Saturday, May 19, 2012

My 2-Year Old Does Not Watch Television

Another topic that I have been wanting to address is television use by children under 2 and beyond.  I do not let my child watch television and I don't intend to in the near future.  He just turned two and I don't think it is necessary or a good thing to have him "entertained" by a television or other electronic media at his age (he'll have the rest of his life to do that).  I have heard many comments from well-intentioned people telling me that I am "depriving" my child of television when it is "educational."  I do agree that television can be educational but there is a time and place for that.  A child as young as my little one does not need the constant stimulation.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently updated their policy statement addressing media use in children in October 2011.  "The AAP discourages media use by children younger than 2 years.  Unstructured playtime is more valuable for the developing brain than any electronic media exposure. If a parent is not able to actively play with a child, that child should have solo playtime with an adult nearby. Even for infants as young as 4 months of age, solo play allows a child to think creatively, problem-solve, and accomplish tasks with minimal parent interaction. The parent can also learn something in the process of giving the child an opportunity to entertain himself or herself while remaining nearby."  A television or other electronic media is not a substitute for the interaction between a parent and child.  

A study published in 2007 in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine found that "By 3 months of age, about 40% of children regularly watched television, DVDs, or videos. By 24 months, this proportion rose to 90%. The median age at which regular media exposure was introduced was 9 months. Among those who watched, the average viewing time per day rose from 1 hour per day for children younger than 12 months to more than 1.5 hours per day by 24 months. Parents watched with their children more than half of the time. Parents gave education, entertainment, and babysitting as major reasons for media exposure in their children younger than 2 years."

I find these statistics astounding considering that it has not been proven that watching television or engaging in any form of electronic media in children under 2 has had any educational benefit.  Heavy media use has been "associated with obesity, sleep issues, aggressive behaviors, and attention issues in preschool- and school-aged children."  It may also cause eye strain if a child sits too close to the television (which I know many young children do).   

I admit that my husband and I both have our vices.  He likes to watch his baseball games on television and I am highly addicted to the Internet.  It's not easy to cut ourselves off completely but we make a conscious effort to interact with him rather than rely on electronic media to be a "babysitter."  I think the benefits are well worth it.  When we need him to be "distracted" while we do laundry or cook dinner, he will entertain himself by sitting in a corner with a book or will play by himself with his lego blocks building things and creatively exploring the world around him.  Since he's never known television, he doesn't "need" to have it.  In today's society, I know our time of him being "media-free" is rapidly closing as he gets older.  This will be a challenge to go as long without media exposure for baby #2 but we're going to try.  Our children may not yet know the theme song to Sesame Street or know who Yo Gabba Gabba is but they can figure it out when they're older or they can read about it in a good book.

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