iPad Baby Seat: Bad Parenting or Sign of the Times?

The baby seat with an iPad holder feature has moms up in arms.

ByABC News
December 5, 2013, 1:01 PM
The Fisher-Price Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity Seat, for use with iPads.
The Fisher-Price Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity Seat, for use with iPads.

Dec. 6, 2013— -- It's likely you've seen a child that's too young to speak in complete sentences operating his mom's iPhone better than, well, his mom.

But what about a product that's geared specifically toward babies -- like an infant seat -- that comes with a iPad holder?

The Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity Seat by Fisher Price is just that. It features, in addition to the iPad holder, bat-at toys on the removable bar and a mirror that reflects the baby's image when the iPad is removed. But it's that iPad holder feature that's got moms up in arms.

"Babies should be entertained by looking around and by their family or caretaker, not a screen," said Libby Conover, mom to two girls ages 4 and 3.

The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees. It recommends screens be avoided for children under 2. "A child's brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens," the website reads.

The description on the Fisher Price web site reads, "Soothing, entertaining and technology all in one great grow-with-me seat for baby! Lock your iPad device inside the case to protect from dribbles and drool." Though the name of the seat is the Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity Seat, the product is found on the baby section of the site.

Jennie Chambers, mom to a two-and-a-half-year-old girl, said, "I can see how it would just be so easy for overtired parents or lazy caregivers to abuse it, plopping child in seat and plugging in a video and hypnotizing baby for hours at a time."

But the free apps that come with the seat purchase aren't exactly episodes of Sponge Bob Square Pants. The youngest apps include soothing sounds and patterns that Fisher-Price claim help develop eye-tracking skills.

Still, it may be a slippery slope. "I think parents need to be really careful here," said Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News chief medical editor and a practicing pediatrician. "A child's brain is going through incredible development and change during those early years. The best thing for a child is extensive interaction with people, hearing voices, seeing faces, physically touching toys. I worry that screens will replace these important human interactions."

And while Chambers told us that she makes a point to limit screen time in her home, that's not necessarily the reality of what's going on inside living rooms across America. A survey by Common Sense Media, a family advocacy organization, found 38 percent of children under the age of 2 have used a mobile device for playing games, watching videos or other media-related purposes.

"We strive to provide thoughtful features and solutions for parents that we've identified through researching their needs," Kathleen Alfano, Ph.D. and senior director of child research at Fisher-Price, told ABC News in a statement. "We know the Apptivity Seat isn't for everyone. We want to give parents options, which is why we have over a dozen infant seats from which they can choose."

And while Alfano said the iPad feature was created for times when parents wanted to use it as another way to stimulate and engage their baby, they certainly don't have to use it.

"If parents don't want to use the iPad, they can remove the device and a mirror will be overhead, or they can remove the bar completely. The choice is theirs," Alfano said.

The seat isn't the only geared-for-babies product with a hi-tech feature. The Apptivity Gym for iPhone and iPod touch Devices features a holder for these devices.

The Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity seat retails for about $80.

Apple could not be reached for comment.