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My 7-month-old son has an intense attraction to TV screens and likes to put the TV remote in his mouth more than the toys we have bought him.

He shows huge enthusiasm to sit in front of my MacBook and thumps randomly on keyboard. I understand the feedback of randomly hitting keyboard buttons results in fancy transition or applications loading or pop ups or randomly type makes him excited.

However I have never seen any child this young doing things like this. Is this normal?

  • I'm assuming he does this mostly while the devices are turned on? – Erik Feb 21 '18 at 8:02
  • @Erik : well isn't it obvious when I am using the word feedback :p however he is also attracted to tv screen when its turned off, as he often wants me to go near the tv screen while I am holding him in arms so he can touch it. I think thats because of reflection. – Ciasto piekarz Feb 21 '18 at 14:46
  • Kids are curious and natural mimics. This reminds me of my own kids at that age. – pojo-guy Feb 21 '18 at 18:08
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In my experience, this is very typical. Screens that are on (TV, laptop) are very attractive to babies. If there's some kind of contingent feedback --- such as hitting keys on the keyboard and having the screen change in some way --- even more so. This interest can be reinforced by the infant seeing you or other adults focusing on screens; this is called "social referencing", and there's a lot of research on it in infancy. 7 months is a little on the young side for the social referencing effect to be very strong, but over the next few months you can expect it to have more of an effect. Even when the screens are off, the object with the screen (TV, laptop) or objects associated with it (e.g. remote) remain attractive because of the possibility that they could turn on at any time.

For an infant as young as your son, it's unlikely that he's actually learning much from the screens --- he may not even realize that, for example, a video of a dog on the laptop is the same kind of thing as seeing a dog in the park in real life (it takes infants a while to get a handle on the many ways things can be represented). Research has shown that "educational" videos for babies don't actually teach them much. More likely, he's just attracted by the flashing lights, colors, and sounds. If he were to see flashing christmas lights in a dark room, you would likely note a similar fascination.

  • Sometimes I take him to market while shopping even in places where there are people he would be more attracted to tv screen. The most worrisome is his habit of putting tv remote and phones in mouth. – Ciasto piekarz Feb 22 '18 at 3:34
  • Thank you Rose for a good answer. The links are really helpful, I will keep the social referencing in mind every time I am with my kid.when I give him toys baby rattles he throws them down on floor but with tv remote and phones he likes to put in mouth. – Ciasto piekarz Feb 22 '18 at 6:27
  • Putting things in his mouth is also very common at this age. His motor skills are still developing, which can make it hard for him to explore objects in a sophisticated way with his hands (e.g. he probably isn't able to pick something up and rotate it in front of his face so he can look at it in detail, the way an adult might). The mouth is very sensitive, and he has more control over his lips, jaw and tongue at this age than he does with his hands, so putting interesting stuff in his mouth is a very efficient way to learn about it. :) – Rose Hartman Feb 23 '18 at 17:04
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    yes, they might be dirty. – Ciasto piekarz Feb 24 '18 at 1:06
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    I'm going to tell you something important Ciasto Piakrz, babies put stuff in their mouths and those objects are very often going to be dirty and there is absolutely nothing you can do to stop this. On the bright side its totally normal. Just chill out and try to keep the worst of the filth away from him and he'll be fine. Babies develop a significant portion of their digestive fauna in this manner. It just a thing babies do and its not harmful as long as you are attentive and don't let him try to eat anything toxic or blatantly disgusting (like rotten meat or garbage or something.) – TCAT117 Feb 24 '18 at 5:44
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The first time my son ever stood up on his own was to reach an iPhone. The first time he walked was to get to my iPhone. I can’t explain it but the screens have some magic like appeal. It’s possibly because most objects reflect light but screens produce them with vivid color, and also ‘do things’ with even minimal, fumbled interaction. Also, they probably operate on a variable reward schedule (sometimes the screen does something, sometimes it doesn’t), and variable reward schedules are known to maintain behavior better than anything else

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Yes I get this a lot from my 9 month year old, and he has been like this for a few months. I bought him a toy remote that he can safely chew on (because I worry he might pop the batteries out of the amazon remote/don't want him changing the channel/destroying the remote).

He's also obsessed with the iPad, I generally don't let him interact with it too much as he often wants to chew the corner, and my phone didn't appreciate when he crawled over and vomited over it.

When I have let him interact with my ipad (under my supervision) he really enjoyed pressing the virtual keyboard buttons of my synths. I recommend turning off gesture control as his little grasping hands just tend to close the apps immediately!

So yes, intense attraction to screens seems common at that age, especially when adults are looking at their tablets quite often (I am guilty of this). While you will often see recommendations for zero exposure to electronics (No screen time before 2.5 years often seems suggested) I find this to be unrealistic, and although I do let him watch some television for example, I make sure there is plenty of non-screen time, such as reading to him or playing with non electronic toys. I make an effort at times to put down my electronic gadgets more often and focus on my son. I can see a future where I will need to encourage him to NOT spend too much time on electronic devices, which I myself need to show more discipline in!

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