By Daniel Lovering
BOSTON (Reuters) – An advocacy group called on toy maker Fisher-Price to stop selling a baby seat designed to hold an iPad at the front, saying the product encourages parents to leave infants alone to watch screens that could be harmful.
The bouncy seat with an iPad holder is the “ultimate electronic babysitter” and blocks a baby’s view of the world, undermining the child’s interaction with caregivers, said the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, based in Boston, in a statement.
The group cited research by the American Academy of Pediatrics that suggested screen time for children under age 2 was linked to language delays, sleep disturbance and learning problems later in childhood. There was no evidence it was advantageous, the group said in the statement, which was issued on Tuesday.
Babies left alone with iPads also could be deprived of activities shown to be beneficial to brain development, such as hands-on creative play and positive interaction with adults, the group said.
“By manufacturing a device to restrain infants in front of a screen, even when they’re too young to sit up, Fisher-Price actually discourages interactions that are crucial to learning and healthy development,” Dr. Susan Linn, the group’s director, said in the statement.
“Babies thrive when they’re talked to, played with, and held — not when they’re alone with a screen,” Linn said.
Juliette Reashor, a spokeswoman for Fisher-Price, a brand owned by toy manufacturer Mattel, said in a statement on Wednesday that consumers who purchased the Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity Seat for iPad gave it positive reviews “that show strong parent involvement and support.”
The seat was never meant to be an educational product for children and is only available online, she said.
“We wanted to offer it as yet another option for those parents who want the added feature of engaging in age-appropriate content with their children,” Reashor said in the statement.
The infant seat includes a mirror that can hold an iPad, providing “another way to stimulate and engage baby while protecting your device from baby’s sticky fingers and preventing unintentional navigating to other apps,” a product description on Fisher-Price’s website said.
The company offers free apps to use with the seat that feature “soft, soothing sounds and nature scenes, black-and-white images and high-contrast patterns that help develop eye-tracking skills,” it said. Other apps for older babies introduce letters and numbers through sing-along tunes, sounds and friendly characters.
The apps’ visual content ends after 10-12 minutes to help parents keep track of their child’s viewing time, the website said.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Gunna Dickson)