Is TV Really That Bad?

DON'T expect your baby to learn from TV

Who doesn't want their baby to blossom into a little Beethoven or Picasso, especially if baby's training time allows you to drink a cup of coffee? Unfortunately, the "educational" baby videos that seem too good to be true are just that. Researchers agree that for kids under 2, TV has no educational value. "A newborn's brain triples in size between birth and 2 years of age," says Dimitri Christakis, MD, co-author of The Elephant in the Living Room: Make Television Work for Your Kids. "And that brain growth happens in direct response to external stimulation, in the context of real-world experience."

Which means that telling Junior about the laundry you're folding is much more educational than any video engineered to boost his intellect. Don't quite believe it? Consider "the video deficit": In repeated studies, researchers have found that very young children are much slower to imitate a task when they watch it on screen than when they see it performed live.

Now all this research doesn't mean that turning on Baby Van Gogh for 15 minutes here and there will render your child mute. "Let's get real -- sometimes you need a few moments to regroup," says Jill Stamm, PhD, director of the New Directions Institute for Infant Brain Development, in Phoenix. "There will be no permanent harm, but we do know that it doesn't help them, and it does seem to slow development. At the very least, you will break even."

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