Put Down Your Smartphone, Your Toddler is at Risk

Written by Amy Williams

As parents, we want the best for our children. We research GMO’s, cloth diapers, food additives, and whether the high fructose corn syrup myth is real or just hype. We focus on creating the ultimate learning environment and strive to achieve optimal learning development as our children age.

This need to keep our children safe spills over into our family’s love of technology. We research and read reviews to find what are the best learning apps or I.Q. building games for our toddlers. Tales of cyberbullying, online predators, sexting gone wrong, and stolen identities keep us up at night while we teach social media etiquette with our children.

Unfortunately, we are completely overlooking very real and startling risks associated with Smartphones and our children’s overall development. As parents, we need to look into other known side effects and consider the impact our own Smartphone use is having on our children.

Smartphones And Distracted Parenting

children-and-smartphonesWhether a parent is sidetracked with work emails or watching YouTube videos, those are precious moments that could be used to promote bonding and interaction. Young children learn a lot from observing facial expressions and interacting with people around them. Educators have proven a correlation in the number of words young children hear and higher I.Q. scores as early as age three and extending later in life.

If that isn’t reason enough to put down our Smartphones, a recent study revealed that children between the ages of four and eighteen feel they have to compete with technology for a parent’s attention. The experts gathered data from 1,000 children and compiled startling information about the impact our Smartphone use is having on our children. The study went on to compare these feelings to a rivalry between siblings or jealousy.

The Link Between Cell Phones And Narcissism

Our overuse of Smartphones often happens when we are scrolling social media. Our children observe this obsession with selfies and the constant grooming our profiles. This can lead to feelings of  envy about our friends’ accomplishments and develop into shame.

Shame is often credited with being a factor in developing a self-absorbed personality or narcissistic traits. This can lead to a child feeling entitled or portraying an increased sense of importance to compensate feelings of doubt or inadequacies. Down the road this can lead to cyberbullying, depression, and self-harm behaviors.

Negative Health Risks Associated With Smartphones

Besides developmental and behavioral risks, Smartphones can also affect a child’s physical health. Here are three noted risks our Smartphone addiction has on our offspring:

  • Experts have noticed changes in brain function and attention spans when our brains are exposed to games and fast paced social media technology.
  • Smartphones can also expose children to a more sedentary lifestyle. This increases a child’s risk for developing diabetes or suffering from obesity.

Fetuses, babies, and small children absorb radiation from wireless devices two times the rate of adults. For years there has been a debate about radiation from cell phones causing cancer, but many countries are passing laws and educating parents about the danger handheld devices can have on developing bodies.

Six Ways Families Can Counteract Smartphone Risks

Listed below are six ways parents can counteract the harmful effects our Smartphone is having on small children. By dialing back control, we will be able to prevent future problems from developing later on. Here are suggestions to help us on our way:

  1. Limit radiation exposure by following the manufacturer’s guidelines. Take the time to read the directions that come with handheld devices to find the recommended distances for keeping devices away from a person’s body. There’s enough evidence to warrant precautions be taken with our youth or our unborn children. After all, it’s better to err on the side of caution than to be suffering later.
  2. Reclaim family time and focus on quality interaction. Make eye contact and hold conversations over family meals, during outings to the park, or playing board games.
  3. Power down your Smartphones at set times during the day to take a break and focus on family.
  4. Model empathy and look for ways to teach kindness.
  5. Teach digital safety. The toddler years are a great time to begin teaching social media etiquette and digital safety skills. By developing these skills now, you will be able to build on them as a child ages to include cyberbullying, oversharing, and more.
  6. Monitor a child’s Smartphone and technology activity. Take the time and be aware of a child’s online interactions.


It’s important for parents to be aware of the potential negative impacts technology can have on our children’s health and development. Our children mimic our love of handheld devices and utilize them more than ever. As you can see, our first priority should be establishing a healthy relationship with our own Smartphone for the wellbeing of our kids.

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