In 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that children under 2 years old should not have any TV/screen time. None. Despite this, 43% of kids under 2 years old watch TV every day! Not only should 2 year olds not be exposed to adult TV that may be on in the home, but also should avoid exposure to programs that are specifically marketed to parents with children under 2 years old. “Learning videos” like Baby Einstein and cartoons like Blue’s Clues have NO scientific evidence that they will help your child become developmentally advanced. And, there are more and more concerns that these videos may be actually harming your child’s brain development!
A study done at The Child Health Institute at the University of Washington has found a concerning correlation between the amount of TV that 1-3 year olds watch and their later ability to pay attention. For every 1 hour of TV/day before age three, a child is 10% more likely to show ADHD symptoms at age 7.
I have thought the main influence on the rise of ADHD we are seeing in our country is mostly due to the lack of consistent parenting and discipline. But, perhaps another huge factor is that we are actually rewiring our children’s brains from the very beginning to be “ADD.” We already know the best way to help babies develop connections in their brain is with social interaction. Most babies favorite thing to look at is a human face- they can stare at their mom’s face for a long time learning to mimic expressions, see shapes, colors, even emotions. When we substitute that human interaction for screen time (even “learning” screen time), it’s as if we’re telling that brain, go ahead and short circuit all those connections you are trying to develop, you won’t need them. But then that child gets to first grade and we expect them to have the wiring in place to be able to sit still and listen to a story when we haven’t given them what they needed early on to develop it.
Of course every mom needs a few minutes to take a shower or have some “me time.” But, next time you’re about to pop in an educational video for your child under 2, remember you may actually be doing harm and they would rather learn from you anyway!
For more information, I highly recommend Bright from the Start by Jill Stamm, Ph.D.
Brooke Uptagrafft, MD
Dr. Brooke is a family medicine doctor.