There’s been an explosion of mobile technology use among young children in the past two years, even as overall media exposure is declining. According to a report out today from Common Sense Media, which studies the safe use of media for kids, the percentage of children under eight with access to a smartphone or tablet has jumped from half (52%) to three-quarters (75%), while the average daily time on the device has tripled from five to 15 minutes (for parents, that’s measured as the length of time it takes to wolf down your meal in a restaurant, or conduct a conversation in peace). Perhaps most startling is that 38% of babies under two years old have used a mobile device, up from one in 10 just two years ago.
The most interesting finding in this report is the 21-minute decline in average reported screen media use, from two hours and 16 minutes to one hour and 55 minutes. Although plain old television still accounts for half–about an hour–of daily screen time for kiddies, usage is down for DVDs, video games, TV, and computers, and the rise in mobile usage hasn’t been enough to counteract it. Ironically, even as parents are perhaps clamping down on screentime at home (or at least the amount they admit to), there has been a countervailing rise in the use of digital devices in public schools across the country. Technology: panacea or poison?