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No TV for Toddlers

Mental health professionals have long urged parents to limit kids’ TV time. Excessive TV watching has been linked to ADHD symptoms, and other concerns. Now, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended even stricter measures on TV. As in, no TV for children two years old or younger. Young children who watch TV have higher chances of developing sleep problems and speech delays. Beyond the speed of the frames (which seem to train young brains to attend only to super-fast stimuli), the content of programs is impossible for most babies to understand. In fact, according to Rachel Rettner’s new article, studies have shown that 18-month-olds “have the same reaction to a TV program regardless of whether it’s going forward or backward.” Yes parents, this would even be true for “educational programs” like Sesame Street. Likewise, the Baby Einstein shows have not been shown to help IQ.

What’s more, toddlers who watch TV  miss out on an ultra-serious, critical event: play! Good, old-fashioned play is the developmental task for small children. It helps them build interpersonal skills, problem-solving techniques, and enhances creativity. Even having TV on “in the background” appears to have negative effects on children. Parents who watch TV while young children are around don’t interact with children as often. Solid development in speech, social skills, and emotion regulation happens when children engage in real-life dialogue with people around them. Play-dates, sports, clubs, social activities, and especially one-to-one time with parents are the best ways for children to learn and grow, and to develop into smart, effective, and well-adjusted adults.

Limit children’s time with television and video games

Limit children’s time with television and video games

Today’s parents are usually good at monitoring the content of TV and video games, ensuring that children are not exposed to violence, sexuality, and other adult themes. However, in many households, children may spend hours each day watching TV and playing video games. There is solid evidence that too much TV and video games increase the likelihood of a child developing problems with attention. A good rule of thumb for TV/video game usage is less than 2 hours daily, the less the better.

Limiting time spent with TV and video games is especially important for very young children. According to Dimitri Christakis, MD, MPH, Director of the Child Health Institute and author of The Elephant in the Living Room: Make Television Work For Your Kids, children as young as a few months old are watching too much TV, and may be developing permanent attention problems. In an article on education.com, author Rose Garrett writes, “For every hour of television toddlers watch a day, they are ten percent more likely to develop attention problems at school,” according to Dr. Christakis.

What’s more, according to a recent study about children who watched who watched more than 2 hours of TV per week 40% more likely to have symptoms of ADHD in adolescence than children who watched less TV. The problem is the speed of the frames. Fast-paced electronic media seem to train children’s brains to attend only to faced-paced stimulation (e.g., the opposite of a teacher at a whiteboard). Click for video game and TV time recommendations.

I like this MSN Health article by Rich Maloof: It nicely summarizes medical research and recommendations about TV & ADHD.