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Why Screen Time for Babies Isn't a No-No June 30 2016, 0 Comments

Years and years ago—decades, almost—I came up with an idea: a “video board book.” That’s what I called it. Later, it came to be known as Baby Einstein.

The idea was really simple. The same images that I showed my baby in a book could be shared on our television, and even include a few bonuses. Natural motion. Engaging sounds. Beautiful music. We could watch together, baby in my lap as I pointed to stuff on the screen and talked about it, just like I did when we looked at board books. Another bonus: she couldn’t chew the corners off the TV.

This notion, it turned out, was controversial.

The ‘no screen time for children under two’ debate started about 10 years after Baby Einstein’s incarnation and still rages today, more than 200 million smartphones later, and long after I’d sold the company to Disney. If I’d had the opportunity to defend my ‘baby,’ I would have said this:

Sixty-five percent of people are visual learners, which means just what it sounds like. We learn by watching. According to research, we’re much more likely to remember things, particularly long-term, when we see them.

When you’re looking at a book with your wee one, the images in that book are captured and stored inside that ever-growing brain. The same is true if you’re looking at a screen together. What makes one medium better than the other? Well, as a former English teacher, I love nothing more than reading great books. I spent an inordinate amount of time with my children and a doctor named Seuss. But I would argue that, in fact, a screen can offer experiences that are positively unique (which is not to say better) to those offered by books. Think about the sounds that a video offers: for example, does a rooster actually say, “Cock-a-doodle-doo?” Or is it more of a crazy cackling sort of noise, impossible to make (unless you’re a rooster, of course).

Consider motion: do most tiny children have the opportunity to visit a coral reef and witness fish gliding through fields of swaying anemones? What could possibly make a picture in a book come alive the way it does on an iPad screen?

It turns out, in fact, that the issue of screens for babies and toddlers is more about how they’re used, and the quality of the content on them, than about the screens themselves. So let’s talk content.

Your baby comes to you as a blank piece of paper, and you can scribble all over that paper with messy ink, or fill it with Monet’s watercolors. The weeSchool videos are bursting with the very best audio and visual content that exists, hands down. Shot in high definition, the animals in our MacDonald’s Farm video literally look as if they’re ready to hop over the fence and nuzzle your hand. The music that accompanies the images has been perfectly crafted by William Weisbach, an award-winning artist who specializes in making music and sound effects for wee ones. The roosters sound like…roosters.

All of our visual learning is fun not only for babies, but for parents, too. Promise. Because at weeSchool, we believe that the most kick-ass application for your kiddo is actually you. The technology is simply one of many tools that weeSchool provides. We recommend co-viewing of videos between child and caregiver, but I’m going to share a little secret with you -- sometimes little kids need down time, just like you. So if you feel guilty about allowing your under-two-child to enjoy one of our videos while you jump in the shower or answer a phone call (or maybe just have a morning cup of coffee), stop it. Immediately. Let’s choose positive play over guilt – it makes us much better parents, which in turn makes for much happier babies. 

We all need time to chill out, and wee ones most of all. Imagine a world where every single thing is new, as if you landed on an alien planet. It’s exhausting. Our children emerged from mama bellies having never even seen light before, let alone a dog or a tree or a human face. It’s one of the reasons they need so much sleep. Is it really so difficult to imagine that they might, sometimes, just want to relax with a favorite, beautiful weeSchool video?

Welcome to the 21st century, where all of us learn from things we see, hear, and experience. Every single day.

Julie Clark is the CEO of weeSchool.

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