They might be barely able to see 20 centimetres in front of their face, but why should that prevent a baby from enjoying everything an iPad has to offer from the moment they are born?
That's the question toy designers at US Fisher-Price seemed to have asked themselves before coming up with the iPad Newborn to Toddler Apptivity Seat. Or maybe they were just giving it their very best shot at winning the Worst Toy Ever award.
The baby seat, which comes with an inbuilt attachment to clip in your iPad and free apps, is being advertised as putting "play and learning at baby's fingertips".
"Look for apps with black and white images to enhance visual skills, soothing apps with nature scenes, learning apps and more,'' the company says in a marketing blurb on its website.
But here's an idea: how about, instead of plonking your baby in a seat to 'interact' with a screen, you play an old-fashioned game of peek-a-boo with him instead. Or sing 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star' to him. Or take him for a walk to the park. Or just ... play. You know, all those things most parents-to-be look forward to doing in the months leading up to the birth of their baby.
There is no doubt parenting young children is tiring and it is tempting to do whatever is needed to get five minutes to yourself. But strapping a baby into a seat which gives them no option except to stare at a screen seems a bit extreme, and is not going to help with your baby's mental, physical or emotional development. The Fisher-Price baby seat comes after the introduction of the iPotty earlier this year which, as the title suggests, is a potty with room for an iPad screen to keep your little one entertained while they are toilet training.
According to experts, children under two years of age should not have any screen time at all, and for those aged between two and five years, a maximum of one hour per day is recommended. Children who spend too much time in front of screens, whether it be a television, computer, smart phone or tablet, are at greater risk of obesity, and more likely to suffer sleep and health problems. A toddler's development can also be hindered by too much screen time, with time spent on creative play being much more beneficial.
It seems most parents aren't too keen on the idea - despite Amazon listing it as "one of the best gifts for kids in 2013", the product has a rating of only 1.5 stars out of five after being rated 66 times on the site. Granted, it doesn't seem many of the reviewers have actually purchased the item, with most being dubious about the Apptivity Seat from the description alone.
"Don't buy it, tell all your friends not to buy it, and for goodness sake don't give it to a BABY!!" the top review begins, adding, "I am disgusted with Fisher Price and urge Amazon to reconsider carrying this terrible contraption!"
"This just isn't appropriate or good for typically developing newborn-toddler age children," wrote another. "I am always on the lookout for great resources to use with the infants in my care, but I was really surprised and saddened when I saw this, especially being marketed as it is."
Fisher-Price iPad Newborn to Toddler Apptivity seats are retailing for about $190 on several Australian online shopping sites, and US$75 on Amazon. We can only hope that Santa's sanity prevails this Christmas, and that the nation's babies and toddlers spend January taking an active part in their family's holiday festivities, not staring at an iPad screen.