Today I watched a video of a baby touching her first magazine. The title of the video was, “A Magazine is an iPad that Doesn’t Work.” The baby was extremely confused as she tried touching the static images to make them move, and she cried out in distress when she couldn’t get it to “work.” Clearly, the baby was thinking the magazine should act like the iPad she was used to playing with, and she couldn’t grasp the concept of looking through a set of images that weren’t moving. Though cute, it seemed unfortunate and made me wonder how detrimental screen exposure might be for babies.

Research shows that you should limit your baby’s exposure to any type of screen media, including iPads, iPhones, and television. Like anything else, it’s okay to let your baby get distracted with a screen for a little while if you need to get things done around the house. However, even seemingly educated programming or apps are often not all that educational.

When you think about how a baby learns, he or she needs the 3D landscape of the real world to gain a sense of context. If your baby is naming an animal on a screen as part of an educational game, you’ll assume that he or she now knows what a gorilla looks like. However, if you physically went to a zoo to learn about animals, the experience would be much different and much richer. A gorilla looks a lot different in person. The human brain is extremely complex, and it is constantly putting the pieces of a puzzle together in the learning process. Our brain has codes for everything we see, and when we see things on a flat screen essential parts of that code are left out. For example, the gorilla’s size relative to a human, his environment, and the visible texture of his fur are all things we use to identify a gorilla upon sight. This example shows how a baby will miss out on essential learning opportunities when his vision is restricted to a flat screen.

As adults, we can learn from iPads and television. When we watch an educational show such as Nova, we might hear facts that we will remember forever and apply to our own life. However, a baby can’t understand these facts, and his visual and textural ability to learn will be severely compromised.

Source: Audrey Cardany: Screen Media and Young Children. General Music Today Volume 24 Issue 1 pp. 50-55 October 2010