A cascade of new scientific evidence from all over the world shows how screen use can badly hurt the development of babies and toddlers. The news comes as more parents rely on tablets, phones, and TVs to calm, distract, or entertain their little children.
Studies published in just the past year paint a dire picture.
The World Health Organization recommends that children under age 2 have no “sedentary screen time.” Instead, babies and toddlers should engage with loving caregivers, move and explore their surroundings using all their senses, and get plenty of sleep.
Screens Disrupt it All
In a US study of mothers during the pandemic, those who allowed their 6-month-olds to use screens let them watch an average of 3 hours a day. “Screen use was relatively common during meals, when going to sleep, while waiting, and to help calm the infant,” the authors write.
That, they conclude, is “an impediment to the relationship between a parent and a child, disrupting maternal responsiveness and interfering with parent-child interactions.”
Harris believes tech companies’ intentions were way off when they started Google, Facebook, and other platforms. He should know, having trained in the Stanford University Persuasive Technology Lab.
Since tech products could be accessed for free, users’ personal data were fair game, which companies made unprecedented sums from selling and re-selling. Individuals were hyper-targeted under the guise of “giving users what they want.”
Silicon Valley founders saw tech as a neutral vessel. That users became trapped in polarized filter bubbles was not the platforms’ problem.
The result today: the loudest and meanest social media opinions seem to be the majority. As Harris observes, “we start to believe the extreme voices and stereotypes represent the world.”
Besides political turmoil, he blames early Silicon Valley attitudes for creating problems ranging from information overload and addiction, to synthetic charlatans including bots and DeepFakes.
Over the years, it became standard practice to use psychological sleight of hand to keep users engaged.
Children have been especially affected. Since the dawn of social media, youth mental health has significantly eroded.
The mother of a 6-year-old who accessed photos of topless women on his school-issued iPad believes his Austin,Texas school system has not done enough to protect students, so she and other parents are taking legal action.
At a board meeting of the Eanes Independent School District, Meaghan Edwards used the Texas public information act to request terms of service for every website, app, and software product used by district students during the last and next school years.
“If you’re following the rules, these questions will be easy to answer,” Edwards said at the June 16 meeting. Because it was an open forum, board members did not respond with comments.
Babies and their loving caregivers are naturally attracted to each other. Feeding a baby is a sacred time when lifelong bonds develop through tender caresses, late-night murmurs and loving, long glances.
But there’s competition now. A spare moment is an opportunity to catch up—with email, social media, and other digital demands on our attention.
Yet, a child’s vital need for Attachment remains. Without secure attachment, a baby can grow up to be someone who is anxious and less durable for the long run. Without the opportunity to closely study a caregiver’s mouth and expressions, a child’s language development can lag. Kids faced with phones instead of a parent can miss out on learning the vital skill (for survival in life and in business) of learning to read faces and understand emotions.