iPad Use and Babies: Throwing a Wrench in the Works
I think we all uttered a collective scream as one when news of this particular Fisher Price toy came to our attention this holiday season past:
It’s called the Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity Seat and out of curiosity I wondered if it was still on the market. Indeed it is, and the comments on Amazon make for a day’s worth of reading right there. Naturally the notion of strapping your child into a device and forcing them to look at a screen ala Clockwork Orange (admittedly a baby in a bowler would be ADORABLE!) isn’t the most soothing thought in the world.
What reminded me of the existence of this terribly toy-related miscalculation? Nothing more than the recent slate of articles discussing small children and screen time. Parents these days have to take a stand on what they believe is an appropriate amount of screen time with any kiddo. The facts aren’t entirely in on the matter, but that’s not stopping anyone from voicing an opinion.
Undoubtedly the most trustworthy is probably going to be the American Academy of Pediatrics, in large part because they haven’t an agenda in mind. Their piece on Media and Children states without equivocation, “Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.” Seems pretty cut and dried.
But then there goes the Today Show throwing a wrench in the works. Surprise: Doc who devised screen time limits says iPads may be okay for babies. Come again? According to Today the statement comes from Dr. Dimitri A. Christakis, who co-authored the American Academy of Pediatrics 2011 guidelines that frown on media use by kids younger than 2. His defense? He wrote the guidelines before iPads got big. He argues that iPads, because they are interactive (unlike television) are a far better use of a baby’s time than TV or other passive activities. All well and good, but the piece does also mention that we don’t actually know how they affect developing brains at this time.
What I don’t quite get is what Dr. Christakis is attempting to do here. Let’s look at it logically. If he is right, and babies can benefit from iPads, does that outweigh the danger of giving some parents all clear so that they can ignore their kiddos for long swaths of time? At one point in the piece he says, “This is not just to allow their child to play willy-nilly for hours and hours.” So the best case scenario is that everyone with a baby and an iPad follows his advice, the babies play with iPads and get marginally (and there is zippo evidence of this, I might note) smarter, and everyone’s happy. The worst case scenario? That people strap their babies into these devices for hours at a time, it has no benefits, and is indeed detrimental to the developing brains. Basically, I just want to know if he thinks this is worth the risk. Honestly, is it the worst thing in the world to advise parents not to let their kids do iPads before the age of two? What problem is Dr. Christakis solving here?
Back in August the Washington Post wrote about the fact that toy companies looking to promote the educational benefits of apps found themselves up a tree without any evidence on hand. So who do you trust in these cases?
Simply thinking aloud.
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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