I almost didn't believe it when I read it because it seems to insane, but apparently it's true. A whole 25 percent of American kids age two and under have their own smartphone. Their! Own! Smartphone! That's one in four toddlers. WTF, parents, really? Suddenly I'm picturing thousands of toddlers wandering the streets, looking up Grandma's address on Google Maps and calling their friends for playdates. Isn't that what their parents are for? I can't imagine why you'd ever buy a toddler a smartphone.
Oh wait, yes I can. The "educational" games. This is the new justification for handing over an iPhone to your two-year-old. Because they're going to learn stuff from it and get smarter. Riiiight.
Psychiatrist Dr. Gail Saltz says parents should think about what your toddler isn't learning while they've got their screen in front of their face. I feel like parents nowadays are obsessed with giving their kids a head start with reading and math -- a ridiculously early head start. But toddlers aren't ready for that yet. And there is SO much more to a child's education than reading and math.
Toddlers need to experience a lot before they learn their ABCs or their numbers, things they can only learn from interacting with the real world. They need to be touching, smelling, tasting, listening. They need to connect facial expressions with words. All the countless interactions they have with their world add up to a very necessary foundation that will prepare them to learn how to read and add later on, when they're truly ready. And there's just no substitute for that. They're going to miss that foundation if they've always got a screen in front of their faces.
And then there's the problem of toddlers becoming addicted to smartphones -- and other screens. It's so easy for this to happen. I almost think every kid is going to become addicted to screens at some point in their lives. (Please meet my kid -- oy vey.) It's almost inevitable. But why start so early?
We've all used smartphones as a temporary babysitter. I'll cop to that -- I've done it. You hand that phone over and it solves so many problems for you. BUT -- I think we all need to be mindful of how often we do that, and for how long. I think actually giving your toddler their own smartphone (not just loaning for a few minutes, but buying one just for them) nudges them a lot closer to that addiction. And finally, as people keep reminding me, it's okay for your kid to be bored. In fact, it's good for them.
Ugh, what these two panelists in the video below say: All of it.
Would you ever buy or give your toddler their own smartphone?
Image via MIKI Yoshihito/Flickr