Should Your Child Under 2 Watch TV?
In 1999, when the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) came out with its recommendation that children younger than 2 should not watch TV or movies, doctors took a lot of heat for it. Two reasons: There wasn’t much research to back up their recommendation, and it simply didn’t feel all that realistic. After all, lots of parents rely on child-friendly shows or DVDs to entertain their little ones when they need to take a shower, make an important call, or just get a break. (Guilty!)
The AAP has since spent more than five years looking at the research on the effects of media on very young children, and today released a revised policy statement. Ari Brown, M.D., the lead author of the study, is also one of our advisors, so she gave us the inside scoop on the thinking behind the new statement. “We needed to look at it with a fresh eye and ask, ‘Is there science to support our position, or do we need to revise our recommendation?’” The answer: There’s now plenty of research to support this stance, and the AAP isn’t backing down. “We have at least 50 studies that look at the effect of media on kids under age 2, and no benefit has been found.”
Okay, you might say. So there’s no benefit. But is there any harm? Turns out there may be. “Of all the developmental concerns, language delays are the big one,” says Dr. Brown. Short-term studies show an association between young children watching TV and talking late. “We know that children who are watching TV are spending less time looking at books and being read to,” she adds. This can further hinder language development.
The AAP also looked at “secondhand TV,” which is the stuff you don’t intend for your child to watch, but have on when she’s in the room. This has its perils, too, says Dr. Brown. She described a study showing that when an infant plays with a toy while television is on, she’ll shift her gaze to the TV three times a minute. This distraction means she’s less focused on playing and she’s more likely to move on to a different toy instead of sticking with the one she’s got.
Sleep is the most important health effect found among kids younger than 2 who watch TV, found the AAP. Research shows that when parents use TV as a sleep aid for their children, it can cause irregular sleep habits and sleep schedules.
Still, you’re thinking. Popping in a DVD when I’m not able to play with my little one is the only way to make sure he’s occupied and won’t cry. “Sometimes the quickest solution is not the best solution,” says Dr. Brown. “Give your child something safe to play with—he’ll figure out how to entertain himself. It’s something even a young child is capable of doing. It may seem like a harder step to take, but in the end your child will benefit from unstructured play—it helps problem-solving skills and creativity. And if your child is bored, that’s okay.” This does make sense to me. If I had to make a list of my 3- and 6-year-old daughters’ talents, I couldn’t put “good at entertaining themselves” anywhere near the top. Wonder if that would be different if I’d always put an emphasis on learning to play on their own, with the boxes, books, Tupperware, and toys we’ve always had at their disposal.
How about you? Do you encourage independent play with your young kids? Do you let your children under 2 watch TV?Add a Comment
Tags: | Categories: GoodyBlog