Celebrity Families

How young is too young to use a smartphone?

It’s a first world problem of the digital age that is tearing parenting groups apart. How young is too young to own and use a smartphone?

Girl on Smart phone

New findings from Australian Child Health Poll have revealed that one-third of pre-schoolers and two-thirds of primary school aged children now own a smartphone or
tablet.

This early exposure to screens is being attributed to the increasing demands from the busy lifestyles of today’s parents – 85% of who end up relying on the digital devices as a babysitter.

There’s no doubt that a digital babysitter would be considerably cheaper than the real life babysitters of days gone by, and less of a chance they’ll be raiding your fridge – but is there a bigger cost that needs to be factored into this equation?

Yes, says The Director of the Australian Child Health Poll, paediatrician Dr Anthea Rhodes.

There a multitude of proven adverse effects due to excessive online and social media exposure, in this instance Dr Rhodes refers to the negative impacts screens are having on children’s sleeping patterns.

“Almost half of children regularly use screen-based devices at bedtime, with one in four children reporting associated sleep problems. Teenagers using screens routinely at bedtime were also more likely to report experiencing online bullying. It’s best to have no screen time an hour before bed and keep screens out of the bedroom, to ensure a better quality of sleep,” Dr Rhodes said.

With the majority of children now exceeding the current national recommended guidelines for screen time, experts suggest that we need to reassess what these guidelines are and how to enforce them.

The issue is not one that is unique to Australia.

These findings follow news that a group in the US is attempting to ban the sale of smartphones to children younger than 13.

The group, who have named themselves Parents Against Smart Phones, and are aiming to collect signatures to bring their proposition to life in 2018.

It would mean retailers would be given a fine for selling a phone to anyone under the age of 13, or to anyone who suggests the phone may be ‘wholly or partially owned by a person under the age of 13’.

It may seem like an exceptionally tough crackdown, but with stats revealing that many families are experiencing conflict over screen use and that a lack of physical activity and excessive use are big concerns to parents – it’s a call to action we could soon see mirrored in Australia.