Smart Phone + Toddlers – Does it Work?

So I read this the other day and was wondering about it.As per RD, I belong to a completely different century. Against TV for children, against smart phones for children, against I Pads for kids, against video games for children…He believes that I will raise R to be a technologically challenged kid, just like I am now :)

Of course, for my extreme behaviour, he does compensate by giving R some time on our micromax pad, or lets her play with his smart phone. I remember telling him very clearly that I wouldn’t want R to touch his smart phone before she turned three and true to his word, he didn’t let her touch it until she was three. It was more to do with the fact that smart phones are bloody expensive and she is a kid who keeps dropping whatever is in her hand. He couldn’t afford to spend too much money on smart phones..after all his wife was losing one (non smart) phone a year eh?

Jokes apart, here are my points why I feel children should not be given access to smart phones until they turn 5 or 6 

1. Radiation – It’s harmful, can hinder with brain development and can prove to be dangerous.

Counter argument – We have wi-fis and cell phone towers everywhere. Is there truly a place in this world where there is no radiation problem? That’s true as well.

2.Imagination – I do feel that anything audio visual hampers imagination in children. For example, I believe in kids listening to music because they can still use their imagination to have their particular images in mind. Or read books, or even picture books, because it still empowers them to think on their own. In picture books, they can visualize the characters walking, dancing, etc etc…but when  you see an audio visual, often, you can’t really use your imagination…like I had written earlier, my Amma is not a big fan of watching the Ramayana on TV, because every time she thought of Rama, her childhood picture of Rama had changed to the guy who played the character of Rama. Same with me. I am not too keen about watching the HP movies, because it seems to hinder my imagination of what I thought Hogwarts would be like!

Counter Argument – Preethi, my cousin tells me, that my logic isn’t really true, because from her personal experience she has seen her daughter S tell stories based on what she sees on the video..and she tells about cousins of ours who used to play a LOT of video games and yet have gone on to be awesome music composers…so yes, she substantiates her arguments with examples. Again, she does mention that she is all for unstructured play and free time for kids, and also that you should give a smart phone only for a limited time like half an hour a day or something..but she is not against giving smart phones to kids…ah well!

3. Social Skills – Well, I do believe that when kids are put together not doing anything really specific, they do develop their social skills. Personally, I would have my child play with her friends in daycare than bring her home and let her play with the pad or the phone

Counter Argument – What about kids who want to sit in a corner and read books? Aren’t they considered non-social? …

4. Content – Even if parents allow their children to play with the smart phone, I  think it is very very important to find out what their children are seeing or playing. Most parents don’t seem to understand that concept at all. Everything that R does on the smart phone, or like Preethi says, S does on Preethi’s smart phone is vetted by us. If it’s puzzles, words building, children songs, it should be okay.

I really can’t think of a counter argument for this one!

Finally, after all this, I think I am okay with a child playing with a smart phone for a limited period of time in a day, as long as the games aren’t violent (does anyone else find this angry birds violent, or am I the only specimen on earth?) For example, RD lets R play with this frog game on his phone occasionally. and yes, we have used the smart phone/pad as a tool to keep her engaged in places where we can’t entertain her with anything else… 

So what’s your opinion on that?

Crossposted here


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45 Responses to Smart Phone + Toddlers – Does it Work?

  1. The Bride says:

    We discussed this sometime ago on a parenting forum here in Hong Kong. What I noticed was that the American pediatrics association that issued the guidelines that screen time should not be encouraged did so on the basis that it doesn’t add any value. However, they have no evidence that it is harmful. They say, your child would benefit from human interaction. They seem to forget that parents might not want to fill the human interaction gaps in our child’s day 24/7.

    Many parents are focused on only giving their child what is good for them. I’m okay with giving my child something if it’s not proven to be harmful even if it doesn’t do any good. So my kids may learn nothing from playing with the smartphone, but that’s okay with me. Not everything in life has to virtuous and add value. The smartphone time can be zone out time, for both of us. And some smartphone apps are actually educational though I didn’t care either way.

    About violence, a lot of the traditional fairy tales were violent. They were sanitised in the Victorian era but it seems to me that kids relish that aspect, they find it funny (eg. tom and jerry). Maybe small doses of not-too-violent violence is okay?

    • R's Mom says:

      Yes, I agree with what you say about some apps being actually educational..thats what Preethi told me as well…I guess, I need to improve…

      Well, you are right on fairy tales being violent..yes they are..but somehow I find the audio visual part of violence a little disturbing…

      • The Bride says:

        Hehe, if you can keep R entertained without resorting to screen time, then why not? I am just lazy and do what’s easiest because I don’t think there’s any harm. Education and all is a bonus, there’s lots of ways to get that education.

        • R's Mom says:

          LOL, I admit there are times I use the screen to entertain her. :):) I agree to your point of view on lots of ways to get education…you are a super cool mom Bride..wish I was more like you 🙂

  2. Smita T says:

    I am for limited time an controlled activity on smart phones / laptops and TV…. I think they can understand concepts easily using audio – visual techniques… eg. I was trying to teach N addition (which is not taught in school so far, but he encountered it in his activity books), but was getting nowhere… but due a game on my phone he has started doing addition a little bit, mostly on fingers (i.e max 5+5), but has understood the concept…. and I think they need a little exposure as they would need to use this technology in their everyday life in future, who knows in few years time Indian schools would also have tabs as a part of educational kit as it is in some countries

    • R's Mom says:

      Thats great that N has understood the concept..but I guess it would have worked with a good old slate and chalk as well no? Again, its just my theory 🙂

  3. I think I belong to your school of thought, too. I am somehow unable to accept very young children playing with laptops and smartphones. It could also be because I was not brought up that way, I agree.

    Yes, I find Angry Birds violent too. You are not the only specimen. 🙂 I don’t see the point of hitting birds and using them in catapults. I played the game once on the OH’s phone and got disgusted.

    I think many kids who grew up sitting in a corner reading books are anti-social. Take me for instance. I never had any company of kids the same age as me growing up, and spent most of my time reading books. Consequently, I am still significantly lacking in the social skills department. I do think playing in the good old-fashioned way develops social and other skills in children, which is extremely important too.

    I do all these arguements and counter-arguements in my mind too. I have concluded that moderation and monitoring your child is the key. Too much of anything is not good, and the same applies to this.

    • R's Mom says:

      Ah are my soul sister eh?

      Exactly, so thats what Preethi was telling me..why do you say only smart phone kids are not socially interacting..if someone keeps reading a book, they arent interacting as whats the difference..

      Gee! this parenting bit is really though eh?

      yes, moderation is definitely the key!

  4. pixie says:

    I agree wit what you have written and I hope when my time comes, I will be able to limit my child’s time on any of these gadgets, especially mobiles.

  5. Smita says:

    I believe in moderation. Let you kid explore everything but discipline them so that they know that they are getting to do these things for limited time. Simple!

  6. Smitha says:

    I’m like you RM. I prefer to keep daughter away from TV, gadgets. She does watch, but I monitor, and she gets the phone only in situations where there is nothing to keep her entertainment. Most of the time, Ahd takes books along with her, so it is not an issue. While videos and video games are not all bad, I still feel that imagination does get stifled, to some extent. Also children start to prefer the easy route of ‘watching’ a story than taking the trouble of reading it… Just my opinion.

    In Bangalore, I have seen kids in the play area,sitting and playing with mummy’s iPhone, instead of playing with their friends.That to me, is unacceptable. When technology takes over your life to that extent, it can’t be healthy,can it?

    • R's Mom says:

      Yes, I agree to your opinion which is why I am not a fan of audio visual…take R’s example..the brat just simply refuses to read..she can now understand phonic sounds and stuff..but she just refuses to make the effort..either I read for her or she just says she will watch a story on youtube…where is the effort…Bore hota hai amma she says 😦

      And yes, the kids playing with phones when other kids are around..well, the argument could be, there are kids reading books when other kids are whats the difference…I dotn know Smitha…I prefer a kid reading a book to playing on the phone..its just how I am wired I guess!

      • Smitha says:

        Reading doesn’t necessarily make you anti social, in my opinion. I used to read a LOT. But I still had loads of friends. I don’t remember a single instance where I would read rather than play with friends. Daughter is the same too. She reads when she is alone or if we are busy with other stuff. She would hop and skip to the park, if she could. And if you ask me, my reading has helped me become more social in so many ways. When I came abroad on projects, I found thatit was easier for me to have conversations with clients because I had a wide variety to discuss thanks to all the books I read:)

        I’m sure video games and gadgets are not all too bad, but I think they get a wee bit more addictive than books, because they tend to be more interactive. For instance, games that you can play, without the need for another player. So they definitely have the chance of replacing social contact…. Just my opinion:)

        • R's Mom says:

          yes yes yes…thanks for telling this publicly for all those people who think that book readers are socially challenged..thats not the case always

  7. Sreetama says:

    Am not really sure about what should be the right age to give children smart phones for playing purpose. I completely agree with your views about radiation, imagination and others. I enjoy reading Tintin or Bnatul The Great (bengali) comics much more than watching them on TV. Though I love to watch Denis The Menace! 😀

    You are not the only one, I too feel Angry Birds is violent and it has become so popular because we all love to vent out our frustration by beating up the pigs.

    • R's Mom says:

      Asterix and Tintin rank among the top favorite comics of mine…I also love Calvin and Hobbes..and I love reading Dennis the Menace as well :):)

      Somehow,I dont get the concept of Angry birds…I mean why break, cant you have something to build!

  8. sandhya says:

    OK, I’m a dinosaur here too. I would in fact go as far and say that electronic gadgets and touch screens have very limited use for children under 10. Their neural networks are developing very fast, and they need to actually handle stuff that stimulates all their senses and faculties. Playing games? Play with simple, unstructured stuff. Sand, clay, paper, rope, boxes, blocks, etc., are the best toys in early childhood, and playing outside, physical play, and imaginative play with friends is the best. Yes, books are important, too. More important than most people realize. As long as the child has plenty of opportunity to interact socially with peers.

    • R's Mom says:

      Oh you are not a dino :):)

      Coming from a doctor I will take your word for it…yes, I think you are right about the unstructured play bit…like I said, thats what we try and do for R, unless some circumstances do lead us to letting her use RD phone 🙂

      I agree with you on the books bit 🙂

  9. That is a very balanced view, RM. I think in this age, we really can’t let go off the smartphones, TV and computer completely. But, moderation is sure the key.

    I feel a part of the problem is the nuclear families that we are in. I remember perched on my thatha’s lap listening to stories for hours together. Or sitting with my paati and making kozhukkattais if doing nothing else. But now, things are different what with only the mum and dad having to do the difficult part of keeping the kids occupied full time. And, with a lot of these gadgets available, we find it an easier solution than narrating a ‘Ram killed Ravan’ story! Even the grand parents these days have become so tech savvy that they rather show videos to the grand kids than tell them stories. The other day I was joking to my neighbour that I am afraid of visiting both the sets of grandparents ‘cos both of them have IPads while we have none! 🙂

    That said, I think technology can come handy sometimes. Like on a rainy day when all of the painting and story telling and reading options are exhausted. Or, when the mom is sick (or sometimes plain lazy! ;)) to entertain the kids! Of course, the key word here is ‘sometimes’! 🙂

    • R's Mom says:

      I agree…nuclear families are a part of this change too..because earlier there used to be larger families more kids to play, so no one found the necessity of using a phone, etc (they were not available as well!) if you fought with one sibling/cousin, you had the other to play with eh?

      LOL on grandparents having ipads…super cute 🙂

  10. Reema Sahay says:

    My son just turned 2 and I hold similar views like yours. No TV, No Mobile Phones, No Tabs, No Video games. And those rules apply to us when he is around. I saw him getting agitated and throwing tantrums to get our smart phones. I knew, we had to change ourselves first. I usually turn my wi-fi off during the day so that I don’t constantly look over for the green lights. It is distracting. I never play mobile games. I have never played any mobile game ever. So, he has never seen me play games on my mobile. I have stopped my husband do that in front of him too. I don’t want him to see mobile phones as gadgets used for playing games, which happen with a lot of kids whose parents play games on mobile phones. I have rhymes on my Tab, which I let him watch sometimes [not more than half an hour, and definitely not everyday]. He likes to see his pictures and videos on my mobile sometimes when he sees my mobile kept around. I let him see those. I don’t want to be paranoid about it. The way kids behave when they are in front of TV or videos is scary. It looks they are hypnotized. A super-active kid becomes dull. TV is not part of our daily routine so it would not be his too. But if he would want to see, I would let him for half an hour or an hour when he is older. I don;t want him to see useless ads. I would rather let him watch good DVDs. I also can’t stand the cartoon characters like Dora, Ben10 and Chhota Bheem. I find it really annoying when I am not able to locate a single pair of shoes without any cartoon character.
    I am sorry, I have blabbered too much over here!

    • R's Mom says:

      no you didnt…you just said it all!

      RD also lets R watch the few photos he has of us on the phone…she likes thta..

      dont get me started on Chota bheem and Ben 10…they are awful 😦 and Dora is not too bad I least she keeps discovering new places eh?

      yes, the way R watches TV is scary…she just zones out!

      One of the reasons why I dont have a smart phone is this…R already watches RD reading on the phone all the time, I guess if I start doing it (I can get addicted to the net easily) no use expecting her not to imbibe it eh?

  11. Ashwathy says:

    You draw the line at what is beneficial to the child I guess. For example, I’d gladly push my child out to play in the park in the mud rather than have him/her play video games all the time. But sure, I’d allow him/her to use educational apps on my tab, but ONLY very specific ones, and for a limited time. Until he/she grows a bit older and can comprehend it better.

  12. Nidaa says:

    i am completely against giving kids phones or lapto. Or even TV for more than 1 programme.
    my sis says i will be singing a diff tune once i have my own child- dont know how to answer tht.
    My reasons:
    1. I’d rather my kid not sport sodakkuppi classes at a young age.
    2. All the reasons you said.
    3. Studies say tht children who use phone/PC/TV/Videogames for long continuously develop hyper activ disorder and they becom unable to focus or concentrate on slower stuffs. reason- their brain get used to bright & quick motion.

  13. Divya says:

    As much as i wish and want to stick to the rules, I haven’t and failed miserably. My now 2 yr old daughter is hooked to my iphone. Of-course i don’t let her watch/play more an hour at any give time and but this habit started purely out of my frustration on not know how to keep her entertained on my first long flight to India Dec 2012. Then it became a staple at restaurants – it was either my kiddo throwing food all over the place, or screaming like a maniac or let her watch Cailou (cartoon quite popular in the US) or some rhymes. Also long car rides, she would howl& scream and until the damn phone was given. Well it’s not her, i totally take the blame. The only good thing about all the smartphone use i got was, my daughter knows most of the rhymes and talks (the please and thank yous) so much like Cailou (the character). Again, I’m not proud of it and trying hard to break the habit. And like any crazy 2 yr old, she has thrown the device multiple number of times. Good for your RM for having stuck to 3 year rule.

    • R's Mom says:

      Hey! you dont need to feel guilty…Its not what I say is correct…you are restricting time and you are letting her see the right its fine…

  14. Amit says:

    When we took Anika for her hearing test, the doctor told us that she should not use a phone or watch TV till she is 3. I think that is pretty sane.
    After she turns 3, I think I will allow her to play games and watch videos that will help up develop. She will definitely not get a phone in get hand to distract her so that she eats her food.

  15. My friend’s nearly 2 year old daughter goes to YouTube on his iPhone, goes into history, and plays peppa pig videos from there. I don’t know about child growth and all but, I’d hate a child to have that control over my phone. No privacy man! I would have to ask people to watch what texts they send me even. I can’t watch what I like on YouTube or even browse the net on the phone. Everything will have to be scanned for child-unfriendliness. I can’t live like that 😀

    A phone is a phone, a device and not a toy. If showing YouTube videos is my thing, I’ll show it on a different gadget like a computer or even TV these days.

    Angry birds are too violent for you? I guess its ok… Don’t know… I have seen more violent things growing up…

    How to keep the child engaged without a gadget is something I don’t know. Making the child play games in the mud than sit in front of the TV is easier said than done. Good luck to you 😀

    • R's Mom says:

      LOL on first para :):) I so agree..infact that part didnt even strike me..but you are so right!

      I agree I did see violent things growing up..but I really find angry birds violent as well!

  16. Comfy says:

    RM, you and me are on the same page. I bet you know that anyways.
    My simple theory is that at this young an age kids should be running around and playing, not sitting in one place. TV is a very good baby sitter but I don’t really find any good that comes out of it for the kids. After a long day at work, it is an easy out to plop them in front of the TV while I take care of the rest of my chores but for now I have made a game out of it. ‘Who will help me empty the dishwasher?, Who wants to watch me make roti?’. Both kids come running and are excited about doing such important work. And so goes for everything I do in the evening. It is my way of keeping them busy and more importantly spend time with them. I am out most of my day, so as their mom I need that time with my kids and they need that one on one time with me.
    A friend who has a kid Buzz’s age was once telling the goods of a smart phone/I-pad and how much her daughter learned from it. As she talked, I mentally ticked off every single thing as, ‘Buzz knows that’. Only difference was I taught it to Buzz via books and she taught her kid using an app. Nothing for or against either approaches. The kids will learn but in my case it was more wanting to spend time with my kid and doing the teaching, than anything else.
    During trips and we do take long trips, there are stories to be told and songs to be sung and I spy to be played. D and I have to talk non-stop for hours to keep them entertained but that is what we choose to do.
    Similarly while eating out there is always a paper and pen handy for each kid. They scribble, we draw things for them. They are happy and don’t cause too many issues.
    A few years in to this parenting thing, I really have been able to keep the kids away from electronic devices. Not really because I am against them but more because I am for old fashioned play. Also as I said above that is my only time with them.
    Not saying there are no cartoons or no games on the phone, but for now they are few and far between. They are not allowed to touch our phones (those things are expensive and I am scared of the damage a child can do) and that rule is so clear that they never even ask for it. Helps, I think.
    The other thing about kids and adults for that matter is, it is very difficult to let go of something when you have had it. Which is where the struggle comes in. As a lot of people above have said, if you allow gadgets for your kids, then moderation is the key, right from the beginning.

    • R's Mom says:


      you are my inspiration as far as bringing up kids is concerned! seriously…I dont know how to tell you this, but you seem to get it right each time!

      Big time salutes and thank you for writing in detail

  17. telugumom says:

    I am a bit more like you on this topic. I do believe that kids do not need TV/mobile etc under the age of 3. It is ok if they see TV once in a while but not on a regular basis to keep them occupied. There are some good educational apps too but I don’t think kids under the age of 3 really need those! They learn from everything around them.

    I am ok with my 5 year old playing with our phones for a little bit. These days my 2 year old has also been asking me for the phone because his brother plays with it. It is a strict no-no for the little one.

    Myself and S always keep a tab on what Sarath is playing or watching. I never let him go out of sight when he is playing a game and when he closes the game and starts to fiddle with other apps, we take away the phone right away.

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