Wednesday, April 28, 2010

On Television and Infants

When I was very newly pregnant, I surfed the website for the American Academy of Pediatrics. While there, I learned that their policy is that infants under the age of two should not be exposed to television. I liked the idea of no tv for my little one. I thought about instituting such a rule to everyone who may come in contact with her. The No TV Rule.

Then I thought about Real Life.

I did decide to try to minimize the amount of TV she would be exposed to, but I was realistic about eliminating it altogether. Especially since we moved in with my parents for a period of time, and they are very used to having the tv on, even if noone is in the room to watch it. My dad turns on the tv and then starts reading the newspaper. It very much is the background noise at their house.

But something has stuck with me about TV and my little one. I sometimes wish I had instituted The Rule, wish that it had somehow been easier to eliminate TV from her life. We watch very little TV when she and I are home alone. I don't ever try to do reading or playtime with the TV on in the background. My DVR is full of the shows that I never watch anymore since I tend to go to sleep when she does now. So it's not like she gets THAT much.

But maybe its still TOO much?

I toured a daycare center Monday that has scheduled TV time written into their schedule for their one-year-old room. I was shocked. Pediatricians across the country recommend no tv, and yet you have it scheduled for the little ones in your care?

Oh, but they were watching Baby Einstein. I don't think that helps. There is a huge controversy among parents that led Disney to refunding money and recalling the videos. Apparently some of these parents were under the false impression their child would receive some benefit from being parked in front of a video. Yes, I want my child exposed to classical music. I don't have to have the video on when that happens.

I started doing some research, and it makes me feel even worse. Here is a summary.

A study was released last month in Pediatrics, that found that television watching in infancy does not help develop language or visual motor skills. (Link is to abstract in PubMed). This is the study that has been in the news recently, as it is the most recent to be published. A similar study found that children watching baby videos actually have fewer words and poorer language development. (Link is to abstract at Center on Media and Child Health.) The authors of the most recent study have another article that examines the effect of background tv, and finds that attention to toy play is shorter even when the children don't seem to pay much attention to the background tv.

A good article from a developmental psychologist, written in response to the Baby Einstein controversy, about ways to interact with your baby that DOES help them learn language is here. The findings of all of this research is that interaction with adults that have developed language skills is the way to teach language to a child.

The issue dear to my heart, sleep. Findings show that increased exposure to tv can disrupt sleep patterns. (Here is the link in PubMed). You have to be careful with the associative studies though. They just show an association, not a cause-and-effect relationship. This one is kindof dumb. It just says that family tv viewing time may affect nap time and bed time. That makes sense - parents are watching a show and waiting until its over to put the kinds to bed. If you are aware of this, you can still watch tons of tv, just put your kid to bed at the right time. While having an inconsistent bedrime is a problem, I'm more concerned about our night waking, which would be a separate issue. This is a study that does show an association with time spent viewing tv and time spent asleep.

And to help with minimizing tv time? This study shows that rules regarding time limits are more effective than rules regarding "shows" at actually limiting the amount of time spent watching tv.

We don't really watch all that much tv at our house anyway. All of this just confirms that I think it's ... outrageous ... that a daycare has scheduled tv time, and helps me to make that decision.

Now I'm heading back to PubMed to see if there is anything else about sleep. We start sleep training in two weeks!


If you are interested in more of what the AAP has to say about children and media, they have a blog written by their Council on Communications and Media. It includes an area with additional links. You could spend some time there!

No comments: