By Dr. Anthony Policastro

Cell phones have become an almost permanent attachment to most of us. For a number of years there was a debate about whether children should have one. There is no longer a debate. Children everywhere possess cell phones.

A better question is related to amount of use. A recent study looked at that question. They obtained permission from parents to remotely record cell phone usage. The most interesting thing was that they recorded it in children three to five years of age.

They measured the time of use over a seven- to 10-day period. They then asked parents to estimate how much time they thought their children actually spent on the phone. They compared the two figures to see how accurate parents’ perceptions were.

About one-third of the children had their own device. They did not need to borrow one from the parents.

The most common sites were mainstreaming in nature. YouTube was the number one viewing site. It was followed by YouTube kids. The Internet browser was frequently used.

Siri was frequently used to answer questions. There was also frequent use of video streaming.

Thus the things done on the cell phone did not differ a lot from what was usually watched on television. One of the problems with the study was that they only monitored the phones. They did not know how much screen time the children might have had on other devices like TV or desktop computers or tablets in addition to the phone.

The average screen time was about two hours per day. The current recommendation from both the American Academy of Pediatrics and World Health Organization is no more than one hour a day in children this age.

Thus the average pre-schooler with a cell phone has at least twice that amount on the phone. That does not account for other devices. So this clearly is an issue.

When parents were asked to predict how much time their children spent on the phone, it was clear that they were just guessing. One-third of parents had the amount of time correct within 60 minutes. One-third underestimated by time by a full 60 minutes. One-third overestimated the time by a full 60 minutes.

There are several lessons to be learned in this. The first is that pre-schoolers with cell phones spend too much time on them. The second is that parents really don’t have a clue as to how much time that is.

It would suggest that any parent who decides to let their pre-school child use a cell phone needs to establish limits.

Those limits should include time spent on the cell phone. They should include time spend on other devices.

Children at this age need to have their brains hooked up to as many different sources of information as possible. That is how they learn. Too much time on a cell phone will inhibit that learning.

We know that some parents use televisions as a babysitter. It would appear that others have replaced the television with a cell phone.

Neither one of those things is good for the neurologic development of a pre-school child.


From July 9th through August 1st, there were between 57,000 and 79,000 new cases nationally.

There were less than 62,000 cases on only 2 of those 24 days. For the last 9 days, there have been between 49,000 and 65,000 new cases. Only one day had more than 59,000 cases. Thus there appears to be a downward national trend.

Total deaths nationally stand at over 165,000. That means that COVID-19 has already passed pneumonia and soon will pass accidents to become the third largest cause of mortality in the U.S. for 2020.

COVID-19 has become somewhat of a political football. One side claims that we are doing too much and exaggerating its effects. The other side claims that we are not doing enough and not taking it seriously. I find it somewhat amusing.

The virus really doesn’t care if you are a Democrat or a Republican. It really doesn’t care if you are liberal or conservative. It will make you ill and may kill you with no regard for political affiliation. If we spent as much time fighting the virus as we did each other, we would probably be more successful in handling it.