As many as 90% of children under the age of 2 are exposed to some form of electronic media every day, and American Academy of Pediatrics says these kids are better off engaging in unstructured play time and interacting with other humans — not media screens — and at this age they are already watching as much as two hours a day. TV that is on in the background is also detrimental, according to the policy statement.
The pediatricians group first issued recommendations on media use for children under age 2 in 1999, essentially discouraging TV viewing. More is known today about children’s early brain development and the best ways to help them learn.
Among the pediatricians’ conclusions:
- Unstructured play time is more valuable for the developing brain than electronic media. Children learn to think creatively, problem solve, and develop reasoning and motor skills at early ages through unstructured, unplugged play. Free play also teaches them how to entertain themselves.
- 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.
- So-called “educational television” isn’t as beneficial as parents may think it is. Many video programs for infants and toddlers are marketed as “educational,” yet evidence does not support this.
- Young children learn best from—and need—interaction with humans, not screens.
- 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.