What Electronic Toys, TV Can Do to Your Infant’s Brain


Contributor: Sara Lappe, MD

Have you ever watched a baby stare at a TV? The TV is huge, flashing and mesmerizing, and you’ll notice that while watching, infants do not turn their heads — they just sit and stare straight ahead.

Because infants become so transfixed on the screen, they stop doing anything and everything else and ultimately, they miss out on human interaction and the opportunity to explore their new and exciting world.

The same is true of certain electronic toys. The graphics and sounds are mesmerizing and hold a child’s attention for longer than a traditional toy. Studies have shown that during the time kids are watching a screen or playing on an electronic toy, they are not interacting and learning as much as they could with other types of toys.

Electronics also change how we interact with our children – sometimes the toy becomes the babysitter, and parents do not have to interact.

According to updated media guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, children younger than 2 years need hands-on exploration and social interaction to develop cognitive, language, motor and social-emotional skills — all of which they cannot learn from digital media.

In addition, multiple developmental and health concerns continue to exist for kids using electronics to an excess. This doesn’t mean that all electronics are bad for children; it simply means parents have to better navigate the digital world for their little ones.

Here are some do’s and don’ts that can help:



The electronics-heavy holiday season

Speaking of electronics, holiday time is around the corner, and the stores are filling with the latest and greatest toys. Many of the toys marketed to very young children are electronic toys with captivating flashing lights and catchy sounds.

Many of our traditional toys have been turned into electronic toys to bring them into the new millennium. As the holiday season approaches, try to minimize electronic gifts and focus more on hands-on experiences.

Tips for holiday season gifts

Every family is different and needs to work together to set its own rules and limits. To help navigate through an electronics-heavy holiday season, create a family media plan here.

And remember: The holiday season is about spending time with loved ones, so try and unplug and spend quality time with one another. Enjoying each other’s company — whether it’s in a low-key or active setting — will benefit the mind and body.

This post is based on one of a series of articles produced by U.S. News & World Report in association with the medical experts at Cleveland Clinic.