New report: No electronics for children under 5 years old

(WHAM photo)

Pittsford, N.Y. - This year, parents may want to rethink Christmas gifts for their small children this holiday season.

The report by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that electronic toys and games don't offer the educational value or learning as promoted. It claims there's no evidence of that.

The study also states the possible benefits of screen time and digital apps aren't proven to match those of active, creative and hands-on activities.

“So when children are doing electronic things, they’re not interacting at all," said Dr. Melanie Conolly, Rochester Regional Health. "They’re just watching; they’re just absorbing.”

The report recommends babies 15 months old and under should not use an electronic toy at all. For children between the ages 15 months and five years of age, gaming and screen time should be limited to an hour per day or less.

Dr. Conolly says spending more time than that in front of a screen, “decreases socialization, decreases concentration, (causes) overstimulation and maybe irritability," Dr. Conolly said.

She suggests traditional toys such as dolls, trucks, blocks and playing dress up for younger kids - nothing with battery in it.

"They’re really interacting with their environment, other children or their parents," said Dr. Conolly.

Rebecca Catalfamo said she tries to limit electronics with her children, including her four-year-old son.

“I think, ideally, if you can keep electronics and screens like that away from your child, that’s great," she said. "But I also feel, as a parent, there’s a ton a pressure for my child to behave and be quiet in stores and in certain situations. Finding time to balance that and be on top of that is a challenge for a parent.”

“Toys that require the child to use his imagination to lead to the play and the play value, as opposed to an electronic toy or a toy that requires you to do what it is programmed to do," said Beth Carr, who believes in children having traditional toys. "If the child doesn’t learn to instruct his own play I think it interferes with ability to learn.”

Although Catalfamo somewhat agrees, she said there are educational opportunities with electronics for your son.

“There are learning opportunities through that for sure," she said. "We’re going in the direction of technology everywhere, including little children. That is going to be his future and the world that he lives in. So exposure to it, at an early age, it’s hard not to. It’s everywhere you go.”

Dr. Conolly said there's no hard and fast rule with electronics. So if you're traveling a distance and want the kids to use a tablet, that's fine. It should not happen every day.

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