Some parents are happy to leave their kids with baby developing shows because these shows act as good babysitters that can entertain their babies while they are busy with everyday work. Parents do not feel guilty because they think that when their babies or toddlers are watching these shows, it is “quality time”.
But is TV (and Video) really good for babies and infants under age 2?
According to Dimitri Christakis of Children’s Hospital in Seattle and writer of the The Elephant in the Living Room: Make Television Work for Your Kids, while older children can learn from educational shows, no study has shown that babies benefit from watching television and video.
In fact, it can actually do harm:
- The first 2 years of your kid is a critical time for brain development. Watching TV steals time away from your kid’s exploring, interacting, playing with you and others, and actively learning by manipulating things around him. These are activities that help your kid develop the skills they need to grow intellectually, socially and emotionally.
- When your kid plays, he is actively learning about how the world works. He wires his brain by experimenting with cause and effect. When your kid interacts with people, he meets his emotional milestones. TV keeps your kid away from these activities.
- The first 2 years of your kid is also a critical time for learning language. Language is only learned through interaction with others, not by passive listening to TV. If you not respond to your kid’s attempt to communicate, your kid could miss this important milestone. Also, your kid will not learn to talk by listening to TV characters baby talk or talk down to him. Your kid learns to talk by mimicking adult language. He learns from the adults’ simplified but correctly pronounced speech.
- Note that when your baby smiles at the TV, the TV does not smile back. This may affect him socially and psychologically.
- Speech and language Dr. Sally Ward found that over the last 20 years, an increasing number of 9-month-old children are having trouble paying attention to voices when there is also background noise coming from the TV. This may affect their paying attention in class when they go to school.
- Also, when kids who watch TV go to school, they have to make a change from being primarily visual learners to listening learners. If a kid watches more TV than interact with the family, he will have a hard time making this transition, and his school learning will suffer.
- Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle, found that children who watched television as babies are more likely to have shorter attention spans, problem concentrating and impulsiveness by age 7. He also states that although Attention Deficit Disorder is genetic, TV can also trigger this condition because TV rewires the baby’s brain. The still-developing brain adapts to TV’s fast pace and overstimulation.
- Also, in his study, Christakis found that children who watched TV as babies are less able to recognize letters and numbers by the time they go to school. A 2005 University of Pennsylvania study found that watching Sesame Street before age 3 delayed a child’s ability to develop language skills. This may be because babies are wired to be active and not passive learners.
- Many TV shows and videos geared to kids are actually teaching them the wrong things. They distort reality with their cartoonish and unnatural depiction of the world. Also, the pacing of these shows is fast and teaches the baby’s sponge-like brain to always expect fast-paced input. The real world, as they will soon find out, is much more boring and requires patience to adapt to.
- Many other studies have found that long-term exposure to television diminishes children’s ability to communicate via reading and writing. It can also lead to attention and learning problems in the long term.
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