We’ve grown up hearing about the dangers of secondhand smoke, but did you know there’s such a thing as secondhand screen time? Yes, it’s a thing, and it’s dangerous too. Research has shown that how much parents use their technology within sight of children might be setting them up for screen addiction later in life.

Studies have shown that American adults touch their phones between 2,500 and 5,000 times a day and they spend between 2.5 to 4 hours on the phone each day. According to the American Psychiatric Association, that fits the definition of addiction: “A condition in which a person engages in the use of a substance or in a behavior for which the rewarding effects provide a compelling incentive to repeatedly pursue the behavior despite detrimental consequences.” More studies are in motion as we speak, but the scientific consensus is that phone addiction is real.

We’re not saying that checking your Facebook in front of your kids is the same as blowing smoke in their faces, but children do learn behavior from adults and if they see adult always on the phone from the time they are in an infant seat, it sets a pattern in motion. For instance, a pediatrician who researches the effects of phone use, has found that roughly 90% of U.S. babies are exposed to screen time before their first birthday and that it’s not uncommon for 2- or 3-month-olds to watch phones.

When a mother is feeding an infant, it’s easy to pick up the phone and scroll through social media or watch videos to pass the time. When pushing a stroller or watching a toddler gymnastics class, using the phone is an easy way to pass time as well. You might think they don’t notice, but they do. When children see a parent reach for something that flashes pretty colors and lights, makes sounds and shows moving images, they are much more likely to mimic that behavior as soon as they can.

Internet access and technology, just like anything else, comes with a hefty pro and con list. Modern-day internet access provides access to all for education, research, social connection, and a wide variety of increased opportunities no matter where you live or what you do. On the other hand, too much screen time can lead to issues like attention deficit issues, sleep issues, anxiety and depression.

The answer, as in most things, lies in finding a healthy balance. Understanding how screen time can affect the next generation gives us an opportunity to be active in the healthy development of our children. When media and the internet are used thoughtfully and appropriately, it can enhance daily life, as in the case of using the internet to plan a family camping trip or vacation filled with lots of “unplugged” quality time.

Here at Softcom, our mission is to keep you connected to what matters most when you need it. We love that we can help you access information and entertainment at a moment’s notice, but we won’t be offended if you decide to log off Netflix and play in the park with your kids, either. What matters most to you, is what matter most to us too.