I think we all saw this coming: It's a new mobile tablet — and it's coming to a baby near you. Amazon has started taking pre-orders for the Vinci tablet, a 7-inch device aimed at babies from birth to 4 years of age.
Now you're probably thinking, "Here she goes. Green mom rants about the latest electronic gadget for kids." But my problem is not with the gadget itself. It's no different than any other blinking, twinkling, noise-making toy for kids. If you're the kind of parent who only lets her baby play with organic plush or sustainably harvested wood toys, I doubt the Vinci will even be a blip on your radar. But if your the kind of parent (as I am) who lets her kids watch and play limited amounts of TV, video games and other electronic gadgets, than you might take a second look at this new tablet.
And here's where I have a few problems. For starters, the American Academy of Pediatrics has already raised concerns about the negative effects of television on young children, going so far as to recommend that children younger than age 2 not see any television at all. They don't have an official policy on the Vinci, but my guess is that their concerns about it would be similar.
More importantly, I am troubled with how the Vinci is being portrayed. It is being marketed as a product that will actually make your child smarter, and I doubt they have any science or studies to back up that marketing.
This is the same slippery slope that got the Baby Einstein series in trouble five years ago. The videos in the series were cute — the original Baby Einstein video featured lullabies sung and told in various languages. My daughter loved it. It was soft and soothing and featured many of the simple toys that were her favorites. But did I think for one minute that it was making her smarter? No way. Did I force it on her as a way of improving her analytical skills, organizational skills or rapid decision making skills? Not even remotely.
This illusion of genius is heavily emphasized in the Vinci's trailer video. The narrator goes on and on about all of the ways the Vinci will make your baby smarter, even going way over the line in my opinion with these nuggets of insanity:
"It's a magical moment to see my baby developing his social skills and his sense of achievement."
Did she just say that? Just about any electronic device will likely ensure that her baby misses out on real social development — you know, the kind that takes place socially, with real people??
But here's my favorite:
"I really love the interaction and sharing time."
She does know that she could actually read a book (or play peek-a-boo, or make funny noises) with her baby, right? I would venture to say that the interaction and sharing time from these activities are even greater than what you might get staring at a screen with your baby.
For older kids (2 and up), the music app, coloring app, and interactive storybooks of the Vinci might make fun activities. And it is cool that the Vinci is bomb-proof and made to hold up to a baby's pounding. (Although I couldn't tell from the product's website if the "chewable" handles were also BPA-free.) But I can't imagine that either the apps or the (unverified) indestructibility could be worth the Vinci's $400 price tag. You can buy a lot of twinkling, blinking toys for that money — maybe even some that will make your child smarter.