Turn off TV to protect your baby's brain

PHOTO: Turn off TV to protect your baby's brain

There is no such thing as educational television for infants, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Letting your baby watch television, videos or any other passive media forms has no known positive effects, but has plenty of negative effects, said AAP in a policy statement released on Oct 18 this year.

According to the report, the only redeeming value of infant programming may be for entertainment's sake, but parents should not presume them to have any educational value and neither should they be marketed as such, Wired Science reported.

Over 50 studies have been conducted on infant television watching since 1999, said Ari Brown, a pediatrician who contributed to the report.

These studies have concluded that children do not understand what is happening on a screen until they are about two years old. Till then, television is essentially just a mesmerising glowing box.

Switching on the television at night might help in getting kids to sleep, but possibly results in sleep disturbances and irregularities. Poor sleep in children has been linked to mood, behavioural and learning difficulties.

The silence of parents during television watching may also negatively impact a kid, as they lose out on developing their language skills.

Three studies into "educational" television use and language development have found that increased television time is linked to developmental delays.

It is unclear whether there is a causation effect (parents who leave their children to watch television may be uneducated or poor teachers) or if there are long-term effects.

Similarly, research has linked television watching to attention problems.

Babies may also lose out on play time, which is known to have great developmental benefits.

While it is understandable parents often resort to switching on the television to occupy children for a few precious minutes of free time, a better alternative would be to let kids entertain themselves, Brown said.

Brown elaborated that playing independently is a valuable activity that involves problem solving, working the imagination and thinking creatively.

The negative effects of television has been suspected for as long as 10 years ago, with AAP suggesting that parents limit television consumption of their children under two years of age in a decade old statement.

However, less well established are the effects of iPads and other new interactive computing devices. Brown said there is little research into that area and hence no firm conclusions.

Nevertheless, she advised taking the child benefits claims of these products with a pinch of salt.