iPads and screen time with kids younger than 2 may be just fine according to Dr. Dimitri Christakis from the Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development. He states that "Media is very much a part of our lives. The real research agenda is to find out how to use it in healthy ways." I would have to agree with this statement, as long as it is not for prolonged amount of time and the parent or caregiver interacts with the child for part of the time. My mantra that moderation is the key to life; makes sense – don’t you think? As with anything, extremes are not healthy when it comes to all or none. Research scientist Michelle Garrison, Ph.D., Christakis’ longtime collaborator expresses this same sentiment when saying, “There’s no one-size-fits-all solution “When we’re working on an intervention, the protocol is designed with options to tailor it to the needs of the individual family. This is about giving parents the tools they need so they can make media decisions that are going to work best for their family.” And it really all comes down to the conditions of whether the time is spent engaging in interactive play or spent passively viewing alone.
“I like to think of it as a media diet. In much the same way we recognize that eating is essential to life but has to be done appropriately, media is very much a part of all of our lives — the real research agenda is to find out how to use it in healthy ways. For example, we ask parents to substitute quality programming for violent programming, much like they’d swap carrots for potato chips in their child’s lunch.” Dr. Dimitri Christakis
We also need to realize that devices such as iPads didn’t exist until very recently. Researchers still know relatively little about how these technologies influence the way children’s brains develop and learn. How do you determine if the tool or the content is a positive learning experience or a negative one unless a control group is used and imagine how the different stages of development vary from toddler to toddler? This would be a near impossible study to pull off with any validity.
What inspired this blog in the first place is that I recently spent an extended time with my niece’s young children, one two years old and the other six months. It was amazing to see how and when screen time was incorporated into the two-year-olds day, it was no different than the time she spent with her kitchen set, rolling golf balls, or any other play activity that she engaged in. She gave each her full attention, stayed with it for what seemed an exceedingly long time for a toddler and was then off to the next endeavor and once again was absorbed in whatever the goings-on entailed. What I found most astounding is that when she played with the iPad she sat down, knew exactly which apps she wanted to play and found them even on my iPad which is packed with folders and icons. No matter how hard I tried to introduce new apps she returned and returned and returned one particular “new” app that I had first introduced her to. Now, I know kids like repetition and routine, but this was getting ridiculous, I had other preschool/toddler apps I really wanted to file test with her. What was most surprising was not her independence and not her total immersion, it was the blatant fact that the iPad she used had no protective case on it of any sort and she treated it with the utmost respect!
For those interested in a research-based scientific approach here are five factors that Christakis outlines that in addition to interactivity influence whether media use is beneficial or a waste of time:
1. Can the device/app respond differently to different actions of the child?
2. Can the device/app behave differently for each child or each time it is used?
3. Can the device/app move a child along a continuum that advances in complexity?
4. Does the device/app enable or facilitate adults and children playing together?
5. Is the device transported easily and available in different venues?
Experts still advise that caregivers monitor their children’s use of such devices and set limits so that device time doesn’t interfere with time spent on social and physical activities.
Bottom-line, when it comes to screen time for any age use common sense and remember moderation is the key to life. And, let’s not forget An iPad is only as good as the content on it. Be in charge and download quality apps that have a learning component and visit Teachers With Apps for recommendations.