Tablets Won't Fry Your Baby's Brain if You Follow These Rules

By Alissa Walker on at

The “NO SCREENS UNTIL 2” guideline issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics raised eyebrows internationally in 2011. Now, the AAP says its position has “evolved,” and released a more nuanced set of guidelines when it comes to babies and screen-based media.

Acknowledging that maybe it’s not possible to keep your infant in the Pleistocene Age while you wave a glowing, beeping miniature computer in its cute little face, the AAP gathered researchers ranging from neuroscientists to media experts who could provide practical, evidence-based context for parents.

The new guidelines are published in a report entitled “Beyond ‘turn it off’: How to advise families on media use,” which brings a slew of data to what was simply a blanket recommendation before:

In a world where “screen time” is becoming simply “time,” our policies must evolve or become obsolete. The public needs to know that the Academy’s advice is science-driven, not based merely on the precautionary principle.

The biggest conclusions are pretty obvious, and what parents have probably already been doing. Of course the content that you show your kids matters, so a FaceTime conversation with nan and granddad is probably preferable to Saw VII. And curation and facilitation is also key: if you’re sitting there narrating a video or explaining a photo, that’s better than just letting them poke and swipe.

Perhaps most crucially for Baby Einstein acolytes is advice that educational apps are not all that. An iPad game is not going to help your kid learn to talk earlier than his peers, says the Academy. Most educational games are only really beneficial in the 2+ range, when you’d be letting them use screens anyway. Just not too much, apparently.

It’s refreshing to see an organisation add some additional context which can help parents make the right decision for their kids. Just don’t let them know they’ll soon be watching Sesame Street, that’s certain to ruin them for life. [American Academy of Pediatrics via Co.Design]

Top photo by Gustavo Devito