Recently I went to a friend’s house for a board game session and I was horrified to see that he left his 22 month son with a mobile device, playing cartoon nursery rhymes, while he hosted the gathering. That being said, I did not immediately berate him, neither did I send periodic dirty, disapproving looks at him. It got me thinking, though.
Last year Fisherprice introduced a baby bouncer with a slot to insert an iPad into. This caused a large uproar, mostly among parents who feel that babies should not be introduced to devices with digital screens too early in life. At the same time, there are millions of parents doing the exact opposite – using digital media to distract their children (during mealtimes, for example), as a way to take attention away from dangerous objects, or simply as a reward for good behaviour.
The current recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is avoid all forms of electronic media for children under the age of 2. But is it really possible, and if so, is it practical?
There is an explosion of digital screens are everwhere – at shopping centres, the doctor’s waiting room, etc. Some men’s toilets even have screens at the urinals!
Assuming I deprive Samantha of all digital media at home, and also manage to screen Samantha from the external exposures, there will still be this kid at the park (or playgroup) playing with his/her iPad. Samantha will inevitably gravitate towards this child, because she will find the iPad a very interesting toy.
Nevertheless, the effects of digital screens on toddlers have been well publicised (see this Huffington Post article, with a hot debate in the comment section), and we should all do our utmost best to stick to the AAP guidelines (I know that we don’t always listen to our doctors advice all the time anyway).
Just remember the last line of the AAP recommendations – ‘A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.’ The next time you think of passing the iPad to your toddler, why not substitute it with some real face time instead?