No screen time for under-twos, says AAP

So-called ‘educational’ television programs for the under-twos are useless, say researchers, and children younger than this should have as little screen time of any sort as possible.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), 90 percent of parents say their children under age two watch some form of electronic media – on average, for one to two hours per day.

By age three, almost one third of children have a television in their bedroom. Parents who believe that educational television is “very important for healthy development” are twice as likely to keep the television on all or most of the time.

“In today’s ‘achievement culture,’ the best thing you can do for your young child is to give her a chance to have unstructured play – both with you and independently,” says Dr Ari Brown, a member of the AAP Council on Communications and Media.

Children need this in order to figure out how the world works.”

Many video programs for infants and toddlers are marketed as ‘educational’, says the AAP – but the evidence doesn’t support this. Quality programs are educational for children only if they understand the content and context of the video, and this generally doesn’t happen below the age of two.

Television viewing around bedtime – and let’s face it, that’s when most children do watch – can cause poor sleep habits. And young children with heavy media use are at risk for delays in language development once they start school, although nobody’s entirely sure why.

Even watching your own program with your child in the room isn’t great, says the AAP, as it’s distracting the parent and makes for less parent-child interaction.

The report calls for further research.