Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is an APNZ news reporter based in Wellington.

Anger at iPad baby bouncer

Fisher Price's Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity Seat with iPad dock.
Fisher Price's Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity Seat with iPad dock.

A new baby bouncer complete with iPad holder which has gone on sale is a sign of the drive to market digital products at younger children, an educational expert says.

Toy company Fisher Price says its Apptivity Seat, which puts an iPad directly in front of a newborn or toddler, is a "niche product" that is available only online and is not meant as an educational tool.

Despite that caveat, the product has drawn condemnation from the US-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, which is petitioning for it to be banned.

The group said there was no evidence babies benefited from screen time and it could even be harmful.

"Babies need laps, not apps," the petition said.

A Fisher Price spokesman said the Apptivity Seat would not be sold in New Zealand.

Early childhood education expert Tara Fagan, a consultant with Core Education who specialises in digital learning, said she had not seen the product, but she would be concerned about newborns and infants getting passive screen time.

"I would be very wary of it being educational," she said.

But mobile devices had huge potential to support learning when used well with young children.

"We need to be careful about how children engage with it - that it's done so alongside an adult, in a supportive environment, because I think there is some good learning that can come from it. But it doesn't replace any of the other learning that those children should have. It's more of a balance."

Ms Fagan said she was not surprised the product had emerged, and there was a trend towards marketing digital products to younger and younger children.

Fisher Price said the product was not for everyone, but offered it as "yet another option for those parents who want the added feature of engaging in age-appropriate content with their children".

The company said the product had a time-out feature that allowed 10 minutes of activity before reset.

Fisher-Price's senior director of child research, Dr Kathleen Alfano, said children benefited from various stimulating experiences, and exposure to media was the norm for many families.

- APNZ

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