For a number of years now, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended zero TV time for children under age 2 and under 2 hours a day for older childern.

A new report now links a variety of troubles children have later in life to how much TV they watched as toddlers (yes, toddlers!). These include the expected ones like obesity, high blood pressure , and problems with language development and attention span–but it also included suprise ones like lower math achievement and higher incidence of being bullied. These effects were found years later when the children were in school.  Click here to read more.  And here.  (And both articles share some amazing statistics.)

What’s a parent to do? Is it really that important? Dr. David Elkind offers help in sorting this out; click here.

How can one activity lead to so many difficulties so many years later? There are two huge factors at work here.

First, if a child is sitting in front of a TV or other screen, that child is not doing the things his or her body and mind was made to be doing developmentally at that time. Simple things like putting things into a box and taking them back out again, rocking a doll, watching the birds outside, playing in the sand or water, or singing, talking, and reading with a living, caring human being–these are all critical to a child’s physical, emotional, and intellectual growth.

Second, as intimated above, if a child is spending time with the TV, they are not spending time with an adult. The basis for all future relationships is established in the years between birth and age six-ish. We are socials beings, we are wired to learn about the world and life and ourselves through our relationships, and no machine can come close to fulfilling those roles.

As Elkind puts it, “…infants and young children learn best through direct interaction with caregivers, whether it is reading, talking or playing games like Itty Bitty Spider, Patty Cake and so on. Computer games (my insert: and other screens) for infants put an unnecessary barrier between child and caregiver and dilute the potency of that interaction.”

It is cliched, but they are only little once. Turn off the screens. Find other things for your baby and little one to do and explore; find other things to enjoy doing together. And not sure what to do? Ask your friendly neighborhood children’s librarian for ideas! 🙂

Babette

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