ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. --There is research that shows both the benefits and dangers of allowing young children to spend time playing on electronic devices like video games, tablets and smartphones. Most experts say you should definitely limit the amount of time kids use the devices.
Tanya Holzwart, a mother of four children, agrees, "Yes. Electronics that's our biggest problem right now but it's the reality. We can't escape it."
But Monday evening after a 3-year- old Riverview boy answered his mother's call when he became stranded alone on a small island on the Alafia River just west of Interstate 75 some parents like Holzwart started to rethink the idea. The boy had been on a jet ski with his father, William Morris, when around 6 p.m. the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office was notified that Morris was missing. His body was later found Tuesday afternoon in the brush off the Alafia River.
Investigators say Morris had taken his son for a ride on the jet ski and failed to return home. When the child's mother tried to Facetime the child the child picked up. A citizen saw the child too and stayed with him until help could arrive.
Tuesday morning parents at Crescent Lake Park like Holzwart were discussing whether or not their young children would know how to answer a Facetime call or even call 911 or another adult in an emergency. At first, Holzwart didn't think her two young children could do it. She said she'd never even thought about it until today. Holzwart said, "I'm guessing at the age of five maybe you can train your kid to do that."
Crystal Mercado, a mother of a 2-year-old boy, agreed. She also didn't think her child could use a cell phone to call for help. She said, "He has a little app on there that he can pull up and there's like a little children's game. I think for him right now at his level it's probably a little bit early."
Holzwart though had a change of heart after pulling out her smartphone. She said, "I thought it was complicated but now as I worked with my 2-year-old and 4-year-old -- they were just pressing the buttons and calling daddy. I can teach them if I just spend the effort." Holzwart added, "I think it's a wakeup call that we should work with our kids."
Dr. Lisa Witherspoon, assistant professor in physical education at the University of South Florida, has focused her research on technology-driven physical activities.She studies the effects that 21st century technology-driven physical activities may have on various populations with a central focus on children.
By phone, Witherspoon told 10News WTSP that while children and smartphones aren't her expertise there are positives and negatives for children using smartphones. She said, "When my daughter was two she could swipe along an iPad and she knew the the password to get to fun learning games. It does help them develop fine motor skills but babies and toddlers 100 percent no."
Witherspoon says when it came to playing on a smartphone for her own children she was against it. She added, "Leaving them alone in my opinion isn't a good idea. If it connects online and they don't know what they're pressing they can get in trouble." She does say that it's better if a parent is monitoring a child's use."