Toddlers, preschoolers and tablets: touchscreen technology begins early

The first few years of a child’s life move so fast, marked by so many milestones. First words. First steps. First touchscreen device. First touchscreen device? Yes, and that first tablet or smartphone is falling into little hands earlier and earlier.

According to a trending data comparison titled, “Tablets vs. Textbooks,” from, and citing research from the 2012 AVG Digital Diaries Report, “How Has Technology Changed Childhood?” “Nineteen percent of children ages 2-5 in the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Czech Republic, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and the UK can use a smartphone application. By comparison, 9% can tie their own shoelaces. More children ages 2-5 can open a web browser (25%) than swim unaided (20%). 20% of children ages 6-9 use email, and 14% are on Facebook.”

Meredith Popolo, reporting for PC Mag, in “11 Tech Gadgets for Babies,” notes that “Some babies are already so conditioned to use touch screens on iPads that they're confused by a tactile, non-interactive print magazine.” She also notes the increasingly common scene of parents giving kids their tablets or smartphones to stay occupied during restaurant waits. Another PC Mag piece by Stephanie Mlot, cites an infographic from retail site Angiolotty, showing that “babies as young as six months are playing with their parents' electronic devices,” and that “more than 50 percent of children between five and eight years old have used tablets as educational tools or digital play dates.”

Technology is here to stay. Like anything, balance, quality and supervision—are key. Screen time will remain part of everyone’s present and future. In this world-at-fingertips “playground,” PBS Parents offers two great pieces of advice. One, they note that “Experts recommend parents be very involved in their child’s experience with electronic devices, especially at a young age.” They also quote Dr. Carolyn Jaynes, a learning designer for Leapfrog Enterprises, who says, “It's important to focus on the content and message when making age-appropriate media choices. What children watch and play matters.”