What Does the Fisher-Price Apptivity Seat Say About Us?

Morning talk shows, online news feeds, and Twitter are abuzz this week about the “Fisher-Price Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity™ Seat for iPad® device,” which is, though you may or may not guess from its name, an infant bouncy seat with an iPad case attached.

The Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood has started a petition for Fisher-Price to recall this product. Here’s part of that petition:

It’s troubling enough when companies promote screen time for babies – the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages any screen time for children under two. But this product is clearly designed to occupy infants alone and free parents up from interacting with them. Placing an iPad directly above baby’s face blocks his or her view of the rest of the world. And to make matters even worse, Fisher-Price is marketing the Apptivity Seat — and claiming it’s educational — for newborns.

At last check, more than 8,000 people had signed the petition in just a few short days, rallying around the sentiment “Laps Not Apps.”

I have a problem with Fisher-Price’s entire line of Apptivity products (see my previous post on kids and tech). But between the AAP’s recommendations on zero-screen time for children under two and the inherent parental neglect encouraged by this product, the recalling of this particular Apptivity product is urgent.

However, there’s something that bothers me more than the product itself. It’s the idea behind it, and, as much as I’d like to blame some executive at Fisher-Price, the truth is that this idea was birthed from all of us.

It’s our hands that are in constant contact with our smartphones. Our faces, aglow from screens. Our view of the world, blocked. We’ve convinced ourselves that tech’s apps and devices are not only benign to us (and our babies), they are for our betterment.

The iPad seat, as ridiculous and stupid as it is, is only a symptom of this cultural overvaluing of tech. The problem is not the product. The problem is the disregard we as a community have for our youngest and most vulnerable when we use our love of tech to create products like this.

It’s our cultural values that have made a product like the iPad bouncy seat a reality, and it’s those values that truly need a recall.

“How infants are regarded and treated by their caregivers and their community becomes what they absorb as possibility or constraint in forming
a sense of self in the world.”  
Raffi, Lightweb Darkweb

*****

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