A new study by Common Sense Media shows that the vast majority of children ages 0 to 8 use tablets and smartphones, and for increasing periods of time. The New York Times shared some especially interesting statistics from the report:

Those children are spending triple the time on mobile devices — about 15 minutes daily — that they did in 2011, with playing games, using educational apps and watching videos among their most popular activities, said the San Francisco-based child advocacy group. Four out of 10 children younger than 2 are also using mobile devices, a jump from one in 10 two years ago. The findings come amid increased concern over the time children spend online as families snap up gadgets, game consoles and computers.

“This shows for the first time the development of a true digerati generation from cradle onward,” James Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense Media, told the Times. “Used wisely, technology blended with good content can be a positive form of media, probably better than passive TV viewing. But there are still dangers of too much screen time, and this should be a wake-up call to the tech industry and to parents.”

Many companies have touted modern technology’s educational uses for young children (a claim viewed skeptically by some). But Common Sense Media’s research showed many lower-income parents are still unaware of educational apps’ existence. The report’s authors wrote this could create an “app gap” between children from differentiating incomes:

This study indicates that, as of this point, there are many more privileged than lower-income children using educational content on these platforms and that there is still much work to be done to put the platforms for this content in the hands of those most in need. Among all children ages 0 to 8, about one in four (28%) has ever used educational gaming apps (such as puzzles, memory games, math, or reading programs) on a cell phone, iPod, iPad, or similar device … But there is a big difference when looked at by family income. For example, 41% of children from families that earn more than $75,000 a year have used educational apps, compared to just 16% of children from families earning under $30,000 a year.

Those wanting to reach “children in need,” the authors say, should educate parents on the apps available.

This study also shows the percentage of children who read or are read to on a daily basis has dropped 11 points since 2005 (from 58 percent to 47 percent). “Average time spent reading or being read to also appears to have gone down somewhat”–from :33 to :25 a day. Yet 47 percent of children ages 0 to 1 are watching TV or DVDS—at an average of nearly two hours (1:54) per day. Amongst all children ages 0 to 8, that’s an average of :53 per day watching TV and DVDs.

Do children need wider access to educational apps? Perhaps so; if parents are going to distract their children via mobile devices and tablets, those distractions might as well be educational. There are benefits available via these gadgets, both to busy parents and their children. But there should also be limits on such media usage. According to the Times article, the American Academy of Pediatrics has warned that excessive screen time for children may lead to attention problems, exposure to inappropriate content and obesity. But also, it appears that reading (and being read to) has suffered from the trend. While technological distractions can ease parental burdens, their isolated, addictive attributes should promote caution.

Most educators would agree that the long-term cognitive and imaginative benefits of reading (especially interactive reading between parent and child) far outweigh those of a smartphone app. But a child who refuses to do anything but read needs a break just as much as the app-addicted child. Most parents I knew growing up would encourage their children to “get fresh air” and play outside. But some reports show children’s outdoor activity is also becoming less common with the increased use of technological gadgetry.

It is not the so-called “app gap” that seems, on the face of this, troublesome. Rather, it is parents’ embrace of technological distraction (and education), without question of its intrinsic good, which seems one of the most troublesome indicators in the report.