Nov 28, 2011  •  In Baby, Funny, Gadgets, Geek, Guest Posts, Parenting

Guest Post: iPhones for Babies

In this day and age, I honestly do not know a family (in real life, not ones I only know through the internet) who never lets their babies play with their touchscreen phones or tablets. In fact, the Nabi Tablet — the first Android tablet that is designed for kids — is currently at the top of my Amazon Wishlist!

In this guest post, Mrs. Zhukeeper (hilariously) gives us a run-down of popular accessories to keep your iPhone baby-proof, as well as a very good reason why the iPhone, iPad, and other similar devices may be GOOD for both you and your child. Enjoy!

Last year, at my cousin’s sixth birthday party, his parents gave him…an iPhone. At first, we thought it was pretty ridiculous, but then we found out that it was his father’s deactivated old phone, which was just sitting around since he’d bought a new one. And now that I have a one year old, my first thought has changed from “Really?? A six year old needs an iPhone?” to “Wow, I can’t believe they didn’t give him one until he was SIX!”

The Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Apptivity Case — pretty sure my son would chew
on this whether or not anything was inside

Which is to say, babies LOVE LOVE LOVE iPhones, or any touch screen device, or, well, anything with buttons. This is clear from the new rash of products designed to enable you to allow your baby to play with the iPhone without messing it up, by blocking the home button so the baby can’t close out the current app, protecting the screen with a plastic cover, and/or making the phone easier to hold or chew on.

A few of the options on the market now are:

  • The Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Apptivity Case — has grippy handles & rattle attachments for teething, as well as protecting the screen & blocking the home button
  • The Woogie — a stuffed animal thing with bendable legs & a cover that protects the screen
  • The BubCap — simply covers the home button to prevent the baby from accidentally closing out the current baby-approved app, while allowing a (stronger) adult to still push the button (so it doesn’t have to be taken on and off, unlike the other options)

The BubCap — which I’ve heard other moms rave about

All of which begs the question, should we be handing over our iPhones to our babies?  Cracked recently ridiculed the Woogie in its Twelve Great Parenting Products for Traumatizing Your Baby, saying:

As most moms today will gladly tell you, one of the best ways to shut your kid up is to hand her your iPhone. Kids LOVE those things. Unfortunately, iPhones don’t come cheap, nor do they work so well after being sucked, bitten, smeared with grape jelly and farted on repeatedly, which is what we presume happens every time you hand an iPhone to a kid.

Admittedly, the Woogie is pretty ridiculous looking

Enter the Woogie, half stuffed animal, half protective pouch, all electronic babysitter. Your iPhone fits snugly inside, safe and sound, and there’s a screen protector to keep sticky little fingers off. And, if your little princess is too young to hold it herself, the Woogie’s legs will prop it up. Balance it in her lap, put Sesame Street or some shit on there and grab a few precious moments to go out and get a latte or whatever.

Never mind the haters who suggest you might be introducing gadgets at too young an age or should be actually interacting with your child. They’re probably just jealous that your iPhone does a better job of parenting than they do. Idiots.

However, in the midst of such products as a bite counter and a tube to help boys learn how to aim when they pee, there are a few less ridiculous products mixed in. In fact, an earlier article on the same theme ridicules the much beloved NoseFrida, which makes it pretty clear that the Cracked authors couldn’t be parents themselves. Sure, using your mouth to suck snot out of your babies nose through a tube doesn’t sound like a good idea, but thousands of parents swear by it.

Okay, yes, this one is just crazy

Likewise, a lot of parents I know would vehemently disagree with Cracked‘s take on iPhone toys for babies. The number one reason for this is what I call The Break. As anyone who has ever spent any substantial amount of time alone with a baby could tell you, it is extremely physically and emotionally draining — even when you’re having a wonderful time! What I finally realized not too long after my son was born is that if you make a few minutes for a Break when you start, um, going crazy, then everyone is 1000000x happier. So maybe grabbing “a few precious moments to go out & get a latte or whatever” isn’t something we should be mocking so much as saying “YES!! TAKE A MINUTE TO YOURSELF ON OCCASION!!!”

Parenting can make you do crazy things

Like, well, pretty much everything in life, tools such as iPad baby apps should obviously be used in moderation, but for the life of me I cannot come up with a single argument against letting your baby play with an educational app for 5 minutes once or twice a day. Sure, a reliance on electronic toys or television could inhibit a child’s imagination, creativity, and/or attention span, but…seriously? Five minutes? And that’s all it really takes (usually) for a parent to breathe and reset and get back in the game.

My son enjoying Peekaboo Barn on the iPad

Obviously it’s bad to leave a baby alone with an iPhone for hours, or alone in front of a TV for hours, but you know what? It’s also bad to leave a baby alone with an extremely safe educational toy for hours! Point is: it’s a BABY! Babies require supervision! So if I’m desperately in need of 5 minutes to clear my head, sue me if I’d rather take that mental break while my son happily plays with an educational app in my lap instead of leaving him alone in his crib to cry. Parents have to take breaks sometimes, and this seems like as good or better a way to do it as far as I can see. Plus, super handy at a restaurant or on a plane or when I’m on the phone to keep him quiet! But again — in moderation.

So as far as I’m concerned, order whatever you want to make you feel more comfortable about handing over that iPhone, take a Break — and get a latte, why not?! — and interact with baby again in a few minutes. Your baby might need a Break from YOU too!

Mmmmmmm latte

Disclaimer: I was not paid to review any of these products and have in fact never used any of them! But I do let my son play on my iPhone & iPad…

About the Author:

Ms. Zhukeeper blogs about her 1 year old son, cat, husband, and whatever else strikes her fancy over at The Zhukeepers. Currently a stay at home mom, she and her family have just purchased their first home and made the move from New York City to Philadelphia.

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17 Responses to “Guest Post: iPhones for Babies”

  1. Amber says:

    I just can’t get behind the nosefrieda, even though I know it’s like, the best thing ever. I just can’t. Piper spent sooo long on my blackberry before I got my android galaxy and now that I have a touch screen, oh my goodness it’s impossible for her to hold it. Sometimes I just open it up to words with friends or a picture because I know she can’t do too much damage. 🙂

  2. Eve says:

    My cousin has two-year old twins and until I visited them this summer, they were never allowed to play with touch screens. They don’t even watch TV! Hah, I don’t think my cousin was too pleased with me letting them take photos with my iPhone.

  3. MrsW says:

    My husband is very against mixing babies and handheld technology, but I have been teaching my almost two year old to look at the photo section of Daddy’s iPod Touch (it’s almost all pictures of her). She begs me to “look at baby” whenever it’s out, and I don’t think there’s much wrong with that. I’ll also sit her on my lap and let her watch a Barnes & Noble or National Geographic video (thank you wide monitor and snap side-by-side windows) while I’m writing or web surfing.

    I think the whole “take a break” idea needs to be de-taboo’ed (don’t think that’s a word) in our culture. It is ok and even the best thing you can do for your baby to take a break when the Crazy is coming on, for whatever reason. Much better to step away for that five minutes than to do something you’d regret.

  4. Lady Rose says:

    I can’t say that I agree. I know several parents in the real world who don’t allow their children to interact with electronic media. I believe current recommendations are that children under the age of 2 shouldn’t spend any time in front of a tv, computer, iPad, etc.

    As for taking a break, babies generally provide you with time for a couple breaks in the day during naps and once you have trained them to spend even short amounts of time engaging in independent play. If you have an extremely high-needs baby or are balancing the demands of several children I think the time for a break comes once everyone is asleep for the night.

    I’m not saying parents shouldn’t get any “me” time, merely that choosing to be a parent means choosing a particular life. It means no sick days, no lunch breaks, etc. It’s a very demanding job (at least in the short term) but it’s a job parents have chosen to do. The next choice is whether you will do a good job at your job of raising children.

    • I know for a fact that Mrs. Zhukeeper is well-aware of all the responsibilities that come along with parenting when you say that it is a full-time job with no sick days or lunch breaks. But I have to disagree with you when you imply that she — and anyone else who lets their kids watch TV or play with their phones or tablets IN MODERATION — is not doing a good job raising her son. Like MrsW clarifies below, the type of break that she, Mrs. Zhukeeper, and I need is not the type that can be relegated. If we would rather let our babies play with our phones or iPads for 5 minutes than leave them alone to cry hysterically for that same amount of time (because that’s when we most need our breaks), I don’t think that puts us in the bad parent camp, especially when we do our best to engage and interact the rest of the time.

      Once again, it’s all in moderation. To say that even the smallest amount of screentime is harmful and that babies should never should watch TV is one of those ridiculously exaggerated recommendations really aimed at people who leave the TV on as a babysitter and fail to interact and engage with their babies.

      • Lady Rose says:

        Hmmm, I just think about what parents did before TV’s, iPhones, etc. Humans have been raising children for thousands of years, most of those without modern technological devices.

        I’m well aware of how taboo it is to disagree with a modern parent’s “right” to put their child in front of a TV (because, of course, everything is okay if it’s in moderation and 5 minutes a day has no chance of ever becoming more, right?). I’m also aware that it’s equally frowned upon to critique another person’s parenting. Of course when you put your opinions up on the internet you open yourself up to hearing other people say they don’t agree with you.

        So, to me, using TV’s, iPhones, etc smacks of laziness. Are these really the only things that can occupy your child for 5 minutes while you get a coffee or whatever? There have got to be other things more beneficial for your child than interacting with electronic devices, which as you all know are not recommended for children under 2.

        And I think that product marketers are partly to blame here. They label their products as “educational” so that parents think it’s okay or even beneficial to allow their children to use them. It’s just not true. Those Baby Einstein DVD’s that parents are crazy about? They have been shown to hamper a child’s language acquisition, not improve it.

        • We are also one of the first generations to stray from the extended family style of living to small nuclear families. It really did take a village to raise a child, and women had A LOT more help from family members and neighbors before. If you are your child’s sole caretaker and are able to raise him/her completely TV/phone/tablet-free, kudos to you. But I don’t think anyone should be made to feel worse for using what is now readily available to us — just like many other things that makes life easier now — to give ourselves a break every now and then.

          There was a piece on Slate recently arguing in favor of rethinking the screen time recommendations. The author analyzed the available research and concluded that much like drinking during pregnancy, the recommendations were based on research about excessive screen time, and there was no data on how moderate screen time affects kids. Research also shows that fast-paced shows like SpongeBob have a significant effect on kids’ ability to pay attention whereas slow-paced shows like Sesame Street do not. As such, these recommendations fail to account for the huge differences among the programming that is available. Likewise, they have ignored the difference between TV and computers/smartphone apps.

          Yes, kids need to interact with the spatial world, but that doesn’t mean there’s no place for computer-assisted learning. And this is the world we live in — where is the acknowledgment that kids who grow up without exposure to computers are going to be way behind their peers?

          • Lady Rose says:

            I think there’s a time and place for everything though. I’m not suggesting that children should never interact with TV, etc. I certainly grew up watching television and didn’t turn out to be a horrible freak. But I do think there is a distinction for babies. Under the age of 2 the brain is so fragile and doing so much we don’t fully understand. Why would we want to mess with something that their really isn’t adequate research about. Wouldn’t it be better to be safer than sorry? I think there’s probably adequate time after the age of 2 to familiarize children with computers.

            I guess I do see a problem with the idea of parents not being made to feel worse for entertaining their children in ways that many developmental psychologists feel hampers their neural development. I don’t know if it’s just our generation but it seems like we’re very quick to jump to defend our “right” to parent our children however we want. Just because something is readily available doesn’t mean that a parent should feel good about using it or that it is justified somehow.

            Part of having children is getting over that selfishness that so many of us suffer from in our youth. In the early years certainly, having children is about sacrifice and working hard to ensure you are providing the best possible environment for your child.

            But we can just agree to disagree. And likely only time will tell what the impact will be on this generation of babies who are spending more time interacting with computers from infancy.

            • I personally think that what you do with your child in the majority of the time is far more important and plays a much bigger role than whether he/she watches 5-10 mins of TV a day, or if they get that much time with a touchscreen phone or tablet. Perhaps one day there will be a comprehensive study on how moderate use of these devices affect development, but at the time being there isn’t.

              All I know is that every single parent I know who allows TV or touchscreen devices only does so sparingly and never uses them as a babysitter. They research which shows/apps are the best, but at the same time are well aware that it could never replace human-to-human interactive learning. And right now, Claire, at the age of almost-14-months, already knows 3 letters of the alphabet (not only on screen but on real-world objects as well) and every other kid I know whose parents allow very moderate screentime are bright and well-adjusted.

              So I guess you can call us selfish for wanting these little breaks for ourselves…but in my mind, a happier parent makes for happier children. And in that regard, we can agree to disagree.

              • Lady Rose says:

                I think the point I was trying to make was about the supposed 5-10 minutes a day speaking to a broader issue/approach to parenthood. Perhaps I didn’t do a very good job of that.

                I am glad for you that you only know great parents with bright, well-adjusted kids. I hope they all go on to develop to the fullest of their potential.

                I feel like you twisted my words or intentions a bit so that you could have a zingy closing line but if that makes you a happier person I am happy to provide the opportunity for that small satisfaction.

            • (Replying to your earlier post since there are no deeper replies allowed and I’m too lazy to go change the settings and the CSS…)

              What type of general approach to parenthood do you mean? I’m honestly not trying to be hostile, but from what you wrote — things like “The next choice is whether you will do a good job at your job of raising children” and “using TV’s, iPhones, etc smacks of laziness” — it certainly seems like you’re attacking ANYONE who gives their children screentime, 5 minutes or hours at a time.

              We all want to be the best parents that we can. If that means no screentime for your kids and moderate screentime for mine, that’s fine. I just don’t think that we should go around judging others for choices that clearly makes the family AS A WHOLE happier, when there is no solid proof that you’re doing the child harm. And like I said, we can just agree to disagree, and I’m perfectly fine with that, as I am with myriads of other potentially controversial parenting choices because I know that what works for one family does not always work for another.

              • Lady Rose says:

                Well, I’m definitely saying that my opinion is no screen time. I do recognize the difference between 5 minutes and 5 hours, but I also see the slippery slope and have watched many parents slide right down it.

                The approach to parenthood I’m talking about is doing what is easy instead of what is best. Here is where we have our fundamental difference because you don’t think there is anything wrong with screentime, you feel that it is an equally valuable use of your child’s time as, say, playing with stacking cups. I think this is where you’re coming from, but I realize I’m putting words in your mouth here.

                What I’m saying is that I can think of a dozen things to better engage my baby than a screen. Now, I might have to do more planning and organization to make sure I have those kinds of activities available when mommy needs a sanity break but I feel that’s my job as a mommy. To think ahead to those times rather than reach for the easy solution at crunch time.

                Maybe I’m not sure where the line is between disagreeing with another person’s choice and “judging” another person. If your opinion is in direct contravention to my opinion do I not judge you to be wrong? I guess in a perfect world I would have a live and let live attitude…but clearly I do not! 🙂

                So, for me, I equate the easy solution (in this case TV or what have you) with laziness. I realize that may seem a bit rude and perhaps I should have just said that in my inside voice but that is honestly what I think. But perhaps not the most productive way to have a conversation, especially on the internet where there are no moderators to my statements (like my tone of voice, facial expression, etc).

                I find it difficult to “debate” in comments sections and perhaps the debate is useless anyways. All it seems to do is polarize people to the extreme ends of their arguments. I mean, does anyone actually change their opinion after an internet debate??

            • I’m sorry, but when you call another parent’s style of parenting “lazy” that comes off as awfully judgmental, not just a disagreement. Sure it’s true that through the internet I don’t know your tone, your facial expression, etc but you can’t use a word like that and expect the person at the receiving end not to feel judged.

              Yes, I have various “stations” set up around our home to entertain and play with our children without their getting bored. Yes we have a bazillion books and toys which all get rotated and used very much. But at the same time, we also let the kid play with my old touchscreen phone, or watch TV for very limited periods. So call me lazy if you will, but I do not think I am, nor does my husband, the rest of my family, or anyone else who actually knows me and sees me with my kids.

              And yes, you’re right that no one ever gets persuaded through an internet debate. That’s why I posted this, not too long ago:

  5. MrsW says:

    Lady Rose, I know you’re not addressing me directly but I wanted to clarify what I meant by “take a break” in my comment. My idea of “take a break” in the midst of baby-caring is ideally handing the child off to daddy/auntie/grandma or another trusted adult, and saying, “I’m about to go crazy, so I’m going to the bathroom and I may do a couple of numbers in a Sudoku puzzle. See you in 5 minutes.” That’s not the kind of break that you can relegate into naptime or after bedtime. Those long breaks are nice and are missed when they aren’t had, but I meant more of a sanity keeping break than a productivity break.

    • Lady Rose says:

      I do hear what you’re saying MrsW. I know that babies can be extremely challenging and, of course, you can’t schedule those sanity breaks. But I think that one strategy to address that is to use part of those nap times/bed times, etc as “you” time. It’s easy to fall into the trap of using baby’s rest times to do chores, cook, whatever. While I think stay-at-home moms have a responsibility to keep the household ticking I think that breaks are absolutely a necessity and should take priority over dusting or laundry or whatever.

      One way to avoid the meltdown when baby has driven you up the wall is to ensure that you’ve had even a small amount of downtime in your day. Also, chocolate. Chocolate always helps. 🙂

  6. Lindsey says:

    I think one important thing I’ve learned in my 8 months of parenting (sooo long, I know!) is to be very very careful about what I say will ABSOLUTELY do or NEVER do…it’s just too easy to end up eating my words. I also believe that a happy parent makes a better parent that a stressed one, so if letting your baby watch the Wiggles for 2 minutes and 30 seconds buys you some time to cool off, then I say that’s better than mom AND baby having a meltdown.

    I recently got an iPhone and an iPad and occasionally we do let our daughter play Peekaboo Barn or watch a Wiggles video on Youtube, but we’re always with her singing along or making the animal sounds. We were actually considering the Fisher Price Apptivity case for a loooong (multi-day) road trip that we have coming up, but we haven’t bitten the bullet yet.

  7. Yes to the Break!!! We have a kid who is NEVER content to play by herself — she demands adult interaction at every moment that she’s awake (and half the time can’t sleep without snuggles), so if TV and iPad work to give us all some breathing room, then TV and iPad it is. It’s also the only way we make it through long plane flights, car rides, and train trips.

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