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Many of today’s women appear to be depending on smartphone applications to prepare for pregnancy or the birth of a baby, and to take care of or even discipline their children.

Experts warn that parents shouldn’t give smartphones to their infants to have them play games or watch videos because it could have a negative impact on their development and reduce direct dialogue 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 Benesse Corp.’s Tamahiyo baby and toddler business division.

“I think they use apps very effectively,” Arakawa said.

Benesse, a provider of educational materials and services, has developed an application with which expectant mothers can check how long it takes a fetus to move 10 times or how often contractions are coming, and another one that makes sounds to calm down babies.

A Tokyo-based nonprofit organization called Know VPD (Vaccine Preventable Diseases)! Protect Our Children has created an application dubbed Vaccination Scheduler that tells users what kind of vaccinations their babies should receive at which month.

A 37-year-old company employee in Tokyo who gave birth to her second son last October was stunned to learn she must have the boy get many more kinds of vaccinations than her first son, now 7 years old, received.

The application helps mothers set schedules for vaccinations, notifies them of their hospital appointment when the day comes, and provides detailed explanations on diseases the vaccinations prevent.

It has been downloaded more than 300,000 times, according to the organization.

One of the most popular applications for mothers may be Oni Kara Denwa (Call From a Demon), a disciplinary application that was created by Tokyo-based Media Active Inc. and has been downloaded 4.6 million times.

Once users run the application after failing to get their children listen to them, they receive a call from an “oni” (demon). Its terrifying face appears on the phone display and it reprimands their children on their behalf.

Some children have come to behave well when their parents tell them a demon will call, according to Media Active.

Company President Koki Sasaki, who is from Akita Prefecture — famous for the demonic folklore figure Namahage — said he developed the application based on his own experience from childhood when he was often told by his parents “Namahage will come if you don’t behave.”

In December, the company also released English versions in which Dracula or a space alien makes the call instead of an oni.

“I hope the application will be used as a tool to switch children’s moods and parents will not forget to praise their children,” Sasaki said.

But the Japan Pediatric Association is worried that parents’ frequent use of smartphones for their children will reduce communication between them. It created an educational poster in December calling on 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.

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