Television in infancy may affect childhood learning


Research has demonstrated that newborn children who view video are visually attracted to television; however, there are limitations "in the endogenous control of attention" and that attention to the material is not very long nor is it received in any meaningful way. It is only when infants reach the age between 3 to 6 months that any information being viewed from television, would keep them attentive to that material. Because the television is on and stays on for long periods of time in most homes, it is posited that infants might be focused on paying attention to it than focusing
on other play activities and are also losing time interacting with parents at a crucial age.

The concern for infants who view TV or who are exposed to it either by foreground or background, is
that it may lead to problems with low attention spans and later on may lead to a sedentary lifestyle perpetuating an already growing epidemic with obesity in children. Compounding the issue is that there are no empirical studies supporting that watching television in infancy could lead to low social
connectedness and little language interaction. Even so, the advent of rich media and advances in technology has propelled television and video watching to great heights. As such, researchers have found that only those television and video programs that were rich in children focused material held their attention longer and programs that were not directly related to children, showed attention spans to be lower.

The American Association of Pediatrics made the recommendation that parents limit the TV watching of children under 2 but that also toddlers as well do not glean much benefit from watching. "The AAP does stress, however, that children over 2 do understand the context and content of programming, and that some video material could be educational for them." This is good news; parents can be assured that as long as the programming content benefits the toddler's educational well-being, watching television and video programs may actually enhance learning later in childhood as well.

Some parents might agree that one way to improve television shows for children as well as educational videos, would be to go back to the basics. Some of the children's educational television shows like "Dora the Explorer" or "Sesame Street," children have viewed over the past few years, are a few examples of simplistic but highly educational shows that require participation and interaction. Though infants and children's television watching in general should be monitored for content, parents also need to make sure that the time spent in front of the television watching shows or videos even if the content is educational, be limited by taking into consideration the age of the child.

In our society, parents can agree that most infants and toddlers spend more time than the AAP recommends sitting in front of the television watching shows or videos. Parents should keep in mind that the first two years of an infant's life is the most important time for brain development.


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