There seems to be no end to parent-shaming as far as Jeremy and Audrey Roloff of Little People, Big World are concerned. The young Roloff couple was subjected to some lecturing by some of their followers on social media after Audrey posted a short video on Facebook of Jeremy tickling their three-month-old daughter.
The video, which Audrey captioned, “These two are my favorite,” shows Jeremy tickling Ember, who is laughing her heart out. Jeremy was also tapping on her side on one instance.
“NOT a good idea to tickle a child,” said Barbara Koppelman Smith. “It renders them absolutely HELPLESS with a natural uncontrollable response of laughter. There are much better and more healthy ways to make a baby laugh!”
“I thought doctors advise not to tickle babies, or children or adults,” said another follower named Freddie Joan.
“Don’t tickle babies it will make them stutter,” said Mary Ann Pizzino Smith. “It hurts their nervous system. Think what it does to you if someone holds your arms and tickles you.”
“You are not supposed to tickle a baby,” said Winifred Drew. “Ask your doctor.”
Most of the comments made against these claims indicate that tickling is not harmful at all. Many of the followers said they tickled their children (or grandchildren) when they were babies and they grew up just fine.
While experience, according to many of Jeremy’s followers, dictate that tickling is not bad and is nothing more than a great bonding session between people, some scientific experts say otherwise.
What seems like a harmless and fun activity with babies may be doing more harm according to a 1997 article by the New York Times, which tackled this long-debated issue. The publication conducted numerous interviews with experts such as Dr. Richard Alexander of the University of Michigan, who said that too much tickling is not healthy for a young child.
“A child can be transformed from laughter into tears by going the tiniest bit too far with tickling, raising the question of whether tickling is an expression of dominance,” Alexander said. “There are lots of people who do abusive tickling, causing great mental pain, and that raises a big question about laughter.”
A research published in 2015 in Current Biology, a Cell Press journal, said that infants up to four months do not relate tickling with the person doing it, as EurekAlert reported.
On the surface, tickling is a kind of fun play between the participants, say a parent and his or her child. But like in many other things in life, too much may be harmful.
“When babies feel a touch on their hand, can they appreciate where the touch is in the outside world,” asked Andrew Bremner of Goldsmiths, University of London.
Bremner claims the answer is no. According to their research, adults have a hard time identifying the origin of a sensation when they cross their hands and feet and then someone touches them. This is apparently the same with six-month-old babies, who identified the source of the touch only 50 percent of the time. Infants four-months-old and younger, like Ember Jean, scored better in the test at 70 percent.
Bremner says that babies perceive tickling as mere “touches on the body” and that they do not perceive them “as related to what they are seeing, or perhaps even smelling.” In other words, Ember only feels the sensation but does not associate the tickling to Jeremy. This means the father-child bonding notion is thrown out the window.
As for claims that tickling babies causes stuttering, there is still no scientific basis for this. According to Dr. Laura A. Jana as she wrote on Babble, there is no relation between tickling and stuttering. In fact, she directly said that this is a myth and that the real cause of stuttering is still a mystery.