Surprising Study Shows iPads May be Safe for Baby

Photo: UserExperiencesWorks / YouTube
Photo: UserExperiencesWorks / YouTube

If you’re constantly on the fence about whether too much iPad time is harmful for your baby, there’s a new study out from Seattle pediatrician Dr. Dimitri A. Christakis that may surprise you. Christakis, whose speciality is studying the effect of media on children, thought at one point that media use by babies and toddlers was detrimental to their learning.

However, after doing more research, he’s changed his mind. This comes as surprising news, because Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, is the co-author of the American Academy of Pediatrics 2011 guidelines that do not advise media use by toddlers younger than 2-years-old.

Now, he says that toddlers younger than 2-years-old could benefit from 30 to 60 minutes a day of gadget use — just as long as the time is spent interactively and not passively. This change stems from the guidelines being updates of recommendations from 1999 and were written long before the newer technology came out, such as the iPad’s debut in 2010.

“I believe that the judicious use of interactive media is acceptable for children younger than the age of 2 years,” he wrote in this week’s JAMA Pediatrics journal. “The statement was drafted with no knowledge that such a device would ever exist. Now, 3 years later, we still know surprisingly little about how iPads and other interactive media technologies affect children’s cognition — research is simply unable to keep up with the pace of technological advances — and these devices are increasingly popular.”

Although there’s no hard data to determine a finite answer on the matter, Christakis writes interactive iPad and device apps that engage a baby could be as mentally stimulating as regular toys, like dolls or blocks, or toys that make noise, like a See ‘N’ Say.

He argues that those gadgets and toys are far better for toddlers and babies than passively watching television — but that digital device time should not be abused, or substituted for formative activities.

“I do hope parents will take to heart that they should put some limits on it,” he said. “This is not just to allow their child to play willy-nilly for hours and hours.”

Bumpies on our message boards had mixed opinions about their babies using iPads:

“I have a confession. We use it. A lot. Like a book. She doesn’t watch any tv programs on it, but it has lots of interactive books and educational apps. We use it together, mostly at night with the lights off, when we are winding down to go to sleep.” – Sarah H.*

“I am fairly strict about my son’s screen time, so he gets (on average) a maximum of 30 mins each day.” – Tamra R.

“I really don’t limit either to a specific time frame. He learns so much from some of the educational apps and programs and it can be a great change of pace or way to get him chilled out if he’s tired. He’s far too busy throughout the day for me to worry about him spending too much time in front of a screen.” -Lisa V.

*Some names have been changed.

Will you let your baby use your iPad if you didn’t before, after reading this study?

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