Vietnamese parents no longer rely solely on the television to babysit their children. Tablets and smartphones have found their way into a large number of tiny hands, a new survey found.
The survey, conducted last month by the HCMC-based Research Center of Culture, Education and Social Life, claimed that a whopping 78 percent of Vietnamese children under-six regularly use mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.
Specifically, 19 percent of kids under-three have access to some type of “smart” mobile device, so do 59 percent of children aged 3-5.
Those kids spend an average of 30-60 minutes daily on mobile devices playing games, listening to children’s songs and watching cartoons, according to the survey of 1,051 parents of 1,802 children under-12 conducted in the country’s four major cities -- Hanoi, Danang, Ho Chi Minh City and Can Tho.
The first-ever study of Vietnamese children’s mobile device usage also found that 22 percent of children aged 6-12 have access to smartphones and tablets, which they mostly use to run educational apps downloaded by their parents.
Many surveyed parents said they relied on smartphones and tablets as “babysitters,” claiming that they don't have enough time to spend with their kids.
The respondents also reported a tendency to let their kids use the devices for longer periods of time during weekends and holidays.
The number of children who spend 3-4 hours a day on the devices increased from 1 percent on weekdays to 7-9 percent on weekends and holidays.
While hoping that smart mobile devices may offer their kids access to new information and knowledge, parents expressed concerns about the possibility that their children may become addicted to the devices, damage their vision and grow increasingly sedentary.
Ngo Xuan Diep, dean of the Psychology Faculty of the HCMC University of Social Sciences and the Humanities, urged parents to keep kids under 6 away from mobile devices.
“Smart mobile device use may cause addiction among young children. Besides, knowledge from these devices can't be as rich as knowledge from the outside world,” Diep told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
“Smart mobile devices shouldn’t be used in elementary schools. Elementary students should be allowed to use the devices for two hours on weekends only,” Diep said, “Secondary school students can use them for longer periods of time with close parental supervision.”
A worrisome global trend
According to October 2013 results released by Common Sense Media, 7 out of 10 children under eight in the US have used a mobile device, a figure that doubled in two years.
The respondent group reported using the devices for periods that were three longer than reported in 2011 — about 15 more minutes each day.
The group spent that time playing games, using educational apps and watching videos, the San Francisco-based child advocacy group said in its report.
The group also reported that 4 out of 10 children under two used mobile devices, a jump from 1 in 10 two years ago.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under two not spend any time in front of media screens, including phones, tablets and television.
"A child's brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens," the academy wrote.