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Kids are Using Technology at a Younger Age, Study Reports

Update Date: Nov 02, 2015 11:40 AM EST

Children are being introduced into the digital world at a much younger age, a study found.

"We looked at how young children, ages 4 and under, used mobile media," said study author Dr. Matilde Irigoyen. "I was surprised by some of the findings."

For this study, the researchers from Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania set out to examine the exposure levels of children from families that lived in a low-income, minority and urban community, to media devices, such as televisions and smartphones. The researchers conducted an anonymous 20-question survey on the 289 parents of 350 children between the ages of six-months and four-years-old.

The team found that 97 percent of the households had TVs, 83 percent had tablets and 77 percent had smartphones. In terms of child exposure, the team found that by the age of four, roughly 50 percent of the children had their own TV. 75 percent of them had their own digital device, with tablets being the most popular (66 percent).

"We were also surprised to see how many of them used it without assistance," Dr. Irigoyen, who is the chair of the Department of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at Albert Einstein, said to CBS News. "By [age] 3 and 4, half of the children could use mobile devices without any help. They become very skilled very soon."

The researchers also found that 75 percent of the parents reported giving their young children a mobile device when they were doing chores and running errands. The parents also used mobile devices as a way to keep their children calm in public and at home. Roughly 25 percent of the parents used these devices to soothe their children during bedtime.

The study's other findings included: 20 percent of one-year-olds had a tablet and 28 percent of two-year-olds can use a mobile device independently. The researchers and commenters noted that the study's findings are alarming. Even though these devices can be educational, parents should be aware of what their children are and can be exposed to.

"Parents don't need a guilt trip - parents need guidance and support and better-quality stuff that is more intentionally educational, more culturally resonant and relevant, and which they can discover easily with their children." Michael Levine, founding director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, the non-profit research arm of Sesame Workshop in New York City, commented reported by USA TODAY. "Infants and toddlers desperately need social interaction and meaningful conversation.

The study was published in the journal, Pediatrics.

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