Are Toddlers Watching Too Much TV
October 19, 2011

Are Toddlers Watching Too Much TV?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) said that there are better ways to help children learn than through television screens.

The AAP performed a survey and found that 90 percent of parents said their children under the age of 2 watch some form of electronic media.

The survey found that the average child watched television programs for one to two hours per day.

Parents who believe that educational television is "very important for healthy development" are twice as likely to keep the television on all or most of the time, according to the survey.

The researchers said almost a third of the children have a television in their bedroom by the age of 3.

The AAP found that many programs for infants and toddlers are marketed as "educational" but do not provide evidence to support this. 

Other findings by the AAP include:

  • Young children learn best from -- and need -- interaction with humans, not screens.
  • Parents who watch TV or videos with their child may add to the child's understanding, but children learn more from live presentations than from televised ones.
  • When parents are watching their own programs, this is "background media" for their children. It distracts the parent and decreases parent-child interaction. Its presence may also interfere  with a young child's learning from play and activities.
  • Television viewing around bedtime can cause poor sleep habits and irregular sleep schedules, which can adversely affect mood, behavior and learning.
  • Young children with heavy media use are at risk for delays in language development once they start school, but more research is needed as to the reasons.


The new guidelines recommend parents and caregivers set media limits for their children before the age of 2.

The AAP also recommends that instead of televisions, parents have their children partake in supervised independent play during times that a parent cannot sit down and actively engage in playing with their child.

"In today's 'achievement culture,' the best thing you can do for your young child is to give her a chance to have unstructured play -- both with you and independently. Children need this in order to figure out how the world works,"  Ari Brown, MD, FAAP, lead author of the policy, said in a press release.

The new policy will be published in the November 2011 issue of the journal Pediatrics.


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