The world has changed so much over the last few decades, it’s almost unrecognisable. The way we entertain ourselves as adults these days largely revolves around technology – can you imagine how you’d survive without your mobile phone? And so it follows that when we have a baby many of us automatically use technology to entertain them, often in the form of an i-pad or tablet. But what affect is this having on our children? We’ll investigate in this article.
Entertainment For 0-2 Yr-Olds
If you read the recommendations commonly sprouted for babies up to 2-yrs-old you’ll see the advice is not to allow them to access technology in any form, including watching TV. Why is that? And how does this work in today’s world, where children are consistently surrounded by screens from the moment they’re born?
How Do Babies Learn?
Babies are like sponges. They learn all about the world around them through play and by watching people (most often their parents), looking at the colours and sights around them, and shoving things into their mouths. They use all of their senses to watch what we do, hear our voices, suck on a nipple or bottle, smell things around them and to touch people as well as objects like toys.
The first year of a baby’s life is about learning to feel secure and loved. They learn this through your loving attention as their parent, and this has long-term affects on them physically, mentally and emotionally. In that first year of life babies are able to mentally learn new things, gain emotional strength and confidence, and develop enough physical strength to fight illness. Pretty important period in their life, despite the fact that of course they won’t consciously remember any of it in future.
The Problem With Screens For Entertainment
It’s easy for parents to use technology to entertain their babies. Lack of sleep often doesn’t put us in the best of moods, and finding the time to play with babies can be difficult. And of course conversations with babies can feel a little bit one-sided!
Although a screen can keep babies happy and entertained for a little while, you may find that the long-term detrimental affects override the short-term benefits of giving you that extra time and peace you so desperately crave.
There’s no shortage of evidence suggesting that speech development issues can be caused by replacing verbal communication with tablets and i-pads. The fact is that more and more children are in need of speech therapy before they start school, many with obvious speech delays. Babies learn how to talk by watching our mouths as we form words, and by listening to our voices. Hearing conversations on TV or through an i-pad is simply not the same thing.
When I had my first baby I used to walk with him around the block near home on a regular basis. During our walk I would chat with him about the scenery or whatever else I could think of, and I also sang the alphabet song to him over and over. Of course he was too young to respond and so I seemed to be talking and singing to myself, and often at some point during our walk he would fall asleep.
By the time my son turned 18 months old he was confidently and clearly singing the whole alphabet song. Before he turned two he was having full-blown conversations using a considerably large vocabulary. It was definitely out of the ordinary for a two-year-old; it was quite freaky actually! Maybe this was partly because he was naturally bright, but I believe most babies are. There’s no doubt in my mind that the amount of time we spent playing, talking and just interacting when he was a little baby had a huge effect on his speech development.
We all know that children and babies are full of energy that needs to be released in a positive way. A build up of energy that has no outlet can easily lead to behavioural issues that can often be mis-diagnosed as ADHD, as opposed to simply being a completely normal child who hasn’t had the opportunity to use up his or her energy.
Giving a baby a screen for entertainment sets up a pattern of sedentary behaviour, where those babies will then seek a screen instead of physical activity as they get older. This lack of activity can lead to a number of physical conditions as the baby grows such as back pain due to poor posture, poor eyesight and sore eyes, unhealthy weight gain and obesity, diabetes and more.
Anxiety is at an all-time high in children these days, and many people blame this on overuse of technology. In particular, playing games that may include some violence (even without anything particularly gruesome) is confusing to babies and children, and many become confused between what’s real and what’s not. It can also normalise violent behaviour so that the first response a young child may have if they’re not happy with someone or something involves arms and legs flying everywhere in attack mode!
A New Perspective
If you’re a parent with a young baby or you know anyone else who is, it may be worthwhile reconsidering how you keep your baby entertained. Whether you’re going for a walk with a baby in a stroller or you’re at a restaurant or café with them, a conversation with them (albeit one-sided!) will benefit them immensely. Resist the urge to hand them an i-pad unless you’re absolutely desperate, and keep it simple. What your baby wants most of all is to play with you, not to play with their screen. Good luck!
Ruth Dearing is a Peaceful Digital Parenting expert, international best-selling author, public speaker, black belt in karate and mother of two. She is most passionate about helping parents keep their children safe and happy online.