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Movie Mom

Movie Mom

The Pediatricians Really Mean It: No TV, Movies, or Computers for Under-Twos

posted by Nell Minow

The American Academy of Pediatrics has said it again.  They do not recommend any screen time for children under two.  They first issued this recommendation in 1999.  But in the last 12 years, family media use has skyrocketed.

The temptation to rely on media screens to entertain babies and toddlers is more appealing than ever, with screens surrounding families at home, in the car, and even at the grocery store. And there is no shortage of media products and programming targeted to little ones….In a recent survey, 90 percent of parents said their children under age 2 watch some form of electronic media.  On average, children this age watch televised programs one to two hours per day. By age 3, almost one third of children have a television in their bedroom. Parents who believe that educational television is “very important for healthy development” are twice as likely to keep the television on all or most of the time.

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The new report finds:

  • Many video programs for infants and toddlers are marketed as “educational,” yet evidence does not support this. Quality programs are educational for children only if they understand the content and context of the video. Studies consistently find that children over 2 typically have this understanding.
  • Unstructured play time is more valuable for the developing brain than electronic media. Children learn to think creatively, problem solve, and develop reasoning and motor skills at early ages through unstructured, unplugged play. Free play also teaches them how to entertain themselves.
  • Young children learn best from—and need—interaction with humans, not screens.
  • Parents who watch TV or videos with their child may add to the child’s understanding, but children learn more from live presentations than from televised ones.
  • When parents are watching their own programs, this is “background media” for their children. It distracts the parent and decreases parent-child interaction. Its presence may also interfere with a young child’s learning from play and activities.
  • Television viewing around bedtime can cause poor sleep habits and irregular sleep schedules, which can
  • adversely affect mood, behavior and learning.
  • Young children with heavy media use are at risk for delays in language development once they start
  • school, but more research is needed as to the reasons.

The report recommends that parents and caregivers:

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  • Set media limits for their children before age 2, bearing in mind that the AAP discourages media use for this age group. Have a strategy for managing electronic media if they choose to engage their children with it;
  • Instead of screens, opt for supervised independent play for infants and young children during times that a parent cannot sit down and actively engage in play with the child. For example, have the child play with nesting cups on the floor nearby while a parent prepares dinner;
  • Avoid placing a television set in the child’s bedroom; and
  • Recognize that their own media use can have a negative effect on children.

My own recommendations: no television in children’s bedrooms, during meals, or in car rides under two hours, no earphones in the car, no television as background noise or for adults to watch while children are around.  Set an example by letting your children, even the toddlers, see you talking, playing, exercising, reading, listening to music, and sitting down on the floor to help them play with blocks and toys.  One of the most important lessons they will learn is how we decide what is important.

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