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Should Babies and Toddlers Watch Television?

From Gentle Baby Care by Elizabeth Pantley

  • Children experience unparalleled physical, mental, and emotional growth in the early years of life. Time spent watching television is time taken away from more healthful activities that nurture growth and development.

  • Children who watch a lot of television during their early years are at risk for childhood obesity, poor social development, and aggressive behavior. They often have trouble adjusting to preschool or kindergarten. According to a study by Yale Family Television Research, teachers characterized children who watched excessive television as less cooperative, less imaginative, less enthusiastic about learning, and less happy than those who watched little or no TV.

  • Due to all the above reasons, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents not allow children under two to watch any television.

You may have noticed that all of these points demonstrate the negative aspects of letting babies and toddlers watch TV, and you're wondering if there are any positives. There are a few, but I'll be honest: I had to be very creative to come up with this list, since published research doesn't demonstrate many good points for putting a young child in front of a television. But we need to be realistic and acknowledge that most of us aren't going to put our TVs in the closet until all of our children start school. Here are some of the good points of television for children:

  • Quality children's programming can teach your child basic academic skills, such as the ABCs, counting, addition, science fundamentals, basic language skills, manners, and even early reading skills.

  • Your child can view things she might not otherwise see in daily life: exotic animals, distant lands, musical instruments, historical places, and diverse lifestyles. Your child can learn about the world beyond her home and neighborhood.

  • Your child can learn basic social skills from watching wholesome programming: how to play with other children, how to use good manners.

  • Using extraordinarily careful selection and restraint, a little bit of television can provide a parent with much-needed down time, or time to catch up on tasks that need adult-only attention.

TV watching tips for parents of babies and young children

The following tips may help you minimize the negative and maximize the positive effects of television watching for your little one:

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