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No TV for children younger than 2, says pediatrician group

AAP statement suggests no TV for children under age 2

Most parents of young children instinctively know that too much television is not good for the kids, but an announcement from the country’s largest pediatric group says those instincts could be wrong, stating that any television at all is bad for children younger than 2 years of age.

With television networks like Sprout and Nick, Jr., many modern-day parents feel secure in letting their children watch some TV, since many channels, geared toward young children, have nothing but educational and socially developmental programming. Not to mention, the children love the shows and seem to learn from them.

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued its first statement on television for children younger than 2 in more than a decade. The last advice the pediatric group dished out was announced in 1999, and contained the same information. The AAP says instead of television, parents should engage their children in interactive play and teach them to occupy themselves independently instead of relying on the television to entertain them.

The newest portion of advice with the announcement is that parents should not only keep their children from watching the television they like, but also curb their own television watching while their children are in the room Exposure to television could delay infants’ ability to learn to speak at an appropriate age.

“This updated policy statement provides further evidence that media — both foreground and background — have potentially negative effects and no known positive effects for children younger than 2 years,” it said. “Thus the A.A.P. reaffirms its recommendation to discourage media use in this age group.”

The report does not refer specifically to interactive media like games on smart phones or computer programs that children can use to learn, but rather passive media like television or movies.

Academy member and Austin, Texas Pediatrician Dr. Ari Brown, who is also the lead author of the guidelines, said the advice needed to be put out because of the increasing popularity of children’s DVDs in recent years. She also said as many as 90 percent of parents who self-report say that they allow infants and toddlers to watch television or some other form of electronic media.

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“Clearly, no one is listening to this message,” she said. “In this ubiquitous screen world, I think we need to find a way to manage it and make it a healthy media diet.”

The AAP said they are advising pediatricians to discourage this kind of media use in new parents and to attempt to make them aware of how distracted they can become when they themselves are engaged in television or electronic media. Brown says she calls it secondhand TV because of the similarity to secondhand smoke in the way it affects another person or persons nearby.

Several studies were cited in the guidelines, including studies that said that children will glance at the television three times a minute while it is on and that parents become increasingly distracted when they are watching television while also watching their children.

Brown said the studies show that while the television is on, parents are interacting with their children less frequently, adding up to less talk time throughout the day. The lack of time talking with your child could, she said, affect how soon they begin speaking. The guidelines said that current research shows a “correlation between television viewing and developmental problems, but they cannot show causality.”

Even educational programming, which is incredibly popular with parents of young children, is not good for them, said the AAP, because the children are not comprehending what the programming is attempting to teach them.

“The educational merit of media for children younger than 2 years remains unproven despite the fact that three-quarters of the top-selling infant videos make explicit or implicit educational claims,” it said.

The new guidelines from the AAP specify that children younger than 2 should not watch television at all, and children older than 2 should be limited to two hours of television per day.

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