Hendricks Regional Health Blog

Ages 0-2: Managing Your Child’s Screen Time

Posted by: T. Anthony GiaQuinta, M.D.   |   Thursday, February 28, 2013   |   Latest Articles   |   Back to Blog

kid, kids health, screen time, television, tv, video games, cell phones, child, computer, guidelines

(Editor's Note: In this blog, Dr. GiaQuinta discusses managing "screen time" for children ages 0-2. His next post will explore screen time guidelines and other helpful information for parents of older children. Check back soon!)

According to www.etymonline.com, the term "Boob-Tube" is a catchy term coined in the 60’s to describe the brain-leaching properties of the television set, with “boob” a once-used nick-name for an idiot, and ‘tube’ a component of the television back then. This means, that despite its relative infancy, the television had already gained notoriety among (what I picture to be) teachers and PTA members as enemy #1 between children and intellect.

Now, fifty years later, with TV viewing beginning on average at 4 months, and children engaged in up to 8 hours of media a day,2 this once-empirical association is finding some research to suggest that the boob-tube nomenclature might not be so off-base.

As a parent and physician, I understand that in today’s digital world, it can be challenging to safeguard your child from too much “screen time.” Here are some guidelines and helpful information for parents. I have broken it down into three age ranges: age 0-2 years; age 2 through adolescent; and adolescents.

Ages 0-2
Well, some of you might not like this: TV at this age is probably a bad idea. The following website, sponsored by the AAP, gives a really great in-depth explanation of this. I can see why it is reasonable to think that with high definition, big screen televisions, the images on television are a good stimulating environment for a baby. But in fact, the colors, voices, and movements that we see on TV are simply no substitute for real world interactions that babies need to develop their brains. Even worse, there is research out there suggesting a negative impact on a child’s language skills, reading skills, and short-term memory. The bottom line, according to the website’s author Dr. David Hill, is that it takes two full years of brain development before an infant can translate the symbols on screen to their real-world equivalents. Until then, there are better ways to exercise your baby’s brain! I’ll get a list of such activities to you all in a future blog post. But keep this in mind: while watching television, your child is probably NOT doing any of the following.3

  • Asking questions
  • Solving problems
  • Being creative
  • Exercising initiative
  • Practicing eye-hand coordination
  • Scanning (useful in reading)
  • Practicing motor skills:
  • Thinking critically, logically, and analytically
  • Practicing communication skills:
  • Playing interactive games with other children or adults (helpful for developing patience, self-control cooperation, sportsmanship)

~T. Anthony GiaQuinta, M.D.

Sources
1. Full disclosure: My mom is one such PTA member, organizing a very successful ‘TV Turnoff’ week in Northeast Indiana for the past 20 years.
2. Christakis, DA. The effects of fast paced cartoons. Pediatrics Vol. 128 No. 4 October 1, 2011 pp. 772-774.
3. www.healthychildrens.org: What Children are NOT Doing When Watching TV. Accessed February 20, 2013.

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