Can your baby become addicted to your smartphone or iPad?

Written by Dr. Andrew Doan & Brooke Strickland on .

I was recently in an airport waiting in a very hectic area that was crowded with people that were a bit frenzied. A young couple with a son in a stroller waited with us. The child was visibly exhausted, irritable, and was crying intermittently. After a time, he got more and more vocal with a scream that pierced the ears of those of us that waited around him. His parents were trying to find a way to soothe him by telling him to hush, but there was no quieting him.

Soon, I looked over and one parent held a bottle in the baby’s mouth and the other one held a phone with a game in front of his face. The child was instantly mesmerized and became fixated on the phone.  The parents thought they had found a solution: feed him his milk and numb him with mindless images on a screen.  


Unfortunately, this scene is a common one nowadays. We see toddlers and babies fixated on their parent’s smartphones, iPads, or Kindles. They have found a digital device that massages their brains and numbs their ability to communicate or express their feelings.  Of course, there are great things about having a child use technology – there are a wide range of apps, games, and educational programs out there that help teach literacy and math. But when these things are introduced at the infant or early toddler stage, children are more likely to develop an addiction to games or technology.  A recent study out of Birmingham University shows that out of 300 parents surveyed, parents allowed their children to play with the devices for 10 to 30 minutes a day, and for up to four hours on weekend on average.  One parent summed a common experience "My son's reaction when it's removed is worrying." (1) 


Have you given your kids free reign to your smartphone or iPad? If so, it’s time to moderate.  There are definitely some fantastic learning apps out there for children these days but the key is to set guidelines and limitations so children don’t begin abusing technology. Technology and video game addiction is very real and can be very hazardous to your child’s development. 


Porter, Tom. “Babies Addicted to iPads and Smartphones, Claim Scientists.” March 15, 2014. International Business Times. Accessed June 21, 2014.