Baby vs Touch Screen

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Following on from our last blog where we highlighted a few products available today that can negatively affect your babys development, we will be going into further detail about the effects of modern technologies.

We mentioned briefly that touch screen products can have a negative effect on babies’ physical development however they can also greatly effect social and emotional development too.

The American Academy of Paediatrics published a report advising that babies and toddlers spend as little time as possible in front of any type of screen due to the negative effects on development.

Recently there has been a backlash against “smartphone parenting”, which is becoming increasingly popular. Handing over our smart phone or tablet is something that most of us admit to doing at some level. There are times when it is the only thing that will make baby happy or quiet- for some reason babies are obsessed.  Today there is not a lot of information available for parents highlighting the negative effects of too much screen time on your baby.

We believe that it is unhealthy that a baby’s first experience with media or technology teaches them that if you touch something, or swipe it with your fingers, that it will change. Most of the time when baby has a touch screen device they are tapping the screen aimlessly. Yet this is fast becoming the most common form of media for babies.

Some argue that touch screen devices can have positive effects and are interactive, that there are apps that encourage interaction and learning with baby, however this is no comparison to real life and time spent interacting with parents or their environment. The back and forth between a baby and parent eg. when a baby smiles and mom smiles back, this teaches relationship building and is the foundation of conversation. This cannot be replaced by a screen.

Baby vs Touch Screen
Baby vs Touch Screen

Effects

  1. Social

Due to the subsequent effect on time that should be spent interacting with others, communication and social skills are not being developed from a young age. Baby does not interact with their environment as much and this limits the amount of interactive play with toys or even with other everyday items in their home. This is when they begin to learn about problem solving, their limits and begin to develop confidence.

 

  1. Emotional

One of the greatest concerns is the effect of over exposure on baby’s emotional development. Children who are pacified with a tablet or smart phone are not being given the time to deal with their own thought processes and self soothe. Meaning that the child is not learning how to be alone. This is the foundation of development and the confidence that is needed for independence.

Some studies believe that by not allowing the baby time to learn how to be alone you are teaching them to be lonely and this can have a huge effect later on in life in regards to health and relationships.

This is a stage that we do not want our baby to skip – by giving them a device they are distracted and do not actually learn how to deal with their emotions. Baby needs to be able to think independently and not be distracted from dealing with what is happening in their environment.

 

  1. Verbal and Visual

Too much time spent in front of screens can also slow verbal development due to the limited time spent learning and interacting with others. Even educational shows are no substitute for a real back and forth between an adult and baby.

Although many shows and apps claim to be visually stimulating- and most of the time baby’s eyes are glued to the screen this is doing nothing to encourage healthy development. Most figures do not have shadows and baby is not learning to concentrate on things at different distances from him/her.

Screens also provide very limited sensory development for your baby, the smooth screen does not stimulate the brain. It is not as interactive for baby as toys or even things in their environment like a rug or a cushion.

 

  1. Physical

There are also some physical effects that can cause problems for baby later in life, the main physical concern is that touch screen devices do not support the development of fine motor skills.

By not developing their fine motor skills children are unable to do the important pincer/pencil grip. Today many children are starting school with an underdeveloped pincer grip and this is believed to be due to the increased popularity of touch screen devices. Babies only tap and swipe at a screen never using the pincer grip. This damage can be long term as children take longer to learn these vital finger movements and grips when they are older. With too much time spent on touch screens babies are not training the muscles that they will need for writing, typing, picking up objects etc. Last year The Association of Teachers and Lecturers in USA found that many young children who spent time on ipads etc were unable to complete simple tasks such as building blocks.

There is also an effect on the development of gross motor skills – babies are encouraged to stay in one place looking at a screen, causing them to slump and preventing them from moving around using and exercising their muscles – not developing gross motor skills through crawling or learning how to control their bodies.

Baby vs Touch Screen
Baby vs Touch Screen

At COGNIKIDS™ our mission is to support and enhance the developmental stages of children and touch screen devices do not provide this support for your baby, we believe that technology is a poor substitution for human interaction. Some may claim to offer educational support but this has no comparison to real world experiences.

Children learn best by interacting with others and their environment and from using their imagination. A great quote that we use on our social media regularly is one by Einstein “play is the highest form of research”- why encourage your baby to live in a digital world when they are more likely to benefit from the real world. It provides a much richer environment with more opportunities to learn and explore- this curiosity is healthy for development.

The best way you can encourage brain, speech and emotional development is to spend time with your child, talking to them. This is what some studies refer to as ping pong- the back and forth between parent and child, developing the foundation for relationship and conversations.

 

It is important to remember that like everything some babies are more sensitive than others to screen time and will be effected differently.

Each of these effects are due to over exposure. We would recommend that your baby has limited time with touch screen devices and that this time be with a parent, allowing baby to share the experience. Studies have shown that educational apps and shows can be beneficial for children that are aged 4+ but not any younger.

Donna Magee

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