iPads and Babies
How do you engage with babies and toddlers? Ever think about putting a baby in a bouncy seat which has an iPad attachment so they can watch videos or specially downloaded “apptivities”. What about toilet training children on an iPotty which has an iPad stand attached?
Products like these are marketed as “educational”. However, parents and teachers who think these products are giving children a” head start” may be alarmed to discover there is extensive research showing they may be doing just the opposite. There has even been successful legal action taken against some products. In 2009, for example, the Disney Corporation compensated customers in the US who bought Baby Einstein videos after people threatened a class action for deceptive practices. Disney advertised the videos as educational but there was research showing they didn’t work at all and could reduce children’s literacy.
In his book “Brain Rules for Baby,” John Medina stresses how important it is for babies to engage in actual face time with people rather than screen time – “the greatest pediatric brain-boosting technology in the world is probably a plain cardboard box, a fresh box of crayons, and two hours. The worst is probably your new flat-screen TV.” He says watching TV can severely affect young children’s attention span and ability to focus. Even having the TV on while no one is watching is damaging.
Australian experts agree with the American Association of Pediatrics which discourages any electronic screen time for children younger than 2. They say “babies and toddlers have a critical need for direct interactions with parents and other significant caregivers (eg child care providers) for healthy brain growth and the development of appropriate social, emotional, and cognitive skills.”
So what do we do if we want smart, intelligent babies? It’s simple really; talk to them a lot, engage them in open-ended play, make sure they spend a lot of time interacting with people and not with DVDs, TV or apps.
This all sounds very similar to the principles and practices underlying EYLF, for example warm and trusting relationships, learning through play, responsiveness to children and learning as a social activity.
Many new toys and accessories like iPad chairs seem to be about occupying babies and toddlers rather than engaging with them. And what are they missing out on while they’re being occupied? As well as direct, open communication and play, children that are occupied by a screen aren’t getting the exercise we know is fantastic for their brain development. (It’s great for adults’ brains too).
There is the very real danger that these devices may be used for unlimited amounts of time. Like anything else there needs to be boundaries and rules. For many sleep deprived and busy parents, the peace and time afforded by occupying their child with technology may just be too hard to resist.