For Kids Under Two, Steer Clear of Screen Time, Pediatricians Say

By Valerie Ross | October 19, 2011 11:15 am

Parents should strictly limit how much children under two years old watch television or videos, says the American Academy of Pediatrics in a new policy statement, since TV time not only doesn’t seem to benefit babies, it may come with developmental drawbacks. (Activities like computer and touchscreen games, where the babies interact with what’s happening on the screen rather than passively watch it, aren’t included in the statement.) The academy issued a similar statement in 1999, discouraging screen time for kids less than 24 months old—and in the intervening decade, there’s been more research to back up that recommendation.

Time spent watching TV is, scientists point out, time away from the independent play known to be important for healthy cognitive development, and increased screen time is linked to developmental delays. But even if babies aren’t simply sitting and watching a video, a TV or movie playing in the background—as one researcher calls it, “secondhand TV”—could have downsides. Not only does it distract babies, who look up at a video on average three times a minute even if they’re otherwise occupied by play, it distracts parents, as well, leading them to talk to their little ones less—not good news for babies’ language development, which, research suggests, gets a big boost from parental talk time.

What’s more, there’s no good evidence that children under two get anything out of videos, even ones billed as educational. Kids younger than 18 months, one study found, don’t even seem to care whether a video is played backward or forward—a sign they’re not really following what they’re seeing.

Read more at Wired, Scientific American, and LiveScience.

 Image courtesy of iandeth / Flickr

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Mind & Brain
  • Christopher Roy

    “Kids younger than 18 months, one study found, don’t even seem to care whether a video is played backward or forward—a sign they’re not really following what they’re seeing.”
    I believe that. Babies <24months are still only forming concepts from what they see. Barely making sense of their stimuli. Even when focused, a television is still more visually, and audibly stimulating than other slow/quiet real things.

    There was a study, in a psychology class I took, that had a toddler look through a kaleidoscope. This was both stimulating and terrifying for the subject. But the baby couldn’t look away.

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