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03rd Feb 2015

Are iPads and iPhones becoming virtual nannies? This cyber psychologist thinks so…

Kids spend around five hours a day in front of a screen

Sive O'Brien

As a parent, I know all too well just how effective a phone or TV can be when you want to distract an active toddler for a few minutes. But Early Childhood Ireland estimates that most children spend around five hours a day in front of an animated screen. Yes, five whole hours. That’s a big chunk of a child’s day when you consider that they’re only awake for around 12 hours.

Mary Aiken, a cyber psychologist and expert in child psychology, believes that iPads and iPhones have become virtual nannies for children as young as two and describes them as the new pacifiers; recommending that children under the age of two should have no screen time whatsoever. She warns of the ‘cyberbabies’ phenomenon, which, she says, will damage children’s ability to function as normal members of society. This is a frightening thought, but only one psychologist’s opinion.

The American Academy of Pediatrics explains why television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age the age of two: “A child’s brain develops rapidly during these first years and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens.” It also advises that children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day, and even that should be high-quality content.

Plonking a child down in front of a TV for hours every day is obviously not a good thing, but no exposure at all until the age of two can sometimes be easier said than done. It would interesting to know what the experts think about a little and sporadic exposure to educational content.