Well this is slightly alarming, given the carefully considered — and recently reiterated — screen time recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics: Fisher Price is selling an $80 baby bouncy seat that includes a holder specially designed to dangle one of Apple‘s illustrious tablets right over your baby’s face.
I had no idea this existed until I chanced on this piece by L.A. Times tech writer Chris O’Brien in my Twitter feed this afternoon, which notes there’s a petition, no surprise, that’s making the rounds protesting what seems to me, speaking as the parent of a 16-month-old, kind of a harebrained idea.
Forget the advocacy group for a minute because advocacy alone isn’t an argument, let’s talk about the AAP’s position on babies-slash-toddlers and screen time. After noting that parents should establish “screen-free” zones at home and that older children and teens “should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day,” the AAP writes:
Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.
Your child’s brain is still physically developing long after birth, and how that development plays out, cognitively speaking, is impacted by the nature of the input the brain receives. You might recall this bubbled up back in 2007, when the Baby Einstein controversy broke, the concern being that parents were plopping their babies and toddlers in front of what amounted to classical music videos, using the videos as babysitters, all the while assuming the videos were making their kids smarter. A study at the time suggested the videos negatively impacted children’s cognitive development.
Just this year, a reassessment of the Baby Einstein study found that its results were suspect, stating that “firm conclusions are difficult to draw from the … data set and that any effect size estimates for media exposure and language development are small (if not trivial) rather than large.” Still, the researchers added that “the issues surrounding exposure to media and intellectual development will continue to be a subject of debate, given the importance of early cognitive development and the widespread availability of media in contemporary society.” In other words, we don’t know what we don’t know, but we should take the issue seriously given how prevalent media’s become today.
Fisher Price, for its part, told FastCompany in a statement that it doesn’t “position the Apptivity Seat, or any of our other infant seats, as educational products for children,” defending the product by noting it includes a “time-out feature that only allows for 10 minutes of activity with our app before requiring a manual reset.” The company adds:
The Apptivity Seat is a niche product that is only available online. Though we knew the product was not for everyone – we have over a dozen seats from which parents can choose – we wanted to offer it as yet another option for those parents who want to the added feature of engaging in age-appropriate content with their children.
Trouble is, the AAP would argue there is no such thing as “age-appropriate content” for children under two, so unless you’re planning to strap your three-, four-, five- or 10-year-old into a bouncy seat designed for babies, erring on the side of caution until we have better answers about the psychological science seems wisest.