09 February 2009

Baby Einstein?

By age two, ninety percent of children are viewing television programming for an average of more than an hour and a half each day (Zimmerman, Christakis, & Meltzoff, 2007).

Children’s early brain development occurs through a process of interactions between children and their environments. Unfortunately, when infants and toddlers are watching television, their brains are being wired to respond to screens at a time when they need to be interacting with real human beings and developing motor skills.

The infant media market is an extremely lucrative industry; furthermore, many parents are convinced that program viewing is good for baby brain development. However, Andrew Meltzoff, co-director of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington, suggests that early television viewing places children on a route that puts them at an increased risk for attention deficit problems, diminished reading ability and weight issues.

Guidelines for Parents, Educators, and Early Childhood Professionals
- Discourage television viewing for children younger than 24 months; instead, suggest activities that foster healthy development (like reading, playing and singing).

Older toddlers:
- Remove television sets from children’s bedrooms.

- Monitor the programs children are viewing. Television programming should be informative and peaceful.

- Encourage brain activity by showing children that watching television can be an active experience. Repeat words and phrases you hear during the show and encourage children to sing and dance along with the characters.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that families and professionals lead community efforts in order to raise awareness about the relationship between early development and media exposure.

- Coordinate events advancing media education, such as local television turnoff week projects.

- Create alliances including libraries, churches, and community outreach programs to expand media education beyond the school systems.

- Work with the Department of Education to encourage the development of media education curricula for young children.

Bar-on, M.E. et. al. (2001). Children, adolescents and television. Pediatrics, 107, 423-426.

Meltz, B.F. (2007, May 27). Heavy tv viewing under 2 is found: Ignoring risks, parents cite 'educational' value. The Boston Glode, pp.1.

Zimmerman, F., Christakis, D.A., & Meltzoff, A. (2007). Television and dvd/video viewing in children younger than 2 years. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 161 (5), 473-479.

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