A Bouncy Seat with an iPad: Is This Bad for Babies?
Sometimes profit margins and effective parenting do not go hand-in-hand. This is one of those times.
It’s a product that could have been dreamed up in the pages of The Onion, and conjures images—and not the cute ones—from the film Wall-E (not to mention A Clockwork Orange). Fisher Price has created a Newborn-to-Toddler “Apptivity” Seat intended to soothe and entertain babies via an iPad screen placed… directly in front of their faces.
The internet’s abuzz with controversy over whether this is a good thing or not, with “an embarrassment to humankind” on one end of the spectrum, and “what’s the big deal?” on the other. And while I appreciate that all parents are just trying to find their ideal balance (or simply the time to poop alone), I don’t think this bouncy seat is a rational answer to that need. Of course, the product exists because Fisher Price’s market research indicated it would sell; I have no doubt that it will. But sometimes profit margins and effective parenting do not go hand-in-hand, and this is pretty clearly one of those times.
“These chairs go against everything we know about what is in the best interests of a baby’s health and development,” says Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D., author of The Business of Baby. “The American Academy of Pediatrics has clear recommendations to avoid screen time for children under the age of two; we know infants need to be held, preferably skin-to-skin, and we know there is no substitute for parent-baby interaction to promote language skills and brain development. Yet these chairs strap a baby down and give them no choice but to look at the screen. It won’t be long before we have scientific research showing that this is not only a bad idea, it is actually harmful.”
Fisher Price’s spokespeople have been quick to point out that the iPad attachment can be removed to reveal a simple mirror, and that the apps the seat comes with are “soothing.” But what babies find soothing is not a screen with flashy colors, or even slow-moving shapes or patterns. That’s stimulating. A parent’s voice, or warmth, is soothing. Other apps that come with the seat are intended to help develop babies’ eye-tracking skills. But come on, that’s what the world is for. I understand the desire, and need, to put your baby down. But my 3-month-old is perfectly happy to develop his eye-tracking skills from the comfort of his normal, non-tech-savvy bouncer seat by watching me walk around the room doing whatever it is I need to do. And if he’s not happy, it’s my job to stop doing that and to care for his needs.
Like most parents, I sometimes allow my preschooler to watch Yo Gabba Gabba while I make dinner (although honestly, I usually regret it when I do… His post-TV behavior is not awesome). I don’t think screens are, as a rule, “bad,” or that there’s no place for them in the parenting mix. But screens for babies? This just feels unnecessary and unnatural.
Sure, we have to find our parenting balance, but we also have to find our balance as people in a rapidly-developing technological landscape, and to help our children do the same. In the absence of extensive research on the long-term effects of all-things-screens, we have to rely on our gut instincts around this stuff. Just like those futuristic scenes in Wall-E, even images of the “Apptivity” seat (or Google Glass for babies… have you seen this?) give me a gut feeling of “No, wait, that doesn’t feel right at all.” This isn’t a matter of judging other parents; it’s a matter of having a baby myself and knowing what he thrives on. It’s all about connection for these little people, and the Apptivity seat is not designed with babies’ (or, really, even parents’) best interests in mind.
What do you think? Is the Apptivity Seat bad for babies?
YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN