Babies, Toddlers, and Technology. Oh my!

When I was in college, I took all of the developmental psychology courses. Why? Because learning about the various life stages has always fascinated me.

At the time, I found it odd when I read how famous psychologists like Piaget conducted research on their own children! Now that I’m the parent of a toddler, it makes more sense. With that in mind, I want to talk about technology and babies using my own observations as a stay-at-home dad in addition to insights gained from Deviced! Balancing Life and Technology in a Digital World, by Doreen Dodgen-Magee.

What the research says.

  • We, as a culture, have gotten too comfortable leaving kids to their own devices (pun intended).
  • Children’s toys are becoming more and more screen, device, and app-based. As a result, kids are reaching for screens more than the traditional analog toys that many of us grew up with.
  • Devices have become a pacifier, training our youth to zone out.
  • The attention spans of children are on the decline.
  • Excessive device use in children reduces creativity and imagination.
  • Once a young person grows accustomed to a certain frequency, intensity, and duration of screen stimulation, it’s difficult (but not impossible) to go back to a tech-free/low-tech lifestyle.

What I’ve learned from real life.

As a one-TV household, my daughter, Mya Jayn (almost 2 years old) has become a pro at self-directed play. This is a blessing, as I run my therapy practice remotely from home while tending to her throughout the day.


I noticed a shift earlier this year after we purchased a Kindle to keep MJ entertained on road trips and while dining at restaurants. Any parent who has ever dealt with a screaming toddler and the subsequent dirty looks from other restaurant patrons knows exactly what I mean.

What began as occasional screen time gradually morphed into my turning on Peppa Pig whenever I needed to do chores around the house or record a podcast episode. The result?

She completely ignores all her toys when Peppa Pig is on…

It’s also worth mentioning that MJ will be an only child. With COVID, there aren’t too many opportunities for her to interact with other children. I share this tidbit because I sometimes think of Peppa Pig and George as friends, though MJ shows no signs of loneliness.

I say all of that to say, putting our kids on autopilot is convenient; however, when we consider the aforementioned research, doing this too often can be to our kids’ detriment. While I don’t believe technology is all bad for young people, I can’t shake the following observations of MJ since we introduced tech:

  • She drops everything when she is within reach of a smartphone.
  • She knows how to grab the remote, turn on the TV, navigate to Netflix, and start a show. She’s not even two yet…
  • Her energy and imagination dull when a screen is on.
  • And I won’t even get into the tantrums that happen when you take a screen away…
    • Sidenote: These tantrums happen when you take tech from teenagers too… I hear about it all the time from my clients and their parents.

Bottom line: I don’t like when my sweet MJ turns into a zombie around a screen and the literature is clear about the pitfalls of unregulated screen time.

What can we do about this?

  • Parents can model healthy screen habits for their children.
    • Since I’m limiting Mya Jayn to one hour of screen time a day, I am trying to be mindful of how much screen-based work and leisure she witnesses me doing.
  • Provide kids with rich sensorimotor activities and toys.
  • Schedule face-to-face connections (Facetime doesn’t count); for example, play dates and board games.
  • Real-life tip: MJ does very well with listening to an audiobook while playing with her toys. I consider it a hybrid between analog and technology.
    • If you need a recommendation, MJ loves Gingerella, by Dina Gregory. It’s free on Audible (paid links.)


For more information on how technology impacts development and functioning, check out my recent post about Doreen Dodgen-Magee’s other book here.

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Source: Deviced! Balancing Life and Technology in a Digital World, by Doreen Dodgen-Magee.


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4 thoughts on “Babies, Toddlers, and Technology. Oh my!”

  1. Ashley Peterson says:

    It’s a little scary that she picked up on how to use Netflix so quickly!

    1. Right!? Thanks for reading!

  2. Keisha Rock says:

    This blog post was something I’ve been thinking about as a newish parent. KJ already grabs for our phones and loves to swipe stories and TikTok. I want to get him his own tablet for Christmas but have had concerns over if it’s the “right” thing. I love that you’ve been able to do it with balance. This was such a helpful post. Thanks Johnzelle!

    1. Hey, Keisha! Thanks so much for reading and I’m so glad you found it helpful! ~Johnzelle

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