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Small kids are spending 10x more time in front of small screens

Six years doesn’t seem that long ago to many of us, but a lot has changed in terms of technology use: For kids younger than 8 years old, average daily screen time on handheld devices is up 10 times over 2011, according to Common Sense Media’s 2017 census.

But while this stat isn’t necessarily something to be celebrated, it’s only one piece of the larger painting about how kids and families are interacting with screens today. As a whole, it seems we’re doing pretty good jobs at striking balance with those screens.

According to the new report from nonprofit Common Sense Media, young kids spent about five minutes a day on a phone or tablet back in 2011. In the years since, handheld screen time has steadily escalated—with the average little one of today using a mobile screen for 48 minutes.

The good news is that while mobile use by kids younger than 8 years old is up, TV time for babies is down.

In 2013, kids under 2 years old spent 58 minutes a day engaged with screen media; that’s down to 42 minutes now. This makes sense, as pediatric guidelines for limiting screen time are strictest for kids under 2—and market reports show sales on DVDs and videos for infants are down.

“There really is fairly strong evidence that time spent with screens can have a negative effect on kids’ language and other forms of development,” Matthew Johnson, the Director of Education for MediaSmarts, previously told Motherly.

He said this isn’t because screens are inherently bad, but they should not be used as substitutions for the kinds of human interaction and creative play that young kids need to develop. (This doesn’t include the videos or games that Common Sense Media found are favorites for little kids.)

One thing is clear from the report: Screen time is part of daily life for many families, and it’s up to parents to make mindful choices about how—and how often—our kids engage with screen-based technology.

Back in 2011, that meant stepping away from the TV more often—while, today, it means putting that cell phone on airplane mode.

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