Babies love playing with the remote control. And they also love watching TV. Frazzled parents rarely object, especially when they get five minutes to take a shower, empty the dishwasher or prepare for work.
But in a new statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics confirms that children under age 2 should spend less time in front of a screen and more time learning through play.
Since the AAP first examined this issue in 1999, there’s been a proliferation of new screens offering entertainment — TV, DVD, computer, smart phones and tablets — and further studies to show its detrimental effect. These days, TV shows, specialized DVDs and even entire channels are dedicated to entertaining tots.
In a recent American survey, a staggering 90 percent of parents said their under-2s watched some form of electronic media; and on average, these children watched TV for one to two hours a day. At age three, a third of these kids have a TV in their bedroom, and many have the set on all or most of the time.
Parents may kid themselves that watching “quality” programs is educational. But while toddlers age 2 and up can have improved social and language skills, the new findings show that there’s no evidence that television can be educational for the under-2s.
“Somewhere between age 1.5 and 2.5, children are able to grasp the content and context of televised programs,” explains the report’s lead author, Dr Ari Brown.
Children learn more from play than TV shows, so any time taken away from playing and learning how to problem-solve, think creatively and develop motor skills is damaging. Watching TV can even affect your child’s ability to go to sleep.
“The best thing you can do for your young child is to give [him or her] a chance to have unstructured play, both with you and independently,” says Dr. Brown. “Children need this in order to figure out how the world works.”