There are, coincidentally, two articles on the face in today’s New York Times. And while the the face of another takes like a death mask to new life, baby skin reborn to smile at the day once again, a real baby elsewhere returns her mother’s look with an expression of blank distance and disconnection.
The matter of screens in front of babies ought to be simple. And it’s not just whether or not technology is interactive (and since when is human computer interaction the way interaction skills are supposed to start? Come on now people!). A face looks back. It returns acknowledgment–what psychologists call “stroking.” That’s what we need during our first precious years on the planet — education is cognition, and the first cognition is recognition, and though a baby may recognize the flower on the screen, it’s the mother’s look of recognition that binds the heart and the mind to form the circuit that provides emotional intelligence. The screen can’t look back. And I’m afraid that after those first years of child development, nor can we.