According to a 2016 survey that polled over 1,000 parents in the U.S. and U.K., about 92 percent of children ages 2-7 currently use mobile devices at home, and more than one in three have their own device.
Tablets are a popular device for younger children since they are easier for their small hands to play with and offer a larger screen to watch and play than smartphones. A 2011 Nielsen study showed that 57 percent of children under age 12 use tablets for educational purposes, while 77 percent of children use them for downloading games.
With so many children using tablets and mobile devices to tune into games, educational content and entertainment, parents might wonder what steps they should take to ensure their kids are being properly introduced to these modern toys.
For curious parents, there’s an excellent article on PBS Parents that provides smart tips on just this. Author Laura Lewis Brown interviewed a number of experts in the field to gain some insider recommendations on children and devices.
In her article, Brown pulls together four main considerations from the experts for introducing your young children to mobile devices:
1) Wait until they’re at least 3 years old. Children under 2 are still developing their senses and learning from their surroundings, so it’s important that they get real-life interactions up to this age. But by age 3, children can actually benefit from electronic content that is educational. It is advised, however, that children using smartphones and tablets remain in a supervised setting until at least the age of 11.
2) Parental guidance is advised for children using devices. By sharing the user experience with your child, you are creating an engaging opportunity to ask questions, help clarify, and increase the overall level of understanding of the content your child is taking in.
3) Limit device time to a half-hour for children under 5 years, or an hour for 6- and 7-year-olds.
4) Focus on content. Experts recommend that parents consider the message of what their children are playing or watching. You can look at the recommended age range for downloaded apps, and even seek out games that will engage kids’ critical skills while they play, such as caring for digital pets or making music.
5) Incorporate tablets with school-based curriculum. Tablets and devices can offer an additional way for students to tap into their curriculum outside of a textbook, experts note, while letting them tap into newer technologies at the same time.
Brown’s full article on PBS Parents with advice from the experts can be found here.