The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) once again reminded parents with children ages 2 and under that they should not be allowing their little ones to watch TV or other screens (like computer screens and smartphones) – something that 90% of parents currently allow!
Why not? The doctors’ group said such exposure can have “more potential negative effects than positive effects.”
“The temptation to rely on media screens to entertain babies and toddlers is more appealing than ever, with screens surrounding families at home, in the car and even at the grocery store,” the AAP said in a press statement. “And there is no shortage of media products and programming targeted to little ones. But a new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics says there are better ways to help children learn at this critical age.”
The doctors maintain that there’s no evidence to support claims that programming aimed at very young children has any educational impact. They instead urged caretakers to provide “unstructured play time” which allows children the chance to “think creatively, problem solve and develop reasoning and motor skills.” The physicians also suggested that parents keep televisions out of their children’s bedrooms and “recognize that their own media use can have a negative effect on children.”
Not surprisingly, this position is not exactly popular with parents, many of whom think that the guidelines are out of touch with reality.
Writing in the online magazine Slate, Farhad Manjoo related the story of how he was told by his 1-year-old’s pediatrician not to allow his child to watch TV or play with his parents’ iPhone, iPad or computers.
“Like all babies, Khalil goes gaga for any sort of screen,” Manjoo wrote. “The sight of an electronic device quiets him instantly, and if you hand him the gadget, it will reliably captivate him for 10 minutes or longer, far more time than he spends with any other kind of toy.”
Manjoo admitted that he’s used gadgets and screens to calm his son when they were out in public, saying he knew it was “wrong” but that he was using the items judiciously. “I’m skeptical of the blanket rule against screens,” he added. “. . . [T]he prohibition against television for babies is based on shaky evidence. . . The evidence against phones, tablets and PCs is far slimmer. As far as I can tell, there’s no research showing that letting your baby play a game on your phone for a short while will harm him in any way.”
In a piece titled “I Let My Babies Watch TV and I Regret Nothing!” Time Magazine’s TV critic James Poniewozik also weighed in, saying “In the end, I take pronouncements like the AAP’s like I take so many guidelines for parenting: as Platonic statements of an ideal that I will continually fall short of.”
Then he suggested that if the pediatricians “really want to help the parents” they “could offer to watch the baby next time while we grab a shower.”
How much television do you let your children watch?