Question: My 11-month-old LOVES to watch videos on my phone. I play videos for him and he smiles and laughs. My mother-in-law said it would harm his brain, but he really enjoys videos. It calms him down when he’s upset. Should I keep letting him watch my phone?
– No, I would not let your baby watch media/videos on a television, iPhone, tablet, or computer until he is two years old.
While I do believe it is OK to FaceTime / chat by video with family, prolonged use of any electronic device can potentially be damaging for the developing brain. Babies and young toddlers are not able to make sense of the fictional images they see. We do not have any studies that show using electronics early actually help stimulate a baby’s brain, but we do have indications that electronic use in the early years can be harmful. Research has shown us that electronic use may impair a baby’s memory, sleep, and brain development. There is enough evidence to keep the phone, tablet, and computer away from the baby; babies need to learn about the real world.
If you enjoy watching TV or using your phone while your baby is in the room, turn him away from the device and let him play on his own. You may choose to distract him with a fun task. Conversation, playing, books, outdoor experiences, and music will teach him more about life than a device he can’t make sense of. Engage your baby, make eye contact, BUT also let him explore life on his own; he should learn to manage his emotions without electronic devices.
If your toddler is curious about TV and computers, start slowly around age 2. Thirty minutes per day should be sufficient to introduce him to programs. Work with educational programs. If you are pursuing a second language for your child, find programs and apps that promote that language. By ages 3-6 your child should have no more than 1 hour per day of electronics. From age 6 forward, two hours per day (that’s a lot!), outside of school use, is sufficient to promote computer enjoyment and education.