A Smartphone Is Not a Pacifier

Written by Katherine Martinko

The Japan Pediatric Association (JPA) is concerned about a worrisome trend – parents handing over their smartphones and mobile devices to babies and toddlers to stop them from crying. The Association has launched a campaign to raise awareness about the problems with parenting via smartphone, but it may be a hard sell among Japan’s technology-loving population.

The president of the JPA believes this trend may impact a child’s development:

“When children become upset, many parents give them a smartphone to keep them quiet. But if parents do this, they have fewer chances to communicate through pacifying their babies while watching how they react.”

The same thing is happening in North America as households purchase more gadgets, computers and game consoles. Now three-quarters of U.S. homes own a mobile device, compared to a half two years ago. One study found that 70 percent of kids under age 8 have used a mobile device, a number that has doubled in two years. Forty percent of kids under 2 also use mobile devices, and all of these children are spending triple the time on mobile devices than they did in 2011 – about 15 minutes daily. Most of that time is spent playing games, using ‘educational’ apps (whose educational claims are misleading, according to some advocates), and watching videos.

Why is it a bad thing to use this miraculous instant fix for crying or boredom? Because young kids need real-life interaction with their parents, not a smartphone substitute. It seems that parenting is becoming more passive, as parents search for distractions and ways of making their job easier.

Of course its important to have emergency back-up plans when kids start to unravel, and smartphones are helpful in those situations.

But to rely on them daily as part of routine parenting impedes kids’ ability to interact with people, enforces bad habits, encourages them to move less and possibly exposes them to inappropriately mature content.

Screen time is actually bad for very young kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics states clearly on its “Media and Children” webpage that “television and other entertainment should be avoided for infants and children under age 2 [because] a child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.”

Fortunately, the solution is easy! Turn it off and put it away. Sit down to read a book, pull out the building blocks, do some baking together or go outside to dig a hole. These activities are so much healthier for a young child and will stimulate them (and tire them out) far more than a game of Fruit Ninja or Candy Crush. Smartphones may be handy, but parents need to be smarter about how they’re used.

This post was originally published in TreeHugger

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson4 years ago

so sad. my 3.5 year old has survived thus far without my phone, video games, ect and he is ahead, happy, well behaved and active. Need a distraction? bring picture books, coloring books with a few crayons, a notepad and pen, a small toy. heaven forbid a child become bored and have to (GASP) THINK?!? or.. oh my... amuse themselves?!? imagine a world where parents have to actually speak to their children.. or listen to them.. or be silly and fun with them... oh, the unspeakable horror -_-

PrimaSICK B.
PrimaAWAY B4 years ago

Guys i don't think there is anything wrong with a child this young is playing with a cell phone/tablet.....

I also am not a believer of carrying around a cell phone,tablet and living on it every second. Including sleeping with it. I like technology but ON MY TERMS ONLY!!!

* I despise the idea that everyone in this world assumes you have a coputer,fax,etc.... and when you don't they don't understand why. You many times are even charged or penilized for not having one to use. In my case I do choose NOT to use technology for private business. I could not live without my computer.

But there is nothing wrong with this little one enetertaining herself with a cell phone. They are being brought up in a world where they will be forced to use it at such an early age it makes me cringe to be hnoest. But they may as well learn now because It's happening. Plus I really think it's fine to keep her eneteratined . there are many educational things you can do on a computer!!!!

J C Bro
J C Brou4 years ago

folks, it's getting worse; the fruit does not fall far from the tree!

Lynn C.
Lynn C4 years ago


Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra4 years ago

Thank you TreeHugger, for Sharing this!

Elsa G.
Else G4 years ago


Roxana Saez
Roxana Saez4 years ago


Lori Hone
Lori Hone4 years ago

This is one side of the issue, many more on the other side. Whatever, I'm handing over my phone, everyone around me is grateful for it.

Harriet Brown
Harriet Brown4 years ago

if I'm at a restaurant and a small child is fussy, please hand over the phone!

Luna Starr
luna starr4 years ago

this is so true;i am SICK of seeing infants and kids on one;no wonder they have no imagination