as recent as 2013 revealed an income-based “digital divide” when it came to
mobile media device ownership, new research indicates that gap is quickly
shrinking. Young children in an urban, low-income, minority community had
almost universal exposure to mobile devices—with most having their own device
by age 4, according to a study
to be published in the December 2015 issue of Pediatrics
(published online Nov. 2).
surveyed parents of children at an academic medical center in a low-income
minority community in Philadelphia for a well or sick visit in late 2014.
Almost all the 350 patients’ households had televisions (97 percent), and most
had tablets (83 percent) and smartphones (77 percent). More than half had video
consoles (56 percent), computers (58 percent) and Internet access (59 percent).
percent of the children had used a mobile device. By age 2, children’s
ownership of mobile devices surpassed that of television. At age 4, half
of the children had their own television, while nearly three-quarters had their
own mobile device. The study cites decreasing costs, marketing strategies and
subsidies by cellular service providers as possible contributing factors.
- Nearly half (44 percent) of children under age 1 used a
mobile device on a daily basis to play games, watch videos or use apps.
The percentage increased to 77 percent in 2-year-olds and plateaued after
- One-quarter (28 percent) of 2-year-olds did not need
any help navigating a mobile media device, and 61 percent needed help
sometimes. Almost half (43 percent) of 4-year-olds never needed help, and
half of them liked to use liked to use multiple media platforms at the same
- Parents reported letting their children play with
mobile devices to do chores (70 percent), to keep the child calm in public
places (65 percent) or run errands (58 percent), and 28 percent used a
mobile device to put their children to sleep.
authors said the high proportion of young children with their own mobile device
was of particular concern because little is known about how children’s
independent activity on mobile devices affects their, cognitive, social and
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