Many child health experts recommend that parents not allow their children, if they are 2 years old and younger, to watch any television. The reason is that this is a critical time for brain development and watching TV gets in the way of a child’s exploration, problem solving, playing and interacting with parents and others. Without real life stimulation, a child’s brain doesn’t get the chance it needs to develop in normal and healthy ways.
A new study now looks at how toddler TV-time may impact their first foray into the educational system.
The Canadian researchers examined how the TV-viewing habits of about 2,000 children in Quebec at the age of 29 months affected them once they started kindergarten.
Every hourly increase in daily TV viewing over the recommended two-hour limit at the younger age was associated with poorer vocabulary, math skills and attention; reduced physical abilities; and an increased risk of being picked on by classmates when the children started kindergarten.
"[The findings] suggest the need for better parental awareness and compliance with existing viewing recommendations put forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics," study author Linda Pagani, a professor at the University of Montreal, said in a university news release.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids under 2 years old not watch any TV and that those older than 2 watch no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality programming.
Some parents may believe that kindergarten isn’t real school, but that it’s more of a pre-school adjustment period where kids get used to being in classrooms and learning very basic education skills. That’s true to a certain extent, however, kids need and deserve all the developmental advantages they can get as they begin their very important school years.
Although the study reported an association between more TV time and poorer skills in school, it did not establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship. Study data and conclusions also typically are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
Most likely your child’s future will include more media options than anyone can imagine today. Experts are already talking about the brain drain that too much multi-tasking and media surfing are having on older kids and adults. So give your little one a media free environment for at least his or her first two years of life. Let them explore the world by touching, smelling, seeing and hearing the wonders around them. There will be plenty of TV time in the future.