Is it OK to let my preschooler play with my phone?

It's OK for parents to let their kids play on the phone occasionally. Letting preschoolers use a pre-approved app or look at photos is an easy way to buy some downtime when you need it. It's very common for parents to hand over their phones to their kids. According to Common Sense's 2013 study "Zero to Eight: Children's Media Use in America," 72 percent of kids 8 and under have used a mobile device for some sort of media activity -- and 38 percent of kids under 2 have used a mobile device for media.

But think about how much time your preschooler is playing with apps, and make sure it's balanced with plenty of outdoor or active play, plus lots of quality family interactions.

Tips for letting your preschooler play with your phone:

Watch and listen to how your child is engaging. Make sure you download age-appropriate apps, and check them out first to make sure you think the subject matter is age-appropriate. Can your kid understand the words? Manipulate the game? Really young kids are still developing their fine motor skills, so unless you want a frustrated child on your hands, make sure a game doesn't require lots of coordination.
Build positive habits. Remember that kids quickly develop routines. If they associate going to restaurants or driving in a car with playing games on your phone, it will be difficult to transition them out of this behavior.
Balance coping skills. Ultimately, we want kids to be able to amuse themselves in a variety of settings and with different tools, even if they only have their imaginations. Make sure your kids are equally comfortable with picture books, music, and crayons as they are with tablets and TVs.
Keep an eye on the phone. It can get dropped (on the floor, in a toilet), wedged in a seat, or left in a seat pocket. These things are expensive!
Remember that you're their role model. Kids learn their behavior from you. Consider narrating your use of the phone ("I'm texting your dad to remind him to pick up milk") so they can understand the utility of the tool.

Do you let your preschooler play with your phone?

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Comments

Kid, 11 years old

Since your kid is so young, limit screen time to 10-60 mins a day. Make sure to download appropriate apps for little kids, and put them all on one screen. Put your apps that you don't want your kid using on a different screen. I know most phones allow you to have multiple screens for apps, so this is helpful.
Teen, 15 years old written by brooke.marus

Giving your child your iPhone when they are young and impressionable as a way to pacify them is a risky move. It is best to avoid using devices as much as you can because using these devices at an early age can cause a sort of dependency on technology for constant entertainment (I speak from personal experience as someone who was tech-savvy when i was younger). It is a better move to give them a toy or to play with them instead because it allows for more creativity to grow in their minds and allows for a better ability for social connections without devices when they grow older.
Educator and Parent of an infant, 3, and 6 year old written by Jarinsa C.

I used apps that are safe for preschoolers, and don't let my three year old know the internet exists. I narrate my phone use (I'm texting Daddy to remind him to pick up your sister from karate) and I put a limit on her app time (ten minutes a day)
Teen, 14 years old written by scholarlyleopard

My godmother has a family iPad for her, her husband, and her three year old daughter. I don't think this is a bad thing, so long as you know what you're doing. Kids can become easily addicted to the internet (I speak from personal experience). Make sure you limit the time to, I'd personally say, one hour a day. This may seem drastic, but it'll encourage a healthy curiosity for the next day, but also make sure the child is actually playing. In addition, if they're going to be on your phone, make sure it's not just whatever. I'd recommend downloading some preschool apps with lots of colors and sound to keep them engaged -- as they're learning their ABCs or numbers, haha.