Smartphones have become an indispensable part of modern life, even when it comes to raising a child, but experts warn against children’s first exposure to the device at too young an age.
Ahn Dong-hyun, a professor at Hanyang University College of Medicine in Seoul, said, “In academia, it is recommended that children should not be exposed to video devices including smartphones before they reach 36 months. Unilateral stimulation of visual and auditory senses at this age can be harmful.”
Until they reach the age of three, babies’ brain neural circuits form rapidly, and they need to receive well balanced stimulation of all five senses. However, smartphones only stimulate the visual and auditory senses.
“Most video clips have sounds and images that change very quickly. If babies get used to such stimuli, their brains do not develop in a balanced way, and they don’t react to smaller stimuli in reality that are slower and weaker,” said Lee Eun-hye, a pediatrician at Kyunghee University Hospital. “Ultimately, they may struggle to gather and memorize information and have slower language development.”
Babies may also suffer from short-sightedness from looking at the small screen at a close distance and have trouble getting enough sound sleep.
Kim Bung-nyun, a psychiatrist at Seoul National University Hospital, said, “Parents should try to find a reason when babies cry or scream, but some just try to sooth them by showing a smartphone to them. This may hinder them from developing a healthy relationship with their parents, which in turn could affect the development of social and communication skills.
According to the Korea Institute of Child Care and Education, the more time parents spend on a smartphone, the sooner and the longer a child is exposed to the device.
Kim explained, “If you must show a video clip on a smartphone to your child, then you should make him or her feel that they are not watching it alone. You should explain what is happening in the video clip to the child, and make eye contact regularly.”
It is also important to control the length of exposure, anything longer than 10 minutes may be harmful.
Sohn Soo-yeon, professor at Seoul Women’s University, said, “There is more risk of addiction if you show babies small bits of video clips every day rather than showing them a long piece occasionally. It’s important to tell them in advance how long they are allowed to watch videos on the phone.”