Best friend is a device?

Two attractive teenagers were strolling in front of Queen Ka’ahumanu Center a while back. One would have thought it was a romantic moment, except the young man was busy texting or playing games on his cellphone and the girl was similarly engaged on hers.

They weren’t talking or holding hands. So much for romance.

A Washington Post story said an average teenager spends nine hours per day on a mobile phone, tablet or television set. For ages 6 to 12, the average is nearly six hours per day.

NBC News reported that many children under the age of 2 already have portable devices — and that parents are increasingly using the gadgets to entertain toddlers.

A host on a daily talk show admitted that she sometimes used her iPhone to distract her 2-year-old while she changes a diaper or otherwise engages with her baby.

Our concern is that an addiction to streaming media — whether video, music or gaming — is going to become a substitute for human interaction. For example, if the Post story is correct, a teenager involved with media for nine hours per day would have zero time for social interaction — assuming the child was also attending school.

And, let’s not kid ourselves, today’s devices are addictive. When we wake up in the middle of the night, we immediately reach for our iPad and read for a couple of hours. We look at the tablet version of The Maui News every night at 3 a.m. We check out national and international news sites. Then we settle into an e-book. Not exactly a recipe for a restful night.

But at least our addiction is sated in the middle of the night — we interact with live people during the day.

Using tablets and phones to entertain toddlers is starting the dependence a little early. Allowing children to fill their time with devices instead of other kids is a sure way to create an introvert. Parents need to limit children’s media time.

A phone, tablet or television should be a tool — not a best friend.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.

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