First Kids, Now Parents Need to Limit TV Use
According to AAP Report
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued its first formal media use
guidelines for parents in 1999. Of the many suggestions, two that were heard
most loudly were that children under the age of two should not be exposed to any
television media while those over two should be limited to a maximum of two
hours of screen time per day.
the AAP has produced an update to the original report, and this time not only is
it warning about the use of television with young children, it also tells
parents that what they are choosing to show on television for their own use may
still be affecting their children.
this report that cautions parents even more firmly about the use of media with
children under two arrived on my desk on the same day as a media release for a
gadget that allows parents to mount an iPad to their infant's stroller. "While
your child is busy watching a video ... parents are free to run errands, shop,
go for a walk, whatever. Meanwhile, our little one stays entertained or educated
or both, for up to 10 hours..." After this excited sentence, the media release
advises parents that leaving a child in a stroller that long is "just cruel."
The fact is
there is more temptation than ever to use a glowing screen to keep your child
occupied and distracted. And while all this convenience appears to come at a
much cheaper cost than a babysitter, according to the AAP, your child may be
paying the price in the long run.
"Media Use by Children Younger Than 2 Years" the policy statement focuses on
three areas. The first asserts that there is little hard evidence to support
either educational or developmental benefits for media use by children under 2
years of age.
have confirmed that some high quality programs can offer educational benefits
for children over 2. Yet, it is unproven that younger children can learn
anything at all from TV shows and videos. Noting that, "three-quarters of the
top selling infant videos make explicit or implicit educational claims," the
policy paper asserts that in order to benefit from such videos infants need not
only be able to understand the program, but have the ability to pay attention to
further, the AAP notes that two studies of Sesame Street have shown a negative
effect on language development of children under 2, and that leads to the second
focus point of the paper -- that heavy viewing of television may actually delay
language and social development of infants. Outside of educational television,
three studies since 1999 have indicated children less than 2 years who are in
homes where heavy television use is evident have expressive language delays. In
addition, children less than a year old who are frequently put in front of the TV
and are watching alone have a "significantly higher chance of having a language
to other problems, there seems to be a correlation between television viewing
and developmental setbacks, but the AAP notes that current results cannot prove
this with certainty until more research is done.
and possibly the most enlightening aspect, the AAP is identifying "Secondhand
Television" as yet another negative factor. The term refers to homes where the
television is constantly on and becomes the "background media" for children even
though the TV may be the "foreground media" for adults.
situation can cause the obvious problem of a child being exposed to media that
is far from appropriate. However the AAP notes there are even more concerns that
involve the parent being distracted by television and not communicating
regularly with their child. In these situations children are being denied the
opportunity to develop natural language skills that occur when they interact
with mom and dad. Other negative results show children play differently when the
TV is on, even if the program is not intended for them to watch. They will stop
to look at the TV show and often halt their current activity and move on to
something else after the interruption.
critics of this latest report attest that the AAP is out of date, and that TV is
yesterday's media. There are two issues with that rebuttal. First, it will take
years for social scientists to begin generating the first studies of the
consequences of handing your iPad to your stroller-bound child. Longitudinal
studies that follow subjects over a period of time can take a decade to
complete. Second, recent surveys still show the television is king of the media
toys in the average American home. While tablets, smartphones and other devices
are moving in on TV's turf, the device still racks up the highest hours of
recreational media use per day for the vast majority of people.
we are reminded that moderation is the key. Some educational choices and
appropriate entertaining selections, hopefully with a generous helping of mom or
dad on the side, can create a TV diet that is suitable for the over-2 crowd.
Just remember to turn it off when you're finished, and if you have a new baby in
the home, wait for bedtime before relaxing in front of the tube.
Besides writing this column for the Parents Television Council, Rod Gustafson authors Parent Previews® - a newspaper and Internet column (published in association with movies.com) that reviews movies from a parent's perspective. He's also the film critic for a major Canadian TV station, various radio stations and serves on the executive of the Alberta Association for Media Awareness. Finally, his most important role is being the father to four wonderful children and husband to his beautiful wife (and co-worker) Donna.
and the Media by Rod Gustafson
Television Council -
Click here to comment on this column