The Progressive


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For Immediate Release

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CFCC to AT&T: One Screen for Babies is Bad Enough

Advocates urge end to app that encourages infants & toddlers to use tablet while watching TV


Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is demanding that AT&T end its partnership with BabyFirst to promote the first-ever "second screen" experience for babies. The new BabyFirstTV U-verse app encourages infants and toddlers to use an iPad while watching TV. While AT&T heralds the app as "an exciting step in children's programming," experts in infant learning and development, already concerned about screen time for infants, believe it's a worrisome escalation.

"Few things could be less beneficial to babies than the multitasking distraction and screen-mediated experience of the BabyFirstTV and AT&T partnership," said Dr. Jim Taylor, author of Raising Generation Tech: Prepare Your Children for a Media-Fueled World. "For healthy brain development, young children benefit from singularly focused activities and 3-D, multisensory interaction with their world. If truth in advertising existed, this new technology would be called $$FirstTV. It has everything to do with money and nothing to do with what is healthiest for babies."

Babies using the app can "draw" on tablets or smart phones and then see the images appear on TVs tuned to BabyFirstTV on the U-verse system. One of the app's features allows babies to see their drawings as an overlay to regular BabyFirstTV programming.

"It's bad enough that BabyFirst hooks babies on television by deceiving parents with false messages that its programming is educational," said CCFC's Dr. Susan Linn, "But the BabyFirst U-verse app is a new low. When there's no evidence that even one screen benefits babies, marketing a second one is unconscionable."

Currently, the app's second-screen function is only available to AT&T's U-verse subscribers. But BabyFirst is already in discussion with other TV and High Speed Internet providers and the company is developing a whole line of "second screen engagement tools."

"Our best evidence says that exposing babies under the age of two years to one screen is not a good idea - exposing them simultaneously to two screens is even worse," said Pediatrician Victor Strasburger, Distinguished Professor of Pediatrics at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. "Babies don't learn from screens - they learn from real live people, especially their parents. All available research points to the need for parents to read and interact with their babies." The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for babies and toddlers.

"Studies show that multi-tasking actually impedes learning, diminishing our ability to absorb and remember information and compromising the quality of our efforts," said Dr. Catherine Steiner Adair, author of The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age. "And everything we know about how babies learn suggests that they have not yet developed the concepts of time, space and consequences enough even to grasp the link between what's on their tablet and what's on their television screen."

Fairplay, formerly known as Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, educates the public about commercialism's impact on kids' wellbeing and advocates for the end of child-targeted marketing. Fairplay organizes parents to hold corporations accountable for their marketing practices, advocates for policies to protect kids, and works with parents and professionals to reduce children's screen time.