It is standard practice for any parent to gloat over their lovely baby’s capacity to “crack,” so to speak, the ubiquitous smartphone. Their pride of joy could well be justified because they would have faced challenges themselves when understanding the smartphone.
Some parents could feel that it is good for the child to be exposed to this gadget early on in life because it would help when he or she enters a school where online tools are beginning to become common. It could help the child jump on to the information superhighway as soon as possible or, in the mobile parlance, asap.
There are also other reasons for the infant to play with gadgets because, in the current nuclear family era, the parents themselves would be busy with one smartphone or its larger version. So, what is the ideal time for an infant or a child to be introduced to a gadget? What are the ill-effects of smartphones or the online world on the infant’s emotional growth? Ideally, what should the infant be playing with, if not an electronic device?
Experts believe that the child should have a combination of –
* Interaction with the parents, who should play with the child.
* The infant should engage in playful activities with other children of the same age group.
* They should have more outdoor activities.
“Such a combination will help the child learn other emotions and other relationship components. A face-to-face contact is critical to learn emotions, reciprocation, social learning and other components of emotional learning,” says Dr Manoj Sharma, Additional Professor, Clinical Psychology, National Institute of Mental health and Neuro Sciences ( NIMHANS), Bengaluru.
At the playschool stage or the school stage, the “smart class” must remain just one class with the emphasis on face to face contact and outdoor activities. But, the child should share his or her experience with the parents. It is essential to cultivate such communication so that the parent knows if the child is distressed about anything.
“It should become part and parcel of a parenting model. Parents should ensure that lifestyle is not sacrificed to gadgets,” says Dr. Sharma.
There is no evidence, as of now, to say what the ideal age is for the child to be introduced to smartphones or smart gadgets like tablets. There is no study, as yet in India, which can indicate the age for introduction of such gadgets.
“Parents can take a decision if the child is fond of gadgets but it cannot certainly be at the cost of other activities,” says Dr. Sharma.