Cyber Babies: The Impact of Emerging Technology on the Developing Infant (Haughton, Aiken et al, 2015)

Technology is now ubiquitous with almost 3.2 billion people of the world’s current population online (International Telecommunications Union, 2015). Whilst technology offers opportunities for education and entertainment, its impact on vulnerable populations such as the developing infant requires specific, careful consideration. Fourteen percent of infants (aged 6 to 23 months) watch at least two hours of media per day and one third of children under 3 have a television (TV) in their bedroom (Zimmerman, Christakis, & Meltzoff, 2007a). Twenty-five percent of 3-year-olds go online daily (Bernstein & Levine, 2011) and 28% of 3 to 4-year-olds now use tablet computers (Ofcom, 2014). Children are growing up with a digital foundation, they are interacting with and immersed in cyberspace where they learn, entertain themselves and play. During the first three years of life, the brain creates some 700 new neural connections every second. Synapse formation for key developmental functions such as hearing, language and cognition peak during this time, creating a critical foundation for higher-level functions (Zero to Three, 2015). Very young children are becoming experts at using technology and are true digital natives. Yet what long-term effects will this early exposure have from a developmental perspective? Researchers are now questioning how interactive media may affect children both mentally and physically (American Academy of Paediatrics, 2011; Radesky, Schumacher, & Zuckerman, 2014)