According to a recent report in the Chicago Tribune, the advocacy group, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, called upon Fisher-Price to stop selling the baby seat designed to hold an iPad. Dubbing the device the “ultimate electronic babysitter”, CCFC pronounces this product harmful to babies by blocking access to caregiver contact and thereby discourages personal interaction critical to early childhood learning and healthy development.
Dr. Shadi Jani is the Vice President of Programs for BRAVE Society, a Carmichael non-profit peer abuse prevention and education program. She specializes in health issues associated with social and cultural environments and she concurs that there is some cause for concern.
“Certainly the screen is not enough,” she said. “The way we communicate is more than data and images on a screen. We use gestures, tone of voice, eye contact and the physical presence – there is an energy that carries our message with one another that cannot be conveyed electronically.”
According to Jani, the pre-frontal cortex of the brain (at the forehead that is responsible for critical thinking and judgment), develops in response to personal interaction with the parent (or care giver). “We are relational creatures. If you allow screen time to become the dominant form of interaction, essentially removing the parent, this is the cornerstone for the development of the part of the brain enabling kids to think for themselves,” she said. “It is critical for individual resiliency.”
Jani indicated that recent studies have shown that screen time with programs like Baby Einstein don’t accelerate cognitive development, and the American Academy of Pediatrics has declared that children two years and younger should be screen free. Jani recommends that parents keep kids away from screens for the first five years if it at all possible because of the risk of allowing the screens to interfere.
A pretty tall order for the modern parent.
Just ask a mom of four children ages 13 to two years about keeping her toddler screen free.
Certainly it if you can keep your very young children away from screens, that is ideal. It remains nevertheless that the most important thing parents can do, regardless of how many devices and screens are in the home, is to get interested in who their child is and pay attention to the things they are willing and able to share with you about how their childhoods are informing them.
“The face-to-face contact promotes emotional intelligence for regulating behavior, and cognitive development,” Jani said.
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