Most experts on child development say children are tuned into their computers, tablets, and smartphones too much and are tuning out of real life. Parents now give children as young as toddlers their own tablets or hand them a smartphone to keep them entertained at an age when children need to be interacting with the real world around them.
The average child aged 8 to 10 years old spends nearly eight hours a day with different media, which includes television as well as computers and handheld devices. Older children and teenagers spend more than 11 hours a day with screens of various kinds. These startling statistics come from a study done by the Kaiser Family Foundation and were cited in the American Academy of Pediatrics' 2013 policy statement on children and media. Other studies have found that half of all teenagers send 50 or more texts each day and that they average 3,364 texts a month.
The academy states that children under age 2 should not be using or watching any electronic media. "[A] child's brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens." The academy recommends that older children and teenagers spend no more than 2 hours a day with electronic entertainment and should spend more time playing indoors and outdoors, reading, and with hobbies.
Parents often use devices like tablets and smartphones to distract their child, to keep them busy, or to calm them down. But this is counter-productive because the child then never learns to calm down on his or her own or how to entertain themselves. For older children, schoolwork and grades can suffer since screen time keeps them from reading.
PBS will broadcast a documentary called Web Junkie about teenagers who are hooked on video games. The documentary will air July 13.