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Here is what NOT to get your kids for Christmas: infant seat with iPad

IMG_1336 Her seat didn’t need an iPad

I’m not just about to lecture you on how you should approach screen time for infants and toddlers. In our home, we are pretty selective about our TV watching (we have a screen that we use occasionally and don’t subscribe to cable). Our daughter is under a “screen ban” for the first two years of her life. This includes smartphone screens and any other screens. I know, and I understand, that many parents use a screen occasionally to soothe or distract their children for a few minutes. How you handle screen time is your decision (hopefully an informed one).

But what I will do is tell you what not to buy —please, pretty please— for your kids or any of your friends’ or relatives’ kids for Christmas: this infant seat with an iPad stand. Why do I feel so strongly about this? There are several reasons:

  • Research has shown that exposure to screens can develop attention disorders later, affecting children’s behaviour and learning abilities in school. In this article in Additude, a magazine dedicated to Attention Deficit Disorder, the author says: “According to Dr. [Dimitri] Christakis [who researches this subject], the rapidly moving images on TV and in video games may rewire the brains of very young children, making it difficult for them to focus on slower tasks that require more thought.”
  • The American Association of Pediatrics recommends the following: “Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.”
  • John Medina, author of Brain Rules for Baby (a highly recommended read for anyone with kids ages zero to five), has a similar approach to screens for infants: “Babies need face time. (…) Babies love to gaze at human faces. Mom’s is best of all. (…) What are they looking for in your face? Emotional information. Are you happy, sad, threatened? (…) The only way to improve this accuracy [in interpreting human emotions by looking at faces] is by interacting with other people. That’s why babies need human time in the earliest years. Not computer time. Not television time. Your baby’s brain needs interaction with you, in person, on a consistent basis.”

These two reasons —the potential to develop attention deficit disorders and the harm done to infants by replacing crucial face time with screen time— are often cited as the best reasons to shield children from screens as much as possible, and I agree wholeheartedly with them. But my beef with the iPad infant seat goes even beyond that.

The Fisher Price “Apptivity Seat” suggests that watching a screen is an activity, which is, of course, not. The deceitful marketing is made worse by Fisher Price’s suggestion that babies can benefit from “early learning” apps, which is, of course, a lie: there is absolutely no evidence that infants can learn anything glowing on a screen. I wish I could remember its name, but I once watched a documentary that explained that babies cannot learn any words or facial expressions from screens. Even when watching their mothers on a screen, babies simply were oblivious to cues and words uttered by them. In contrast, the same interactions, when done face to face, resulted in the babies responding to and learning words and facial expressions.

Aside from all the brain science behind it, there is also something I find inherently wrong with pushing a product onto our babies. The shameless marketing of Apple products, which hope to colonize every classroom in the world with dubious claims of educational benefits, has reached a new low with wanting to hook up infants into their screens. We really need to wonder, are we providing sound technology experiences to our children by inundating them with tablets and other screens, or are we merely training our children as future consumers?

The topic of children’s exposure to marketing and advertising is a whole other story, and one that I have been following for a few years. Check out this organization if you’re interested in learning more. They even have a petition to recall the monstrous Apptivity Seat: Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for reading my rant and have a great day!

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“BPA Free” not as safe as you thought

cucharas

If you’re like me, you probably check that any plastic gadget going anywhere near your kids’ mouth or little hands has the “BPA Free” label. However, new research suggests that this might not be enough to keep toxins away from your family, as some manufacturers are simply replacing Bisphenol A with other–potentially more–harmful chemicals.

The reason you want to stay away from BPA is that it can leach into foods and drinks, potentially disrupting human hormonal activity. BPA is known as an “estrogenic-mimicking” compound. Pregnant women, infants, and toddlers are especially sensitive to its effects.

A study released in August 2012 by Toxicology In Vitro found that, since the 2011 European ban on BPA use for baby bottles, manufacturers have been using a similar compund, Bisphenol S (BPS), to replace it not only in bottles but in all kinds of hard-plastic products. The study concludes that “the estrogenic activity of Bisphenol A and Bisphenol S is of a comparable potency.” Even worse, the researchers believe BPS might be more harmful than BPA to environmental and human health because it takes longer to biodegrade.

In June this year, the journal Chemosphere published further concerns about other types of Bisphenol being used to replace BPA. It said that Bisphenol AP, Bisphenol M, and Bisphenol P are all currently used in generic consumer products, even though they have “genotoxic potentials that are greater than that of BPA.”

Yet another study, published by Environmental Health Perspectives, adds reasons to be wary of the BPA Free stickers. Researchers tested numerous plastic products labelled BPA Free to see if they still showed signs of estrogenic activity, or EA. They summarize their results like this: “Almost all commercially available plastic products we sampled—independent of the type of resin, product, or retail source—leached chemicals having reliably detectable EA, including those advertised as BPA free. In some cases, BPA-free products released chemicals having more EA than did BPA-containing products.”

This is definitely a source of concern for everyone, but most importantly for those with young children. I certainly didn’t know about BPS and the other harmful types of Bisphenol, and will keep an eye on this research in the months to come.

I’ll write about how my family tries to stay away from plastic products (not always successfully) in a different post. If you have any comments or questions about this, please feel free to share them below.