Do you notice yourself struggling to focus when a television murmurs and flashes in the background, or when the dink-dink-dink-POP from an iPad game plays from across the room? Now imagine the same distraction for your Toddler’s developing mind.
These inhuman sounds muffle what a Toddler needs for his brain development: the human voice produced by the human mouth. The child’s brain at this age receives all the stimuli around him indiscriminately, during what Maria Montessori called the plane of the Absorbent Mind. Technology has the potential to make it all the more difficult for the child to comprehend the world around her. In fact, the American Association of Pediatrics concluded in 2011 that children below the age of two should have no screen time–period.
That’s not to say it isn’t increasingly difficult to measure how much screen time young children are really getting. One researcher suggests that by age seven, young children will likely have spent a full year of their lives looking at a television or other screens.
Another recent study found that the average child under age 2 typically has 53 minutes of screen time and 23 minutes of reading with family members. This statistic is both startling and encouraging–twenty minutes of reading aloud can do wonders for the developing brain!
The guiding principle when it comes to Toddlers and tech seems to be this: real is always preferable. A game on a screen will only react to your child’s touch in so many ways (most likely only one or two), but when he repeatedly drops that real bouncy ball onto the floor, it may never go the same way twice. That’s the excitement your Toddler needs. If there is a real life alternative to what you’re planning to view together on a screen, it might be worth making the switch.