Sitting in a Starbucks recently, we watched as a couple handed their iPhone to a toddler sitting in a stroller with them next to their table. They then continued their conversation with each other as the young child intently played with the phone.
The scene reminded me of a recent study of mothers and their use of technology.
The survey of 1,000 moms found that a quarter of them let their children interact with a mobile phone by time they’re two years old.
The study, conducted by The Parenting Group and BlogHer, Inc., found that by the age of four, 60 percent of children have used a computer, 32 percent have used a smartphone and 25 percent have used an iPod.
So based on that research, the scene we witnessed in Starbucks could be considered somewhat normal.
And in many cases, children are not using technology by themselves, with almost half of moms (45%) saying they watch YouTube videos together with their children.
It’s not just the children who are digitally interacting, since the study found that 71 percent of mothers can’t go more than a day without satisfying their Internet urges.
Interestingly, when handing a mobile phone over to a toddler it likely is a smartphone, since the devices can host many apps targeted to children.
There are a wide range of free apps all the way from electronic coloring books, such as My Coloring Book, to those specifically for young children, such as Toddler Teasers Shapes.
Parents also have the opportunity to pay for apps to be creative, such as Kids Doodle Pro or other painting capabilities such as those in Kids Finger Paint.
And if the apps are not attention-holding, the parents may end up watching their high-priced smartphone being tossed into the air and onto the floor by a toddler wanting to see a parent scramble.
At a very young age, members of a generation will learn digital uses of a mobile phone outside of just talking on it. And the activity can be highly interactive rather than passive, such as watching TV.
Do you think parents should hand their phones over to their young ones to occupy them? Would you?
Chuck Martin is author of The Third Screen; Marketing to Your Customers in a World Gone Mobile, The Smartphone Handbook, CEO of Mobile Future Institute, Director of the Center for Media Research at MediaPost Communications and a highly sought-after mobile marketing speaker.