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I have a 6 month old who likes to stare at my glowing computer while I code or browse the internet. Most of what I view is text or static web pages, so it's not content I'm worried about her viewing, it's the flashing to different windows and screens.

I know the AAP recommends you not let your child watch TV until they are at least 2, for various reasons-- one of which is that rapidly changing scenes shorten a baby's attention span. Does this apply to computer screen as well?

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Babies pick up languages quickly. Maybe your child is on their way to mastering C# and Java by age 1! –  DA01 Mar 26 '12 at 16:50

2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Yes and no:

Yes the rule of thumb is equally valid for computer screens as for TV screens.
No your daughter won't become a raging lunatic from watching you code.

The recommendation against watching TV is not, as I understand it, because it shortens the attention span, but because it overloads the mind. A small child is not mentally capable of processing so much visual input and will be overwhelmed. Especially if the child is sitting too close to a big screen.

If your child is far enough away that the screen is not a major visual object, and you're not flicking between apps that are visually wildly different (Outlook, MS Word, Firefox, Eclipse -- they all look the same from the other side of the room), then I see no harm coming from the monitor itself.

Baby mobiles are popular with infants because their slow visual changes are pleasing. I'm not saying your monitor is pleasing in the same way (but a screensaver probably would be!), but it does explain why she stares at it so much. Also, whatever engrosses you is bound to stir your child's attention too. Kids don't want to play with the parents' smartphones because they're smartphones but because the parents constantly play with them - so they must be intriguing.

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Yes, it's not doing anything good for your baby to sit and wide-eyed stare at your computer screen. Also you're not interacting at all.

No, it's good for your baby to sit with you and be held!

Soon enough the question will be moot anyway because your baby won't be content to just sit with you and will want to play, push the mouse, talk to you, etc so you'll only be trying to do it for short periods. :-)

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