Q&A: I let my baby watch TV. Will it cause any developmental delays?
I let my baby watch a little bit of TV to give me some free time. Will it cause any developmental delays?
You are like many parents who are faced with the real-world challenges of parenting, which certainly include finding any spare time for yourself. Let me start by reassuring you that I don’t think that a baby watching “a little bit” of TV is going to cause developmental delays—assuming of course that “a little bit” doesn’t translate into hours a day. That said, screen time for babies—not only in the form of TV but videos, computers, and anything else that shows up on a screen—has generated a lot of interest amongst pediatricians and parents alike, not to mention a fair bit of controversy in recent years. This is not without good reason, if you consider the fact that we a) know that the two-dimensional experience of a baby watching television doesn’t come close to comparing to the benefits of interacting with real people and b) more and more babies and children under the age of 2 are spending increasing amounts of time in front of the television (and other screens) despite the very clear-cut recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) regarding no television for children under the age of 2.
While using the TV as a babysitter/entertainer is clearly understandable, tempting, and in many instances admittedly effective, I suggest that if you start thinking of other things your baby might safely do or play with instead of watching television, you might be pleasantly surprised to find that it’s not as hard as you think to find age-appropriate alternatives. I will also point out that habits—both desirable and not-so-desirable—start young. I have found that children who enter toddlerhood and preschool age already accustomed to sitting in front of a screen are far more likely to do so at the expense of other, healthier and more creative (not to mention more active) activities.
And finally, if and when your baby does watch a little TV, please make sure that it is truly meant for children and educational. It’s all too easy in this day and age to take even the violence and graphic images routinely found in commercials and the evening news for granted, so be sure to protect your child from any and all violence and other inappropriate imagery.
Here are 15 TV-free activities for families.