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article imageDaycare smartphone experiment: 'Put those cell phones away'

By Karen Graham     Jun 16, 2016 in Technology
Technology today is getting so easy to use that even a baby can figure it out. This is what a little experiment at an Ottawa daycare center discovered recently.
When the administrators at Ottawa's Elizabeth Park Child Care Centre noticed that babies and toddlers under their care were very comfortable using smartphones, they decided to conduct a little experiment.
CTV News reports that one 15-month-old child, Caiden Nicol, easily swiped through the pictures on her mother's device. "More and more children gravitate to these cellphones because they see other people using it," Caiden's mother Candice Nichol told reporters.
Margaret MacNaughton is the head teacher of the centre's infant program that includes six-month-old to 18-month-old children. She decided to offer the children toy telephones and real cellphones to see which kind of device they liked best to play with.
MacNaughton says that while the toy telephones sparked some interest, the real phones were a big hit. The youngsters appeared to instinctively know exactly how to use them. "They were actually texting and swiping," she said. "It's amazing to see at this age how much knowledge they had of cellphones."
The experiment was an eye-opener for MacNaughton. Besides being surprised at the outcome of her little study, she is now also concerned about what the experiment says about our society and our obsession with technology.
“The message to parents,” says MacNaughton, according to, “is put those phones away. If you're at the park, be with your child; get on that climber with them. Build that bond because that bond is what's going to carry them forward into the world.”
How young is too young for electronic devices?
In November 2015, Market Watch reported that Apple Inc and Samsung Electronics Co. are succeeding in winning young customers over to their products, the younger the better, hoping to keep them as customers for life.
But even Kate Winslet, who played Apple marketing executive Joanna Hoffman in the Steve Jobs biopic, is concerned about the dependency parents place on electronic devices to amuse their children. She said, "Let your kids climb trees. Take the device out of their hands and don't let them sleep with them."
And there is cause for concern. According to Ottawa child psychiatrist, Dr. Michael Cheng, babies' brains develop through face-to-face contact, and smartphones and other mobile devices can disrupt that connection. Not only that but the lack of one-on-one communication with a parent or other person will be detrimental to their language skills.
"There is growing data that suggests that our misuse, our overuse, of technology is related to a lot of this rise in mental health issues that we're seeing," Cheng said.
A new study presented at the 2015 U.S. Pediatric Academic Societies Annual Meeting showed that over one in three children had hands-on experience with smartphones or tablets before their first birthday.
Of particular interest is the reason behind parents allowing their very young children to use electronic devices. According to researchers, some parents use the devices as de facto babysitters, with 70 percent giving their kids mobile devices while they were doing chores. About 65 percent of parents used the devices to keep the kids quiet or calm, while 29 percent let the kids use them to lull them to sleep.
As head teacher, MacNaughton says, "put those cellphones away."
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