“Educational” Programs Do Not Benefit Toddlers

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The amount of “screen time” children are exposed to has significantly increased over the past few decades.

Television, video and computer programs—including ones purportedly designed for infants and toddlers— have no educational benefits for kids under two and even pose developmental risks, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) concludes based on research conducted since 1999.

“Very young children are still figuring out the world around them at the most basic level,” says Dr. Jantz. “Children under two learn and develop best through creative play and experimenting with their environment. TV screens and computer monitors can’t offer anything developmentally appropriate for kids under two. They need to interact with real people and objects rather than virtual ones.”

The AAP first issued a statement discouraging television viewing for children under two more than a decade ago, and released a more definitive policy statement last week based on research data accumulated since then. One of the most alarming findings has been that heavy media viewing by young children puts them at greater risk for language development delays once they start school, although the reason for this effect are not completely understood.

Studies have also shown that television viewing around bedtime can cause poor sleep habits in young children, which in turn can be detrimental to mood, behavior and learning. The AAP advises parents not to place TV sets in the bedrooms of young children. Also, parents are cautioned to be aware of how their own media usage could affect their children’s development, such as potentially decreasing crucial parent-child interaction and distracting children from creative play.