There’s no shortage of useless gadgets invented every year. Take, for example, the Shoe-brellaTM, which has to be a Top 10 Most Useless Gadget ever created. Here, a miniature umbrella, clipped to your ankles, hovers over your shoes to prevent rain from making contact. Or, take the Hoverbrella, a drone-operated umbrella that hovers over you as you walk. Whether it’s the Bluetooth Toaster, the USB Pet Rock, or the Banana Phone, these curiosities are innocuous novelties—albeit a waste of money. Then there’s the cheeky Diapertainment gadget, noted and applauded by Forbes, Business Insider and TODAY.
At $19.99, this overpriced piece of plastic mounts to the wall adjacent to your baby changing station. It’s designed to hold your cellphone perfectly angled to hypnotize rambunctious babies with, according to their website, “your baby’s favorite shows, videos, or apps, and let the power of hands-free distraction do the rest.” Wait—babies have “favorite shows”? The gizmo promises to help weary parents “Get your baby changed faster—without the mess or wrestling.” As such, Diapertainment’s slogan is “Entertainment for Containment” [emphasis added].
That’s wrong on so many levels.
First, how long is a diaper change? As a father of four kids, I’ve been there. Done that. Most of the time, my average diaper change was three to four minutes tops—and my wife was even faster. It’d take more time to mount a phone into the Diapertainment device and scroll to an appropriate video than to change the diaper.
If one of our babies started to throw a fit, we’d use cooing, kisses, making funny faces and playing games like “Where’s the diaper?” My kids would point to and giggle at the Huggies perched on my head. Rather than zombify our children with a $1,000 electronic pacifier mounted on the wall so we could “get through” the task, their parents provided the entertainment and, in turn, gave us an opportunity to bond together.
Secondly, there are far worse things than dealing with a baby’s tantrum on the changing table. The well-documented adverse effects of video viewing upon early childhood development should be enough to toss this device into the diaper pail. Back in 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics was so concerned about damaging brain development and increasing the risk of suffering from attention deficit disorder (ADD), they recommended ZERO television viewing until age two.
You might want to read that again.
In 2016, the AAP amended their previous guidelines, advising: “For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting.” That’s to accommodate interfamily interaction with a loved one who doesn’t live in the home. More recently, in 2019, the World Health Organization issued their screen time guidelines for infants: ZERO for infants and toddlers until age two. See a pattern here?
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is deeply concerned about the “increased screen time in young children” because it’s “associated to negative health outcomes such as decreased cognitive ability, impaired language development, mood, and autistic-like behavior including hyperactivity, short attention span, and irritability.” They further document that “Early exposure to screen can cause neurochemical and anatomical brain changes.” Countless child psychiatrists and mental health professionals have written extensively about how screen-time damages developing nervous systems and offer to advise how to minimize the harm (read more here, here, here, and here).
These findings beg an uncomfortable question: Are parents who regularly use “entertainment for containment” engaging in a form of child abuse? Should we be concerned that a reported “92.2 percent of 1-year-olds have already used a mobile device” and some started at four months of age?
That’s a sobering thought. If you or I knowingly did something to our children that caused “negative health outcomes,” including “decreased cognitive ability, impaired language development, mood, and autistic-like behavior including hyperactivity, short attention span, and irritability,” wouldn’t that qualify as a form of child abuse? That’s what a 2018 study conducted by Intractable & Rare Diseases Research found regarding increased screen time by children under age two.
The well-meaning folks who created the Diapertainment gadget did so “when changing our toddler’s diapers became impossible.” Their rash of good intentions to help other harried parents flies in the face of the science and doesn’t sit well with everyone. One reviewer on Amazon.com chafed, “As if our children are not addicted to phones already, now someone has made a product to get them hooked on them right out of the womb!! ... Don’t stick a phone in their face and ignore them. You’re already going to do that in a few years.”
There are plenty of fans, on the other hand. One mom praised the product, saying, “This is the best baby gadget I’ve seen!! Got one for our diaper station, but now want to add to several places around the house where I need my squirmy toddler to hold still (high chair, potty, etc.). Will buy more for my house and also buy this as a gift for friends!!” Hopefully, her friends will have the good sense to dispense with this zombifying gadget. Alas, if she plasters the device throughout her house, her poor baby won’t have a fighting chance of developing a healthy mind during those critically important first two years—that’s when her newborn’s brain will triple in size.
Sadly, in 2003, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that 68 percent of kids under two years of age were glued to a screen—and, worse, an “average baby spends two hours a day (about one-sixth of his waking hours) watching a screen, more time than he spends reading or being read to.” Perhaps that’s why babies have favorite TV shows?
King Solomon has said, “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from Him” (Psalm 127:3 NLT). When God gives us a gift, that’s something extra special and should be handled with love and care. Why, then, are we quick to take His gift of children and then shut down their healthy brain development and turn them into video veggies? Yes, life is hard, and infants require buckets of actual, hands-on attention. But, any parent possessing the courage and the willpower to click off the usage of screens with their newborn will reap a harvest of dividends once their baby’s imagination and creativity has had a chance to flourish. This is precisely is why video gadgets targeting babies like Diapertainment should be flushed.
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
Photo courtesy: GettyImages/monkeybusinessimages
Bob DeMoss is a New York Times bestselling author of more than 40 books including collaborations with Phil Robertson/Duck Dynasty, Jim Daly/Focus on the Family, Andy Stanley, and Tim LaHaye/Left Behind. His latest short story is "Hazel: The Outlaw Mummy". Visit BobDeMoss.com.