iPads May Be OK For Babies, Says Doctor. Seriously?

If you’re the parent of a toddler, you’ve probably heard that kids under the age of two who use multi-media (computers, video games, television) suffer from developmental problems. However, one pediatrician famous for his anti-television views has changed his tune — at least, when it comes to the iPad.

Dimitri A. Christakis, M.D., a Seattle doctor whose opinion piece was published this week in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, says kids under the age of 2 could actually benefit from using the iPad for up to 60 minutes per day, as long as they’re engaging in mentally stimulating activities such as learning games rather than simply watching videos. 

He also notes that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)’s 2011 recommendation that kids under the age of two generally avoid using media (which he co-authored) was written one decade before the debut of the iPad, tablets, and devices. “The statement was drafted with no knowledge that such a device would ever exist,” wrote Christakis. “Now, 3 years later, we still know surprisingly little about how iPads and other interactive media technologies affect children’s cognition — research is simply unable to keep up with the pace of technological advances —and these devices are increasingly popular.”

It’s a departure from Christakis’s views in 2012, when he insisted that toddlers who watched any type of television experienced behavior problems such as hyperactivity, risk-taking, and learning delays. Even so, over the past three decades, the age at which babies regularly watch television has decreased from four years to four months.

But surprisingly, despite public belief that the AAP firmly vetoes media use for babies, its position isn't that clear cut. "The AAP is interested in this question of how the very young may have positive effects from interactive media but the science of studying that question lags behind the technology," Ari Brown, MD, and lead author of the AAP's 2011 media guidelines for kids, tells Yahoo Shine. "We base our policy statements on scientific evidence which is why we lack a position at this point. Our 2011 policy statement addresses passive screen time and kids under two which we know has potentially more risk than educational benefit."

In other words, if you do allow your child to use an iPad, put a cap on their screen time and monitor what they watch.