Toymaker Fisher-Price has come out with what it calls the Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity Seat — a bouncy chair for infants with a holder for an iPad — and, predictably, the critics have pounced.
- One group is demanding that Fisher-Price — a unit of El Segundo-based Mattel, Inc. — stop selling the seat immediately.
- A prominent pediatrician is sounding alarms about exposing infants to such electronic devices too early.
- Late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel, meanwhile, has mined the product for jokes.
Fisher-Price promises the $80 seat will “stimulate and engage baby … while protecting your iPad from sticky fingers.”
But the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a Boston-based consumer group, has started an online petition to demand Fisher-Price stop selling the seat.
“It’s literally strapping a kid down and making them watch it,” said Josh Golin, the group's associate director. “It encourages parents to leave babies alone with an iPad before they can even sit up or hold one,” he said. More than 5,000 people have signed the petition.
For its part, Fisher-Price issued a written statement defending the seat as a niche product that is not marketed as having educational value.
"We want to clarify that we do not position the Apptivity Seat, or any of our other infant seats, as educational products for children. It is unfortunate that factual omissions about the product, such as the time-out feature that only allows for 10 minutes of activity with our app before requiring a manual reset, and parent reviews from those who have purchased the product that show strong parent involvement and support, have not been accurately characterized in recent reports," the company said in a statement.
"The Apptivity Seat is a niche product that is only available online. Though we knew the product was not for everyone – we have over a dozen seats from which parents can choose – we wanted to offer it as yet another option for those parents who want ... the added feature of engaging in age-appropriate content with their children," the company said.
That didn't stop late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel from poking fun at the product during his show, "Jimmy Kimmel Live," on Tuesday night.
For pediatrician Ari Brown, the seat is no joke. She is lead author of American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines that recommend that infants shouldn’t be watching iPads or television. Fisher-Price, she said, is clearly putting profits ahead of science.
“I have to say it’s kind of a slap in the face to pediatricians who have really discouraged screen time in kids under the age of 2,” Brown said. “The way the product is designed is for a child who’s not even sitting up yet, which would be a child under 6 months.”
Brown worries about delayed brain development and language skills. She says infants need as much interaction as possible with real-life humans, not screens.
“When manufacturers come out with products that are actually encouraging media use for children in this age group, this says they really just care about consumerism, not child development," said Brown.
Victor Strasburger, professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, agrees that the Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity Seat is troubling.
“I’m not sure I could come up with a worse idea for a baby toy,” Strasburger said. “It starts a habit that is not healthy.”