Once again the American Academy of Pediatrics is telling parents to say no to TV for children under 2—but this time there's a twist.
The endless choices on cable TV, streaming videos on our laptops, and even watching movies on our smart phones… The temptation to rely on media screens to entertain babies and toddlers is more appealing than ever, with screens surrounding families at home, in the car, and even at the grocery store.
With at least 50 studies showing that media exposure among young children may be linked to slower language development, however, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is once again asking parents and caregivers of children under age 2 to avoid TV and other media screens. The twist? The new AAP policy statement is also calling on parents to evaluate their own media consumption.
Why? “I like to call it secondhand TV,” says pediatrician Ari Brown, lead author of the AAP guidelines, in an interview with AFP (via the New York Daily News). “When the TV is on, the parent is talking less. There is some scientific evidence that shows that the less talk-time a child has, the poorer their language development is,” she notes.
The AAP report also turns up the staggering reach of TV and media into the lives on infants and toddlers. In a survey, 90 percent of parents said their children under age 2 watch some form of electronic media. On average, children in this age group watch one to two hours of TV per day. By age 3, almost one-third of children have a television in their bedroom. Perhaps the most startling find of all? Parents who believe that educational television is “very important for healthy development” are twice as likely to keep the television on all or most of the time.
What to do when the screens are finally off—for all of you? Keep playtime relaxed and full of options. And don’t feel pressured to become a substitute for your child’s favorite cartoon character. “Unstructured playtime 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,” write researchers. “Free play also teaches them how to entertain themselves.”
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