My one-year-old loves to watch the trippy
color screensaver on the computer. We'll sit
there together listening to music as he stares
at the screen like a slack-jawed stoner. I can't
help but think that this is not good for him. Or
at least that I will be responsible when he
starts dropping acid down the road.
Seriously, is this bad? I try not to do it for very
long, but it really calms him down!
There has been a lot of controversy over exposing babies to television and other media devices under the age of 2. Any type of screen time is highly stimulating and many experts believe that it can be overstimulating for young children because their brains are not yet ready to process what they are seeing. Some studies also show that children who are exposed to television too young develop shorter attention spans. Specifically, one study showed that for every hour per day a child between the age of 1 to 3 watched television, there was a 10% increase in the likelihood that they developed attention problems by age 7.
This happens because the brain is developing rapidly during this critical period and begins to expect a high level of stimulation as opposed to a normal degree of input. This can cause a baby to prefer screen time over less stimulating but more appropriate activities such as playing with toys or social interactions.
On the other hand, if you are having a rough time and need a quick fix every now and then, I don’t believe a minute here or there of screensaver viewing is going to lead to permanent attention problems. But its better to err on the side of caution and try to limit it's use when you can. If your baby likes these visual images, you may want to try looking for toys that light up or have spinning objects which may provide the same effect but with a more developmentally appropriate level of stimulation.
Whatever you do, rest assured, it will not contribute to some sort of inevitable drug use. (Editor's Note: Don't worry—you'll have tons of other opportunities to mess that kid up and make him turn to the hard stuff).
Dr. B has a doctorate in school psychology specializing in early childhood development. If you have a question for Dr. B please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject header ASK DR. B.