When expectant parents go to their local Babies R Us or Walmart to register, they are greeted with numerous educational videos for babies and toddlers that they can add to their registry. These videos claim to help with brain stimulation and early educational development in young children.
Whether blatantly stated or overtly implied, the suggestion that buying these videos and plunking your baby in front of them every day will make your kid the smartest one on the block is nothing short of tempting.
Who doesn’t want their child counting by the age of 2, saying their alphabet by the age of 3, and knowing a second language by the age of 5?
These desires are not just for pride or bragging reasons; parents want the best for their children, and if that means giving them an intellectual edge so they can have an easier time in school and college later, they are willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish that.
In addition to building a library of children’s educational videos, there is also the temptation to use the television to keep a baby or toddler occupied when Mom or Dad are busy with all the daily life tasks that cry out for attention. What parents haven’t experienced the total frustration of a clingy child and then the blessed relief of silence and peace when that child suddenly becomes engrossed in a TV program?
According to the Association of American Pediatrics (AAP), children watch approximately four hours of TV a day. “If they are to watch any,” the AAP states, “it should be a minimum of two.” Despite this recommendation, once a child begins school they will spend approximately 900 hours in school during a year’s time, compared to 1,023 hours spent in front of a television.
Obviously, TV plays a large role in children’s lives. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Those who promote the educational videos and shows on TV are adamant that exposing your baby and young child to TV will stimulate the brain and will aid your child in learning at an earlier age.
Mothers who have allowed their children to watch videos that teach things such as Baby Sign, counting, or the alphabet feel that their baby picked up those concepts more easily because of the visual aids in teaching it.
In addition, TV is an enjoyable activity, no matter how old you are.
Despite these advantages, though, the AAP has delivered an official statement concerning TV and children under two:
Don’t do it! These early years are crucial in a child’s development. The Academy is concerned about the impact of television programming intended for children younger than age two and how it could affect your child’s development.
Pediatricians strongly oppose targeted programming, especially when it’s used to market toys, games, dolls, unhealthy food and other products to toddlers. Any positive effect of television on infants and toddlers is still open to question, but the benefits of parent-child interactions are proven. Under age two, talking, singing, reading, listening to music or playing are far more important to a child’s development than any TV show.
Other studies have also gone on to examine certain issues surrounding children who are exposed to television and videos on a regular basis.
According to several findings, children that watch TV regularly are more apt to be overweight, be less active, more prone to participate in risky behaviors, and have sleep disturbances.
In a study conducted by the AAP, a survey of children from 3rd to 8th grade showed that those who had a higher average of TV-watching experienced more anxiety, depression, and even post-traumatic stress disorder than children who watched less TV.
In a second study involving children from Kindergarten age to 4th grade, results showed that bedtime viewing and having a television in the child’s room showed a definite increase in sleep disturbances. This was thought by some, in another article, to be a result from the visual and audio stimulation in the child’s brain. This stimulation kept the child wide awake instead of helping them become sleepy and relaxed.
The correlation between television and anxiety and depression in children can be more clearly understood with an understanding of a child’s thought processes. Because a child thinks abstractly instead of concretely, ideas and characters presented on TV and in videos seem real to the child. They are unable to separate fact from reality. Therefore, a scary monster that is simply an imaginary character in the creator’s world can become a very real monster in a child’s world. This “reality” inevitably results in fears and anxiety.
Even more surprising than the preceding findings, are the surveys that show a definite correlation between TV viewing and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): A study from the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that watching videos as a toddler may lead to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD, also called ADD in UK) in later life.
TV watching “rewires” an infant’s brain, says Dr. Dimitri A. Christakis lead researcher and director of the Child Health Institute at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center, Seattle, Wash. The damage shows up at age 7 when children have difficulty paying attention in school.
“In contrast to the way real life unfolds and is experienced by young children, the pace of TV is greatly sped up.” says Christakis. His research appears in the April 2004 issue of Pediatrics. Quick scene shifts of video images become “normal,” to a baby “when in fact, it’s decidedly not normal or natural.” Christakis says. Exposing a baby’s developing brain to videos may over stimulate it, causing permanent changes in developing neural pathways.
Is TV completely detrimental to your child? Should you feel horrible guilt and experience anxiety over the fact that your child watches it? Not necessarily. The key point in all of this is balance. A healthy balance of occasional TV watching with activities that involve the imagination needs to be the goal.
Video : Effects of Television On Young Children
It is fun as a family to sit down and watch a show or two. It can be a wonderful family treat every week to sit down and watch a good family movie. However, television should not replace the activities that require the child to think and process using their own mental skills.
For instance, there are movies that are brilliantly done with beautiful colors, amazing music, and incredible visual effects that can intrigue a child and cause them to gasp in wonder.
On the other hand, there is also the potential of an imagination that is begging to be unlocked with building blocks or a storybook.
Perhaps there are videos that help teach a child their numbers or alphabet or Baby Sign, but the parent has the same capability of teaching those concepts that a video has! Not only does a parent have the same capability, they are also able to provide an emotional connection with their child while teaching them these things. That is something no video or TV show can ever give, no matter how well done it is.
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