DEVICES for OUR BABIES 2 and UNDER: YOU DECIDE HOW TO HANDLE THIS
This will be my first of 3 articles on device use and our kids; I’m taking it by age categories. Let’s start with babies under 2 years.
You’re the expert on your child, and you’re getting to be more of an expert every day. So YOU decide what to do with the information I want to give you.
Most parents can rock along knowing that, with caring attention and diverse life experiences, their children’s brains will make the necessary neural developments and everything will be just hunky-dory. At least, that used to be the case.
Now, however, authorities and experts are yelling loud and clear about the addictive and developmental dangers of devices. For ordinary kids. What about OUR children who are already facing developmental delays?
Let’s get some help from folks who study this issue passionately. A quick Google search will give you so many articles that you won’t have time to read them all, so I’ve pulled the most important info for you here.
AGE 2 AND UNDER:
1. REALITY CHECK: Over 38% of children under 2 years have used a mobile device.
2. AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS: Avoid all screen time. WHY? Those are months when the brain is developing rapidly, and “Young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.” This is well researched by much more than the AAP. From Dr. Richard House in the UK: “We have no idea–including, and even especially, neuroscientists!–what the impact is of these technologies on the developing brain, and the brain IS still in rapid development in early childhood. There’s also the risk of schooling babies in techno-addiction, and premature cognitive, unbalanced development.” Scary words.
3. MY TAKE ON THIS: Try your best to stick to this, because it’s fact-based. If you feel you have to have a digital babysitter, make sure that only a simple, clear, educational app like Starfall ABC is available, keep the device time to under 10 minutes or so, and interact with the child while he uses it.
4. EXCEPTION: Video-chatting with loved ones (AAP approves). Go for it.
HOW YOU HANDLE THIS NOW IMPACTS YOUR CHILD’S COGNITIVE FUTURE
We don’t need to be frightened into avoiding device use for our under-2 toddlers…or do we? Concern over the delay in learning critical communication skills as well as negatively affecting their socio-emotional development is probably paramount for us as parents of kids with developmental delays.
That alone lights our fire and gets us enthusiastically and lovingly communicating eye-to-eye and verbally to our babies and toddlers, if we weren’t already passionately doing that, which we usually are.
There are exceptions to any guidelines, and I had one reading student with DS who indeed was. As a toddler, she basically refused to eat.
Her desperate parents, in order to keep her in her high chair for the hour and a half that it took to get a decent amount of food in her, gave her an iPhone loaded with alphabet apps to keep her in the chair. As a result, she knew her ABCs before age 3.
But keep in mind this scene: for the entire time she was on those apps, her mom or dad was right in front of her, interacting with her (reinforcing the ABCs) and feeding her.
So while there may be unusual situations–and even in this case, the child experienced social interaction the whole time–the rest of us wait until after age 2. And what guidelines should we follow then? And what about older children who are nonverbal? Apps like Proloquo2go can be lifesavers. I’ll talk about that next week, when I’ll give some guidelines for kids from 2 to 7+.