Japan is seeing a trend in women depending on smartphone applications to prepare for pregnancy or the birth of a baby – and surprisingly, even to take care of or discipline their children. Experts are warning that parents shouldn’t get used to using smartphones – even to the point of giving smartphones to their very young children – and have them play games or watch videos to pass the time or other such purposes. Experts say that this could have a negative impact on their development, as it obviously reduces direct interaction between parents and children.
“Women today check and manage menstrual cycles and the most likely period for getting pregnant and gestation weeks as well as contraction cycles in smartphone apps,” said Etsuko Arakawa, an official in Tamahiyo’s baby and toddler business division. “I think they use apps very effectively,” Arakawa added. Benesse, Tamahiyo’s parent company, has developed an app for expectant mothers so they can check how long it takes a fetus to move 10 times or how often contractions are coming. They also developed an app that makes sounds to calm down babies.
A Tokyo-based nonprofit organization called “Know VPD (Vaccine Preventable Diseases)! Protect Our Children” has created an app called a Vaccination Scheduler, and it has been very successful, telling users what kind of vaccinations their babies should receive at which month. Another example of apps being used for childcare is the app called Oni Kara Denwa (literally “call from a demon”). This app is meant to be used for disciplining children, and was created by Tokyo-based Media Active Inc. – already downloaded 4.6 million times. Users run the application after failing to get their children listen to them, and then they receive a call from an oni (demon). A terrifying face appears on the phone display and it reprimands the disobedient children on behalf of the parents.
The Japan Pediatric Association, however, is worried that parents who depend too much on smartphones for taking care of their kids actually reduce opportunities for interaction between them and their children. In response, the association has published an educational poster in December encouraging parents not to use smartphones as a tool to baby-sit their children. “I realize they use a smartphone when they can’t get their babies to stop crying, but parents shouldn’t just give them a smartphone without making any efforts,” said Hiromi Utsumi, an executive director of the association. “I want parents to cherish interactions with people, which we believe babies should experience,” Utsumi said.