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The Technology Debate – Kids under 2 & the TV – The Good, the bad & everything in between

June 21, 2012

As a parent we are constantly inundated with the latest studies and findings about what’s good and bad for your child(ren).  Whether it’s regarding their development, health issues, environmental factors, media exposure, etc. there’s a study published for every little thing and beyond.  I’ve learned very quickly as a new parent you just have to pick and choose your focus areas and do your best to provide the things you believe are “right” for your child(ren) .  There was a family in the news a year or so ago that wouldn’t allow anyone in their immediate family (and beyond) to know what the gender of their child was because they didn’t want to their child to be genderized from birth.  I think that’s going way further than needed!  For the most part, a child is born with innate characteristics and personalities which define who they are.  I could have allowed my boy to play with only dolls but I’m certain that he would still love his trucks and cars just as much either way! But I digress….what I really would like to discuss is the debate regarding the effects TV has on children, especially under the age of two.

The AAP originally began the TV debate back in 1999 with their warnings about children under 2 and TV.  One of the reasons for their warnings was due to the sudden influx of baby learning DVD’s on the market, stating how un-beneficial such DVD’s are for babies.  The TV is simply a glowing box that mesmerizes any child under 2 – they really don’t understand what’s going on on the screen.  Since the AAP’s warnings in 1999 there have been numerous studies published about the effects of TV and media on children, especially under the age of 2.  In 2011, the AAP updated their recommendations by backing them with various studies conducted since their 1999 recommendations.  One survey conducted said that 40 – 60% of households report having a TV on for much of the day.  “Secondhand TV” can harm development in children under 2 in many ways – one being that the caregiver/parent talks significantly less than if the TV was off, thus harming their language development.  A child will look up at the TV screen every 20 seconds or so when playing, thus lowering their attention span, possibly causing attention problems later on in their development.

So next time you are contemplating buying a Baby Einstein DVD or Sesame Street DVD aimed for children under 2, you might want to think twice.  All the media products aimed for babies and young toddlers are a gimmick.  Yea the title and descriptions of the DVD may sound very convincing and enticing but in the end, it won’t help your child read or talk sooner than normal.

The first two years of life is a very critical time for brain development in life.  Language development is huge!!  Babies and toddlers should hear an average of 10,000 words a day to help with language development and much more.  They should also experience lots of sensory things – like touch, affection, smell, sounds, etc.  Now keep in mind that the brain is very resilient.  So for instance, if a child is neglected at a very young age, once placed in a loving environment their brains will quickly adapt and catch up/develop more but never fully.

Take a look at the picture on the left.  It shows the difference between a normal brain and a sensory-deprived brain of a kindergardener.  Pretty astonishing the differences!!  So as the day ticks by, be sure to talk to your baby/toddler/child and explain all your doing so they can hear lots and lots of words, as well as learn too – communication is key!  Reading to them lots is HUGE as well!!

Now, there’s always instances when a parent/caregiver needs time to finish tasks around the house and can’t continuously entertain a baby/toddler.  So, in my experience and opinion, in such instances a DVD is the easiest way to keep a child entertained for a bit.  So do what works best for you in order to keep your sanity throughout the day!  Most families, especially single parents, working parents and parents with children of various ages, will turn to the TV for a bit to get dinner cooked or clean the kitchen, etc.  It happens.  I think the biggest thing to remember when it comes to hearing and reading about the AAP’s recommendations regarding TV and babies/toddlers, is to not stress or create more guilt because you let your child watch some TV during the day.  We are all human!!

Some great suggestions for ways to keep TV exposure to a minimum are:

–> Talk, play, sing, dance, listen to music, and read together throughout the day!

–> Don’t put a TV in your child’s room!

–> Unstructured play is a better way for a baby/toddler to spend their time then staring at a glowing screen.

–> Play music while you’re at home doing other activities instead of having the TV on in the background.  (Pandora is perfect to play on your iPod dock and free!)

–> Watch age appropriate shows WITH your child if you are going to let them watch some TV.  Make it a learning experience by keeping a rolling dialogue going while watching TV with the child, pointing out various things.

Here’s a few articles I found to be interesting with regards to this topic:

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 21, 2012 2:16 PM

    Fantastic post!

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