How much is too much?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), 40% of three-month-olds are exposed to television or videos for an average of 45 minutes per day, and at two years of age, 90% of children are spending an average of 90 minutes per day in front of the TV. The AAP recommends that children under the age of two not be exposed to any screens, and the total amount of screen time for all children should be less than two hours per day. Pediatricians have found that early exposure to screens puts children at higher risk for attention problems, diminished reading comprehension, and obesity. As more and more parents are replacing basic toys with educational videos geared towards infants and toddlers, experts are questioning the effects of these products on a child’s development.
Things for parents to consider
TV is not terrible. Much of the television programming specifically for children, especially younger ones, is harmless entertainment. However, there are some things you should keep in mind. Be aware of what your child is watching. Programming should be commercial-free, especially for younger children. Talk with your child about what he’s watching. If you have a younger child, post-viewing conversations are crucial to his learning from the educational programming that he is most likely watching. If your child is older, he may hear things that he has questions about or things that may need to be explained. Try to avoid letting your child fall asleep in front of the television because he may become dependent on it to fall asleep.
TV as education. Products such as Baby Einstein are often marketed as effective tools in helping young children reach developmental milestones or become smarter, and parents may worry that if they don’t use these, their child will be behind. There is no evidence that any specific toy, book, or video is necessary for your child’s development, especially since babies can’t tell us what they are learning. However, developmentally appropriate videos can be useful in helping you to interact with your child if you and she watch them together.
Keeping it simple. Children can and do learn very well from simple toys, books, and games, and most importantly from interacting with others. Infants learn best from exploration and discovery – your child will do just as well with blocks, or even pots and pans, which encourage his imagination. The most educational toy for any child is free play with simple toys and lots of imagination.
The bottom line. Experts will continue to debate the pros and cons of television and toys, and parents will always want to buy eye-catching gadgets and newly advertised DVDs to give their children the very best. However, it is important to remember there are some basic things children need in order to learn and grow that cannot be bought. Affection and interaction are very important throughout a child’s life, and will help her develop language and social skills.