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?
Answer: No, I would not let your baby watch media/videos on a television, iPhone, tablet, or computer until he is two years old.
While it is OK for your baby to be viewed on FaceTime/video chat with family, use of any electronic device with children less than age two can potentially be damaging for the developing brain. Children less than age two are not able to make sense of the fictional images they see. There are no studies that show using electronics early can actually help stimulate a baby’s brain. However, 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.
France has taken the step of banning WiFi in nursery schools. Also in France, WiFi and wireless devices are banned in “the spaces dedicated to home, to rest, and to activities of children under age three years.”
If you enjoy watching TV or using your phone while your baby is in the room, turn your baby away from the device. You may choose to distract your baby with a fun task. Conversation, playing, books, outdoor experiences, and music will teach her more about life than a device she can’t make sense of. Engage your baby, make eye contact, but also let your baby explore life on her own. Children should learn to manage their emotions without electronic devices.
If your toddler is curious about TV and computers, start slowly around age two. Thirty minutes per day should be sufficient to introduce your child 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 three to six, your child should have no more than one hour per day of electronics. From age six forward, one full hour per day (that’s a lot!) outside of school use is sufficient to promote computer enjoyment and education.
Source: Environmental Health Trust (EHT)