‘Screen-free’ environment best for toddlers

Babies and toddlers should learn and get their entertainment from play, NOT from TV screens, computer displays, or video games, according to a new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Reaffirming its longstanding support for a “screen-free” environment for children younger than 2, the AAP encourages parents to play with toddlers whenever possible and to provide opportunities for supervised independent play when direct engagement with a child is not possible.

When parents do allow media exposure, they should set strict time limits, keeping in mind that the AAP discourages media use by children before age 2.

The basis for the statement came from the communication and media council’s examination of two questions:

  • Do video and television have educational value for children younger than 2?
  • Are children of that age harmed in any way by watching TV or videos?

The search for answers produced several key findings:

  • Evidence does not NOT the educational value of video programs, even those marketed as educational.
  • Unstructured play time facilitates development by encouraging toddlers to learn to think creatively, solve problems, and develop reasoning and motor skills.
  • Children learn best from interaction with humans.
  • Children learn more from live presentations than from TV or videos, even when parents watch with a child.
  • Parents’ television viewing habits can distract from play time and create background noise that can interfere with a child’s learning.
  • Television viewing at bedtime can lead to poor sleep habits and irregular sleep schedules.
  • Heavy media exposure by young children is associated with delayed language development.
  • The policy statement has recommendations for physicians, parents, and industry.

Here are some of my blogs on “screen time” from the last year:

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