Internet access and communications technology has changed global approaches to education, but childrens’ interactions with devices remains a hotly debated topic. Parental access control software, tracking technology, and social media censorship for children are a few of the aspects at the core of the concern over how much access children should have to web-connected devices and digital networks. Despite the arguments, U.S. children have far more access in 2013 to mobile devices than they did just two years ago, and they’re using them in increased proportions.
A study from Common Sense Media — a U.S.-based non-profit that researches how technology affects children and families — revealed that children’s mobile device use has increased dramatically since 2011. The saturation in the U.S. market of smartphones and tablets is an obvious factor here — the report says that 75% of children through age eight have access to a smart device — and it is only set to increase as global mobile device usage grows. But the study also highlighted how much younger users have gotten: 38% of children under two years-old have used mobile devices for media consumption.
This increase in young usage of smart devices is not shocking; the IHS reported last week that the combined smartphone/tablet industry is outselling the entire consumer electronics market. But the increased penetration of device usage among youngsters will likely contribute to the growing debate about how to regulate their usage. Internet companies and social networks are consistently in conflict with parent groups about control settings for teenagers and censorship practices. Facebook just recently came under fire for changing its policy to enable users under 18 to publicly post updates and photos whereas its previous policy kept teens’ posts limited to friends.
As screen media consumption continues to grow among children, and social networks cater to younger and younger users, internet firms’ policies will likely continue to be in flux. The swiftness with which kids have adopted smart devices for educational and recreational use — the number of users through eight years-old doubled in the last 2 years according to the study — is not projected to slow down, especially as it becomes more of the norm for children to absorb media through tablets and devices other than TVs. Indeed, with numbers seen here, it seems that U.S. kids’ regular smart device use is already established as normal.