looking around online the other day and saw a grandma’s incredibly proud post about her time spent with her grandson. What was the kid captured doing? Eating McDonald’s while staring at cartoons on an iPhone. Sigh… With high costs of living, parents who return to work may have to rely on the older generation for childcare, and the older generation may not be prepared to think about today’s tech in a careful enough way, especially when chasing a toddler around takes too much energy.
Sources: PewInternet.org, First5California.com, MayoClinic.org, BBC.com, WebMD.com