A recent social survey by an ethnology and anthropology research association in Ho Chi Minh City reveals an alarming fact: up to 78% of kids under six years old use digital device.
The survey, themed “The use of digital device among Vietnamese children and parents’ awareness,” was launched last month by the Research Center of Culture, Education and Social Life under the HCMC Ethnology and Anthropology Association.
Conducted in four major cities of Hanoi, Da Nang, HCMC and Can Tho, the survey gathered replies from 1,051 respondents, who are parents of 1,802 kids from three to 12 years old.
According to the survey’s newly released findings, 19% of under-3-year-old kids have access to digital device.
Up to 59% of children from three to five play with digital device, while the percentages among children aged six to nine and aged 10 to 12 are 20% and 2% respectively.
Ipads and Iphones are now babysitters
The survey also pointed out that kids use their modern device for an average of 30-60 minutes a day.
Parents tend to allow their kids to use the device for longer time during weekends and holidays compared to weekdays.
Compared to the 1% who use their hi-end device for three to four hours a day on weekdays, 7% of kids aged three to under six and 9% of those aged six to 12 play with the device for the same duration on weekends and holidays.
Many parents admitted that smartphones and tablets can serve as babysitters, considering the limited amount of time they can spend mingling with their kids.
The survey also pointed to the different uses of the device among children of different age groups.
Some 97 to 100% of kids from three to five play normal games, listen to kids’ songs and watch cartoons on their digital device.
Meanwhile, around 61-83% of kids in the six to 12 age bracket use the device for lessons in foreign languages, maths and brain games.
In comparison, according to the survey, the programs kids in both the three to five and six to 12 groups download themselves are mostly games and entertainment content.
Contents for learning purposes are least downloaded by kids in both the groups, while their parents download and install the educative content and book reading the most.
Many respondents in the survey highlight the numerous benefits their children may gain from the early use of smart devices, including early access to information, assistance in their growth of linguistic ability, and a boost to their creativity.
Though the questioned parents find that kids’ early use of smart device does more good than harm, 75% are concerned about the device’s addictability, 85% about shortsightedness and other eye diseases, and 73% about the kids’ tendency to lesser bodily movement.
594 of the respondents are absolute proponents of kids’ early use of smart tools; 995 are strongly supportive of the use but urge for effective kid orientation and management, while 583 are opponents.
Parents should be more knowledgeable
The survey also studied parents’ awareness and knowledge of their kids’ use of smart tools and how long the kids should use the device.
The survey conducting group observed that the majority of the participating parents aren’t really well informed about how long they should allow their kids to play with the device.
This lack of knowledge resulted in their bewilderment and landed them in the dilemma of whether to allow their kids to access the device or not.
While most parents expect their children to use the educative content on the device, their kids mostly use them for games, films and songs rather than lessons or book reading.
The survey also noted that many parents either don’t hear about or apply effective approaches in managing their kids’ use of the device. Most of them now manage their kids’ use merely by intuition or habit.
Phan Thi Thanh, a parent living in HCMC’s District 9, shared that though she is well aware of the harm done to kids if they abuse digital device, there’re times when she resorts to giving her kids the tools to stop them from sobbing, having tantrums or following her everywhere.
Though allowing kids access to digital device is an indispensable part of modern life, local experts have raised their major concerns about the possible harm kids’ abuse of the tools may bring.
“Through my experience working with young children, I realized that kids’ use of the device without parents’ proper guidance or monitor has resulted in their poor concentration power, inventiveness and even difficulty in articulating a certain matter. In my small-scale surveys, a number of parents and their kids give diametrically different answers regarding the same issues,” Nguyen Thuy Uyen Phuong, training director of Tomato Extracurricular School, shared her opinion with Tuoi Tre (Youth) Newspaper.
Meanwhile, Dr. Pham Minh Triet, head of HCMC Pediatrics Hospital 1’s Psychology Department, said that his department has yet to receive child patients who need attention for their addiction to digital device.
However, they have offered treatment to many kids for their retarded speech ability, among whom many, particularly those under three years old, are associated with watching television and using digital device for long hours each day.
Triet noted that the kids have seen notable progress regarding their language skills when their parents were asked to cut down on their kids’ time of watching TV and using smart tools.
According to the American Pediatric Society, kids under two years old should have no contact with television or other digital screens at all, while kids aged two to six and six to 12 are advised to watch TV or use digital device for one hour and two hours respectively a day.
Abuse of television and digital device may result in children’s incomprehensive growth, inertness, obesity, lack of communicative and life skills, Triet added.
Similarly, Dr. Tran Thi Phuong Thu, director of Phuong Nam Eye Hospital, raised her concerns about the alarming rise in shortsightedness among school students in the past 10 years.
Though reasons may be diverse, 9.5 out of 10 patients in this age group which Dr. Thu has examined have their ailment linked to abused TV watching and use of computers and in recent years, of digital tools.
Dr. Ngo Xuan Diep, dean of the HCMC University of Social Sciences and the Humanities’ Psychology, who was on the survey’s consulting council, noted that the younger children are, the more they should engage in simple, direct and non-digital daily activities.
He urged that children under six stay away from all digital device.
Elementary students should use digital device for two hours on weekends only, while junior high school students can use the device for longer hours but need close parental monitoring regarding content and duration of use.