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Should your baby watch TV?

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Did you know that babies and children under the age of two should not watch screens? That means no television, no smartphones and no tablets. Given the fact that companies manufacture and market shows and apps to babies, it may be surprising for a lot of parents to know this. But, after careful research and consideration, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises against it.

Just recently a new product hit the market that is a bouncy seat with a tablet holder, so the parent can place the baby in the seat and position the screen directly above her. It seems like an innocent enough product and it might help keep the baby occupied for a few minutes, while you get a few things done, right? Like clean the house, take a shower, go to the bathroom…. As enticing and tempting as it may be, the long-term effects may not be worth the short-term payoff.

should your baby watch tv

Your child’s brain is wired to grow and develop thanks to eye contact, touch, manipulating tangible objects (blocks, balls, books), etc. Watching a two-dimensional screen does not encourage brain growth and may have the opposite effect.

“Screen exposure, at any age, should be monitored and media limits set. A child’s first two years are an especially critical time for brain development,” said Marcia Haut, developmental therapist, creator of the award-winning NogginStik developmental toy and one of our site sponsors. “TV and other electronic media can take time away from exploring, playing and interacting with parents and others, which encourages learning and healthy physical and social development. Because TV and screen viewing take away from parent/child interaction time, can lead to language, motor, cognitive and attention delays, the AAP recommendation to discourage media use for children younger than two years is welcomed by teachers and therapists.”

By setting the stage early with access to screens, the problem only increases over time. “The average American child consumes more than seven hours of screen-based entertainment each day. Seven hours! Can we agree that’s a crazy big number?” Dr. Mike Patrick, physician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and host of Pediacast, said in a blog post on 700 Children’s website. “And is it any wonder the cost of our flagrant over-use is so high? Study after study has painted a clear picture of the impact: obesity, poor school performance, attention problems, aggression, conduct problems, poor sleep, eating disorders, diminished mental well-being, illicit activities, risky behaviors, and disrupted interpersonal relationships between parents and their children.”

The good news is that we as parents can limit our children’s exposure and prevent those negatives from happening. And, it starts at birth. Baby’s brains are especially impressionable. So instead of turning on a screen, Marcia said, “Parents should be encouraged to talk, read, sing and play with their little ones to help them reach their full potential.”

So, when you are tempted to turn on the screen and let your little one zone out for a few moments, try these ideas instead:

  • Read a book to him. (Bonus: extra cuddles!)
  • Look into her eyes and talk to her. It doesn’t matter what you say. Just hearing your voice and words encourages brain development.
  • Sing a song.
  • Give him some floor time and tummy time to strengthen his muscles.
  • Let her play with balls, blocks and teething-friendly toys.
  • Take him for a walk.
  • Wear her in a sling, wrap or other carrier. (Bonus: extra calorie burn for you!)
  • Rock him.

Not only will these things encourage your little one’s brain development, but they will also build the bond between you. Your face and your voice are two of your baby’s favorite things. Your touch soothes and comforts her. Start building a bond and a connection now that will last a lifetime. Don’t let that bond be to a screen and media that will only get more violent and negatively influential over the years. You are your child’s greatest educational tool and all it takes to get him on the right path is eye contact, hearing your voice and feeling your gentle touch.

{Photo credit}

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