Children's Early Learning and Development
The AAP advises against allowing children under age two to watch any television, stating: "Research on early brain development shows that babies and toddlers have a critical need for direct interactions with parents and other significant care givers for healthy brain growth and the development of appropriate social, emotional, and cognitive skills."
For children older than two, the recommended criterion is not to exceed an hour a day in front of the television, and to try to use that time constructively.
The veterans of children's programming continue their mission to educate, accompanied by Disney, Fox Family, and Nickelodeon network broadcasts. I'm sure that what my kids learned watching Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow, and Thomas the Tank Engine (we still have all the trains!), helped with their early number and letter recognition skills, not to mention life-shaping concepts such as sharing, friendship, and even introductions to other cultures and languages.
Yet it is important to remember that most of children's learning takes place through interactive play and experimentation with their senses, their environment, and their interaction with the people around them. Time spent in front of the television interferes with this vital learning process. Preschoolers need time to develop fine motor skills, which are crucial building steps to reading and writing. Crafts, painting, reading stories, building blocks, and playing with clay to build finger strength are far more constructive in the sense that they simultaneously contribute to developing a child's imagination and creativity. Conversely, time spent in passive viewing of programs where all the creative work has been done for them does not.