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Doctor Known as ‘The Anti-TV Guy’ Changes Mind, Says iPads are Okay for Babies

babyA little while back, I wrote a piece here cleverly titled “iPad Baby Seat Isn’t a Big Deal All You Judgy McJudgersons.

It was about the new Fisher Price iPad Baby Seat. It had a bunch of folks up in arms about babies using iPads with some going so far as to call the seat the worst baby product ever.

Granted saying something is the worst thing/best thing ever on the Internet isn’t really saying much these days, but still, I thought it was a gross overreaction to a baby using an iPad.

Guess what? A doctor agrees with me. Not just any doctor, either. THE doctor who helped write guidelines discouraging media use by babies and toddlers.

As TODAY reports, Dr. Dimitri A. Christakis, a Seattle pediatrician who studies the effects of media on kids, says he’s changed his mind about the iPad and other devices.

Christakis now says that kids under two years old may benefit from 30 to 60 minutes a day of interactive screen time.

“I believe that the judicious use of interactive media is acceptable for children younger than the age of two years,” he wrote in an opinion piece this week in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

This is huge. Christakis, who is known as the anti-TV guy in some circles, co-authored the American Academy of Pediatrics 2011 guidelines that discourages media use by kids younger than two.

He doesn’t have hard data, but Christakis says that interactive iPad and device apps that engage a baby may provide as much mental stimulation as traditional toys, like building blocks. A very different thing from passive TV watching, which he says has detrimental effects on cognition.

Dr. Elizabeth R. Sowell, a neuropsychologist, backs Christakis up. She told TODAY that when it comes to babies and toddlers, the guidelines for TV viewing can’t be compared to those for interactive applications on devices like an iPad.

“The brain is developing so rapidly during that period of time and interactive challenges, whether it’s blocks or playing games on the iPad, that’s really going to wire the brain differently than passive viewing.”

We’ve been conditioned to view any screen time as negative time and, with the invention of iPads and super cool educational apps, that just isn’t how it is anymore. That doesn’t mean you should buy your baby his very own iPad for hours of play, but handing off your own for 30 minutes of active playing isn’t any different than sitting your child in front of a bunch of blocks with letters on them.

You can hear more from Dr. Christakis in his recent TED Talk.

Image: flickr.com

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