OK, parents, it's confession time. Have you ever handed your smartphone or tablet over to your toddler to keep her busy at the grocery store or in the car? I'll be the first to admit that I have. My youngest's favorite apps are Jewels and Connect the Dots.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has advised parents to limit screen time for toddlers and babies, most recently suggesting that kids younger than 2 steer clear of televisions altogether. So where does this leave iPads, video iPods and smartphones?
This was the focus of an NPR story this week that I found particularly intriguing. As a self-confessed subscriber to the theory that a little Connect the Dots in the grocery line can go a long way toward keeping everyone happy, I was worried that I was turning my daughter's brain to mush each time I handed her the phone.
Fortunately, I think I'm in the clear. For starters, my daughter is 5, not 2. Also, she plays games on the smartphone rather than simply watching movies. According to the NPR interview with Dr. Ari Brown — the lead author of the AAP's revised guidelines on toddlers and TV — handing over your smartphone so that your baby can watch the latest Barney video is the same as letting them veg-out in front of a TV.
Apps, however may not mush your baby's brain quite as much. Brown noted that these apps might just provide "a virtual approximation of something a child might be doing with an object in their hand. There might be a real educational use for those items on these screens," she says. "We just don't have any data to say one way or the other."
It's because of this lack of data that the AAP doesn't have an official stance on babies and smartphones. For the moment, it's up to parents to use common sense about the amount of time, if any, kids spend in front of a smartphone screen. In my house, that means these moments are limited to rare occasions when books, toys and conversation just aren't cutting it.