This post was written as an “Ask the Expert” for Parent Savvy: I Pad Infant-Toddler Devices?
There are so many children’s products on the market. Parents and caregivers can find it challenging to figure out whether a product being marketed would be a good purchase to help children learn and develop. It is important to remember that sometimes gadgets are just too good to be true. Marketers want parents and caregivers to believe that the latest technology will help their children learn more quickly. To date, there has not been evidence in the research literature to support the use of this type of technology to help very young children learn. In fact, there is some indication that early exposure to television is associated with language delays and learning challenges.
Tablet computers and smartphones have become so common in our daily lives, but take a second look at these fancy gadget holders for babies and toddlers. Putting a tablet in front of your child actually gets in the way of you interacting with him. Babies and toddlers need to see real faces and listen to people talk and respond to their babbles, coos, and words. Your baby may enjoy soothing or lively music, looking at herself in a durable mirror, or reaching for a toy you hold up for her to explore. An infant seat with a tablet computer seems like a great distraction for a fussy baby and tired parent, but there are healthier, low tech ways to soothe your fussy infant. You might try dancing while holding your baby or a walk in a stroller or baby carrier outside. When my own daughter was young, she was often soothed by watching the sun shine on the leaves on a tree branch that was close to our front window. Take advantage of the time you and your child are together during potty learning to read books and talk about your day. No computer tablets are needed to help your child learn and develop! For very young children, the most important plaything that will help them to learn is YOU!
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has strongly advised parents to avoid screen time for children under the age of two years old. Young children learn best through real life experiences and interactions. As children grow into the preschool years, the AAP still encourages caregivers to limit the amount of screen time children experience in order to allow them to develop healthy habits that include active play, participating in mealtime conversations, and healthy sleep habits without the distraction and disruption of screens. In our digital age, it can be challenging to follow this advice and avoid all screens. Since children are exposed to media that is not directed at them, we should try to make efforts to limit their media exposure rather than develop and purchase more equipment to increase the amount of media they experience.
For more information about the AAPs statement on tablets, smart phones, and babies, check out www.healthychildren.org.
You can also check our resources from The Learning Child Team at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension at child.unl.edu.
More information about how children develop can also be found on ParentSavvy