Your Clever Toddler in Week 65: Why TV Is a Bad Babysitter
What your child learns this week
Your Child’s Brain in Week 65
At this point in your parenting career, you’ve surely gotten the message: How you stimulate your child’s brain affects his developing mind. The types of stimulation you offer him (books! music! conversation!) and the frequency (lots, hopefully) profoundly shape your little one’s experiences now—and set the groundwork for learning and growing for the rest of his days.
Real life unfolds at a pace far slower from what children see on television, which typically features rapidly changing images, scenery, and events. And as you’ll learn more about soon, your toddler is able at this age to copy what he sees on a screen.
So while talking dish scrubbers, elaborate puppets, and cartoon bunnies can be extremely interesting to infants and toddlers (and, when running on four hours of shut-eye, to you too), TV and DVDs featuring them can be overstimulating. But what effect does that have on your child in the long run?
What the Research Shows
In a study called the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 12,700 children were tracked by researchers from birth to age 22. The parents, and later the parents and the children, were interviewed annually or biennially.
For the purposes of the TV/DVD portion of the study, the researchers looked at the portion of the survey that focused on 7-year-olds to discover which ones had attention-related problems. Some characteristics—all defined as being indicative of hyperactivity—included the following:
- trouble concentrating
- obsessing regularly
- easily confused
Of the children who watched an average of 2.2 hours of television per day at age 1 and 3.6 hours per week at age 3, 10 percent had attention problems at age 7. As the hours of TV and DVD viewing increased for both 1-year-olds and 3-year-olds, the percentages of attention problems increased at age 7. The more television and DVDs the children watched as 1- and 3-year-olds, the more likely they were to have attention problems at age 7.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends that parents exercise caution in letting children under age 2 watch television. Attention-related problems, which become especially apparent when a child starts formal school, are certainly one of the reasons why.
Twenty-five years ago, .5 percent of US children were diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. But since then, the number has risen dramatically: According to the researchers in the study, “Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder affects between 4 and 12 percent of US children and is the most common behavioral disorder of childhood.”
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