Sunday, November 13, 2011

Do Toddlers Watch Too Much TV? This New Study Says They Do.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is an organization made up of 60,000 pediatricians committed to the attainment of optimal physical, mental and social health for all infants, children and adolescents. The organization published a news release recently with the following title:


They argue that it’s not a great idea for parents to allow kids to spend so much time watching TV.
Here are some of the key findings from their study:
  • Many video programs for infants and toddlers are marketed as “educational,” yet evidence does not support this. Quality programs are educational for children only if they understand the content and context of the video. Studies consistently find that children over 2 typically have this understanding.
  • Unstructured play time is more valuable for the developing brain than electronic media. Children learn to think creatively, problem solve, and develop reasoning and motor skills at early ages through unstructured, unplugged play. Free play also teaches them how to entertain themselves.
  • Young children learn best from—and need—interaction with humans, not screens.
  • Parents who watch TV or videos with their child may add to the child’s understanding, but children learn more from live presentations than from televised ones.
  • When parents are watching their own programs, this is “background media” for their children. It distracts the parent and decreases parent-child interaction. Its presence may also interfere with a young child’s learning from play and activities.
  • Television viewing around bedtime can cause poor sleep habits and irregular sleep schedules, which can adversely affect mood, behavior and learning.
  • Young children with heavy media use are at risk for delays in language development once they start school, but more research is needed as to the reasons.

The report recommends that parents and caregivers:

  • Set media limits for their children before age 2, bearing in mind that the AAP discourages media use for this age group. Have a strategy for managing electronic media if they choose to engage their children with it;
  • Instead of screens, opt for supervised independent play for infants and young children during times that a parent cannot sit down and actively engage in play with the child. For example, have the child play with nesting cups on the floor nearby while a parent prepares dinner;
  • Avoid placing a television set in the child’s bedroom; and
  • Recognize that their own media use can have a negative effect on children.
Part of this study says that over 90% of parents said their children (age under 2 years old) watch some form of electronic media. That’s not really much of a shocker. But they also stated how the average time in front of a screen is one to two hours per day. I definitely see this as a problem for the under-2 crowd. Let’s face it. Kids are going to learn a lot more by interacting with other people at this age.
With all the shows packaged for young kids such as Barney, Dora the Explorer and Thomas and Friends, just to name a few, it’s very easy to be swayed into letting our kids watch TV while we go about our daily routines.
Parents, I know how it’s sometimes more convenient to let the television do the babysitting for us, but it really isn’t in the best interests of your child, is it?For our children’s sake, let’s take a break and spend more time with them.

What do you think about the AAP study? Do you believe the numbers? Do you have a problem with the idea of putting a kid that young in front of a screen for up to 2 hours per day?

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