Exposure to and Use of Mobile Devices in Children Aged 1-60 Months

Eur J Pediatr. 2019 Feb;178(2):221-227. doi: 10.1007/s00431-018-3284-x. Epub 2018 Nov 6.


The present study was conducted to determine young children's (aged 1-60 months) exposure to and use of mobile devices. The study included 422 parents of children aged 1-60 months admitted to pediatric outpatient clinics. A questionnaire was administered to the parents via face-to-face interview. Children's overall exposure to mobile devices was 75.6% (n = 319). Of the children, 24.4% (n = 103) had never used a mobile device. Among the children that had used a mobile device, 20.6% (n = 66) were aged between 1 and 12 months; 24.5% (n = 78) were aged between 13 and 24 months. The median age at the first time use of a mobile device was 12 months. The youngest child that used a mobile device was 6 months old. Tablets had a significant difference in the age at first use compared with other mobile media types (P < 0.01). Children's overall mobile device ownership was 30.7% (98/319) in frequency. There was a positive relationship between mobile device ownership and age (p < 0.001). The most commonly owned mobile device was a "tablet" at a frequency of 68.4% (67/98). The frequency of tablet ownership was inversely associated with household income (P < 0.01). Of the children that used mobile devices, 25.7% (82/319) used multiple mobile devices simultaneously. Among 422 children, 15.9% (n = 67) had a tablet in their room. The frequency of tablet use and ownership was inversely related to the mother's educational level (P < 0.01). The parents reported that 22.3% (n = 71) never received help while navigating the mobile device. The most frequent activity with mobile devices was watching videos (70.8%, n = 226). Of the parents, 59.6% (190/319) let their children use mobile devices while they are doing daily tasks or domestic chores. Of the parents, 91.5% (n = 386) reported not having been informed by a doctor about the effects of mobile devices on their children.Conclusion: This study demonstrates a high prevalence of exposure to mobile devices in young children. The frequency of tablet use and ownership of offspring was inversely related with maternal educational level and household income. What is Known: • Mobile phones and other similar mobile devices are now embedded in the daily lives of children. • There are limited data about mobile media use in early childhood, and few guidelines on which clinicians can base their recommendations. What is New: • The exposure to mobile devices is high in young children aged 1-60 months. • The frequency of tablet use and ownership of offspring was inversely related to household income and maternal educational level.

Keywords: Device; Media; Media multitasking; Mobile; Phone; Tablet; Video.

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care Facilities / statistics & numerical data
  • Cell Phone / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child Behavior*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Ownership / statistics & numerical data
  • Parents
  • Surveys and Questionnaires