In case you haven’t heard, there’s a big debate going on right now about using tablets, such as the iPad, to entertain infants. In fact, there are even baby toys on the market specifically designed to work with tablets. Fisher-Price has released an “Apptivity Seat” that allows baby to lay in the carrier and watch or play with an iPad at the same time. There is also an “iRocking” play seat and even an “iPotty” that allows older children to sit on a training toilet while an iPad rests in front of them. Talk about multi-tasking!
The divide on this subject appears to be directly down the middle. There are just as many parents that approve of infant/tablet use as those that do not.
So which side should you take…?
The Pro-Tablet Side
The professionals that are pro-tablet believe that interactive media play encourages brain development. They also feel that this inspires parents to play alongside with their baby. However, these same experts that say tablet play is okay, also state that the time should be limited. Babies need physical mobility and must be able to move around freely in order to learn how to roll, crawl, and eventually walk. All experts agree that babies certainly don’t need tablets for healthy development.
The Anti-Tablet Side
The professionals that are against tablet use say that any child under the age of two is too young to be spending time using a tablet, television, or smartphone. These experts believe that because a baby’s brain develops at such a rapid pace, the stimulation from an electronic device can be too much for them to comprehend. Many feel that the use of a tablet also takes away from personal interaction between baby and parents.
A big supporter of no tablet time for babies is the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The association is dedicated to the health of all children and it recommends no screen time for babies under the age of two. The reason being is that there are no long-term studies yet on the effects of tablet play and brain development in infants. AAP believes that not only could tablet time be detrimental to the growth of an infant’s brain, but it can also lead to other issues like obesity, due to the lack of physical activity.
The experts that feel a small amount of screen time will not harm baby advise the time be kept to 15-20 minutes a day. For many parents, this is all the time they need to take a quick shower or to start dinner. Some parents see this as a way to entertain baby, while also getting a few things accomplished around the house.
Making a Decision
Ultimately, the choice to allow your baby to play with a tablet is up to you. There is no book on how to parent correctly with modern technology. And although expert opinions vary, they all agree that if you decide to allow usage, you must limit the amount of time. Just keep in mind that there is nothing that can hold a candle to one on one interaction between baby and parent. If you decide to use a tablet so that you can get some chores done, be sure to also make the time to play on the floor directly with your baby.
As cliché as it sounds, the years go by too fast. Your child will have plenty of toddler, tween, and teen years to get acclimated to electronics. And believe it or not, there will come a day when you will wish these hectic moments back. Remember that everything you do now, sets a precedence for when your child is older. And when your teen is texting all throughout dinner, you may wish you had those few 15-20 minutes back again.
Set House Rules
Whether you decide to use a tablet for baby play or not, be sure to establish house rules and make sure that everyone else in the home is aware of them – and follows them. If you are a two-parent household, have a discussion and see how the other person feels about tablets and babies. Try to come to an agreement and make sure grandparents, siblings, babysitters, etc. know your stance.
You also need to set rules as your child ages. If you are not allowing tablet use now, think about the age at which you will introduce electronics. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises no more than two hours a day, of electronic device use for children two years of age, or older.
In addition to tablet play, your family also needs to set ground rules for phones, television, desktop computers, and gaming consoles. This is something you will have to deal with as your child grows older so it is essential to think about how much or how little you want digital media to impact your lives.
While setting the house rules, it isn’t a bad idea to discuss adult usage, as well. Like the old saying goes… “monkey see, monkey do.” Your child will learn many behaviors while watching you. Consider making a list that states when electronics can’t be used such as during dinner, during family game night, or after a certain time in the evening. As much as technology has improved lives, it’s also important to remember how to truly interact with loved ones.
Establishing the Content
In addition to setting house rules, you also need to establish rules for content. This may sound like watching out for R-rated movies, but with tablet use starting at such a young age, it is also important to talk about the content you will allow. No matter what age you decide to allow tablet use, be sure the content is educational (this goes for all other electronic devices, as well).
When choosing apps for the tablet be sure they are:
· Age appropriate
· Friendly – make your child smile or laugh
· Educational – have a meaning or teach something
· Encourage interaction
And be sure you review all apps, don’t just download them because of a recommendation or cute characters. Take the time to play with the app yourself in order to be sure it is something you want your child playing with.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, only you can decide what is best for your baby. Remember that even the professionals that do not entirely disagree with “tablet babies” do advise minimal use. There are plenty of other activity sets to entertain your baby so you can get a few things done around the house.
If you are looking for non-tablet ways to keep baby busy check out:
· Skip Hop Activity Gyms
· Baby Einstein Activity Center
· Evenflo Bounce and Learn Exersaucer
· Fisher-Price Luv U Zoo Jumperoo
With so many products on the market, shopping can be overwhelming, especially with a tiny baby. Consider using an online website like Amazon that has a lot of products in one place in order to compare features and prices. The site also has consumer reviews, which can help you to know the quality of the product without seeing it in person.
Remember that your baby will have plenty of time to learn on a tablet when he or she is older. Use these electronic devices wisely and keep in mind that what’s important is how much time you spend with your baby.