Do iPads, TV, Smartphones & Babies Mix?
In our modern world the latest tech gadgets are now a way of life. The use of TV and tablets like the iPad is increasing to the point where some new parents might mistake screen time as necessity.
Should I let My Baby Have Screen Time? A Debate.
This increased use at all levels of society has intensified the conversation around how much use is too much use. Like any issue, you have a spectrum of perspectives and opinions. As parents, we want the very best for our babies. The definition of “best” regarding any decision will vary depending on your personal philosophy, values and approach to life. Bearing this in mind, our intention here is to present compelling points about babies and screen. Although this is ultimately a personal decision, one time-tested principle remains true: Discerning parents do not take trends, fads and popular fashion as gospel in raising their children. Rather, you should ask yourself the most important question: will participating in this social fad or trend ultimately help or harm my child?
While this article claims the concept of screen time being a “debate”, it’s really not. Most people – I’m guessing 90% of all parents today – allow access to digital devices in one form or another, and at younger and younger ages. In this post we look at the pros and cons of “using the TV / iPad / Smartphone” like a “babysitter” or as an “educational” device.
Yes, Screen Time is “Good” for Babies & Children
This side gives reasons you should let your baby watch TV or play with tablets and/or cell phones):
Reason #1 – Educational – The combination of interactive sensual elements – sound, vibration, images, means information can be taught to pre-verbal children that they might otherwise take longer to learn. For example, some parents might want their young children to learn to read at a young age.
Reason #2 – Language – This is reason would actually fall under the “Educational” category, however here we drill down in more detail. Studies have shown children remember and memorize new languages better when lessons are presented through visual cues like those shown on screens. Say you have a baby who is deaf or hard of hearing. Teaching them to communicate via specially designed apps can be a major boon for creating a link between this child and the world.
Reason #3 – Keeping Your Child Competitive – Some parents worry that if all the other babies are being exposed to the screen, then their child will somehow be deficient or “behind” the times. This is a similar concept to that of “Keeping Up with the Joneses”.
No. Save Childhood!
This side argues that parents should not let their babies watch TV and play with devices like iPads and smartphones.
Reason #1 – Loss of Innocence – Premature Exposure to Inappropriate Content – One of the most significant factors is the danger your child will accidentally access to mature content and material that can do psychological harm. Such content rob’s your baby of his or her innocence and can scar them child for life. These days, obscene content can be as close as a click away.
Reason #2– Physical Health – If your baby’s emotional and mental health is not enough to inspire you to ban screen time until an appropriate age (5 – 10 years ), perhaps concern for your baby’s physical health would be compelling. Studies show “excess viewing on digital devices can damage the eyes, brain, ears and even bones in children accessing digital content via devices. Some doctors even warn that screen time can become addictive because it alters brain chemistry. Like other addictions, it can trigger the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, a.k.a. the “pleasure chemical”. Interestingly, dopamine also plays a role in sugar addiction – not to mention addiction to harder substances like cocaine.
Reason #3 – Dare to be Different – Be like Steve Jobs, who did not let his children play with iPads. So what if everyone else is doing it? Are you a lemming? No, you’re not. Rather than following the herd mentality, you can focus on teaching your child age appropriate lessons in relating to others harmoniously. He or she can learn to clean up after him / herself, how to share, how to keep living spaces tidy, cooking, and creating arts and crafts. Not to mention exploring nature’s wonders in the outside world. There is so much fulfillment available in the “offline” world. You miss so much beauty being sucked into the digital / virtual world.
We did our best to present two sides of the debate on whether or not it is necessary to give your baby access to digital devices. There are compelling reasons on either side of the equation.
We would leave you with this thought: yes, it is tempting to think in terms of absolutes. Many want to see things in terms of black and white, rather than the varying shades of grey in between. Now that you know the pros and cons of screen time, you can integrate the knowledge into your routine. Try to bear in mind the most important lesson – moderation. Without moderation no one wins. Parents please be vigilant and spend quality face-to-face time with your children, preferably outside. It just may help prevent future debilitating complications in your baby’s life down the road.