When my boys (now 3.5 and 6) were very small, they rarely watched videos. In 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics urged parents not to allow any screen time for children under age 2. Last month, the academy reaffirmed its statement, supporting it with additional research findings. The report (you can read it in full for free here) explains that children younger than 2 aren't developmentally capable of learning anything from events on a video—contrary to what the marketers of "learning DVDs" for babies would have us believe. There simply is no evidence that children this young can learn from watching videos.
The report also noted that "secondhand television"—programming in the background but not necessarily directed at children—distracts parents from their children and children from their play, with possible long-term effects on children's attention, memory, and reading comprehension. The article went on to cite other frightening statistics, suggesting that TV watching displaces developmentally valuable playtime, reduces literacy, and is associated with negative health effects.
Not surprisingly, the AAP report makes plenty of parents uneasy. After all, popping in a DVD can keep the kids quiet and out of trouble for a while, and who wants to feel guilty about that, especially since, as Rhiana Maidenberg points out at the Huffington Post, we parents spend, on average, much more time playing creatively with their kids than they did 30 years ago? "With the ever-increasing expectations placed on parents," she writes, "maybe we also need to allow for some latitude when it comes to giving parents the occasional break [by letting kids watch TV]."
Maidenberg doesn't say how old her kids are, but based on the activities ...1
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