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Smartphones Are Mom's New Babysitter

Moms share their mobile devices with their kids to keep them busy and entertained

May 9, 2012

Mobile devices are increasingly used as a mother’s helper when her kids are bored. Research shows that moms, anxious to keep their offspring quiet and occupied, share their smartphones with children as young as age 1.

A Mom Central Consulting survey from January 2012, for example, found that 39% of US mothers who use the internet, have a mobile phone that they pass on to their children to keep them engaged during a car trip. Only the Nintendo DS and the car DVD player or video were used more often to keep kids engaged during car travel (at 40% and 47%, respectively). And just over one-quarter of the moms surveyed shared their iPads with their kids.

Devices US* Mom Internet Users Use to Keep Their Children Engaged While on a Car Trip, Jan 2012 (% of respondents)

Stacy DeBroff, CEO and founder of Mom Central, pointed out in an interview with eMarketer that mothers of young kids are “raising digital natives.” Even at age 2, they know how to slide open an iPhone, and they know what game they want to play, she said.

“It starts as soon as they can hold the phone,” she said. “It’s a bouncing ball on the iPhone screen, or pictures. When there are apps that are free or maybe cost $1, moms can change them up like Kleenex the minute kids won’t play them. Kids as young as 1 have their own playlist of lullabies.”

Another survey conducted in July 2011 by BlogHer and The Parenting Group dovetails with Mom Central’s findings. Some 33% of Gen Y and 20% of Gen X moms who use the internet told BlogHer that their children had used smartphones by age 2. Slightly higher percentages of moms said their children age 2 or younger had used mobile phones and laptops.

US Gen Y vs. Gen X Mom Internet Users Whose Children Have Used Select Electronic Devices by Age 2, July 2011 (% of respondents)

Marketers aiming to impress parents of technology tots—or the tots themselves—would do well to develop games or activities that both groups enjoy, DeBroff advised, pointing to a gaming site GameHouse as an example of one such company that has successfully created games for parents and children. She also advised that marketers should keep an eye on privacy issues. Moms don’t mind their kids being in the digital realm, but they want them safe and sound when they are.

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Check out today’s other articles, “Marketers Increasingly Eye Tablet, Mobile RTB Display Ad Inventory” and “Broadband Penetration Increases, but Connections Still Weak in Russia.”

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