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Special Report: The Smartphone Generation - Cell Phones and Children

12:31 AM, Nov 11, 2013   |    comments
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GREENSBORO, N.C. - We can't seem to put our smartphones down. You might be reading this article on a smartphone right now. If you have children, they might know how to operate your phone better than you do.

Cell phones have helped us to stay connected at all times, but some argue they are making our children more disconnected. A new report found 38 percent of children under two have used a mobile device for media. Just two years ago, that number was ten percent.

Keeping your children away from smartphones was a lot easier just a few years ago. There were a lot fewer of them. Now, you can't go anywhere without seeing one. Parents are wrestling with how to adapt to this digital world.

Melissa Davis has her hands full with a three-month-old and a three-year-old.

"Usually, I want them to play outside and interact with other people," Davis said.

When many of us think about our childhood, we picture playing outside, running on the playground and using our imagination. Fast-forward to today, and more and more children and spending hours staring at screens.

"What is this world coming to when, at three-years-old, she's operating, essentially a hand-held computer, a cell phone? At three-years-old, I was playing in the sandbox," Davis said.

Smart cell phones are still fairly new technology. Experts still don't know all the long-term effects of letting your child play with your phone.

"Nobody has written the bible about how to do this," Dr. Kathleen Clake Pearson, Chair of the North Carolina Pediatric Society Committee of Media, said. "How are those screens affecting the biology of that brain structure and the circuits of the brain? We don't know that yet."

But, again, smart phones are almost impossible to avoid.

"You can say what you want to, but you will give up your phone to keep a child quiet for five minutes," social media expert Kristen Daukas said.

Whether your child is still in diapers or learning to drive, experts say it's important for parents to develop a plan for cell phone use.

"It's a part of life. To say that they can't do it is unrealistic, I think, in today's time. But, you do need to set parameters and you do need to set limitations," Daukas said.

* Explain consequences if a child misuses the phone.
* Have frequent conversations about cell phone use with older children.
If your child is under two, try to avoid letting him or her play with your phone.

"Seeing kids on a playground playing games on a phone...I just think it's so sad. They don't take in as much," parent Ashley Langley said.

Langley's daughter, Emma-Kate, might be young, but she's old enough to watch what mom does.

"I notice she will go to my phone and pick it up and push the buttons. That's not because she knows what to do with it. It's because she's seen me. It's a reminder that we need to pay attention to what we're doing," Langley said.

Langley and her husband have already talked about what they're going to do when Emma-Kate asks for her own cell phone.

"She can have one when she drives. We don't care if she says, 'Suzie has one.' They don't need it," she said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that parents create a "Media Plan" for their children. The plan should include everything ranging from how often and how long children can use electronics to where electronics are stored in the house.

While experts may warn about unknown effects of children using technology too much, a recent study found parents are not quite as concerned.

A survey of more than two-thousand parents found 59 percent of them are not worried about children getting addicted to smartphones, tablets or gaming devices.

WFMY News 2

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