toddler computer

Toymakers are hoping to stuff babies’ stockings with kid-size computers.

It used to be that all a kid wanted for Christmas was to sit on Santa’s lap. Now, they may get a laptop.


This year, a number of toymakers are hoping to stuff babies’ stockings with kid-size computers, some targeting babies too young to talk — a trend that worries many parents and pediatricians.

iPad-like options for kids include LeapFrog’s $99 LeapPad Explorer Tablet, VTech’s $80 InnoTab Learning App Tablet and the $389 Vinci Touchscreen Mobile Learning Tablet. Vinci’s ads feature a cherub-cheeked baby — who looks only about 8 months old — mouthing the product’s rubbery handle.

That has earned the Vinci the honor of “worst toy of the year” at the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time — TV, computers or cellphones — for children under 2, and no more than two hours a day after that.

“Parents are getting really ripped off,” says the campaign’s Susan Linn, who notes that babies learn more from cuddling with parents than from computers. “Children’s leisure time is really dominated by screens.”

About 38% of kids ages 8 and younger have used a mobile device, such as a smartphone, video iPod or tablet, according to a survey by Common Sense Media. Breakdown by age: 10% of babies under 1, 39% ages 2 to 4 and 52% of kids ages 5 to 8.

Jody Sherman LeVos of LeapFrog says some parents look to supplement their children’s education because of funding cuts to schools or to avoid a “summer brain drain.”

“Sadly, American kids are falling really behind in math and science,” LeVos says. “A lot of preschools aren’t covering these topics adequately. But math skills at kindergarten entry are one of the strongest predicts of academic success.”

Yet there’s no evidence that these products offer any benefit for kids under 2, says pediatrician Dimitri Christakis of the University of Washington in Seattle.

“The concept of educational toys, of building brainier babies, is a relatively new phenomenon and has gathered a lot of traction,” Christakis says. “The scary thing is that most of these claims are completely unsubstantiated. They prey on parents’ desires to do everything they possibly can for their children.”

Catherine Swanwick of Vienna, Va., wants her son, 3, to be comfortable with technology but says toddlers mesmerized by screens may miss out on other important pastimes: “I still think it’s important to be able to go outside and just play.”

Photo credit: The Globe and Mail

Via USA Today