No TV

There it was on August 6, 2007 on my computer screen.An answer to a prayer.A confirmation of what I’d been telling parents who had asked my opinion.A virtual replay of what my friends, who also happen to be pediatric therapists, and I had discussed time and time again.What, you ask, was this wonderful, new, exciting information?What was this piece of genius that made me just giddy reading about it in the mainstream media?Here it is –

Baby Einsteins:Not So Smart After All?

If you want to read the whole article for yourself, you can it at: http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1650352,00.html

For those of you who don’t want to read it, I’ll sum it up for you.All those videos that are made especially for babies are actually BAD for their language development.It’s true.Researchers at the University of Washington found that for every hour per day spent watching baby DVDs and videos, the infants learned six to eight fewer new vocabulary words than babies who never watched the videos.The videos had the worst effects on babies ages 8-16 months old.

This is stunning news for some parents who believe that parking your kid in front of a screen of educational television had to help him learn to talk.Actually there seems to be two main reasons why this thinking is false.First of all, babies need face time, not screen time, to learn how to interact and communicate.When the TV is on, babies are not spending time with adults.

All of that passive viewing also has another detrimental affect on babies brain development.Dr. Vic Strasburger, professor of pediatrics at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), stated viewing these programs at an early age probably interferes with the crucial wiring being laid down in their brains during early development.

This is not the first time the AAP has issued warnings about early television viewing.In 1999 their advice to parents was stunning yet similar No TV for children under age 2.This includes even educational programming, even the shows that come on public television.Parents, who might have been leery of letting babies watch soap operas or wrestling, never had many reservations about Sesame Street.Despite the AAP’s negative position, edutainment, television and videos designed supposedly designed to teach while entertaining babies and toddlers, sales have grown at breakneck speed.

The research tells us that it’s the rapid scene changes that cause babies brains to scan and shift rather than attend to what they are seeing.This early viewing may actually change the way babies brains are wired at an important time and cause later attention problems as babies grow.Dr. Jill Stamm, neuroscientist from Arizona and author of Bright from the Start (Gotham Books, 2007), believes that this may explain the explosion in diagnosed cases of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children.

Anecdotally, I can tell give you remarkable stories about children on my caseload who were heavy television viewers and made dramatic gains in social skills, play skills, and most importantly, language skills, when their parents drew a line in the sand and declared their homes (mostly) TV-free.That’s not to say that these same moms didn’t watch Grey’s Anatomy after the toddler was safely tucked away or allow limited viewing for their babies.One family on my caseload with triplets saved television for very stressful times such as during the bewitching hour, the hour between arriving home in the evening and when dinner is ready.

I recommend to parents that they analyze the reason they are using videos or television.Putting in a DVD so you can grab a shower or make a very short business call is likely not going to lead to any long term damage.However, routinely using the videos and television is proving to be negligent.But don’t deceive yourself about the purpose of the viewing.It’s a diversion and free babysitting, not a way to make your baby smarter.

So what’s a crazy, busy mother supposed to do without the lifesaving DVD player in the van twice a day everyday during carpool or every night at dinner so mom and dad can eat?My advice to you is simple.Find something else to do to amuse your baby.Use the time in the car to talk or listen to music.Better yet, turn off the CD player and sing yourself!Take toys with you to the restaurant, or hire a sitter who can talk to and play with your child while you enjoy a dinner alone.Still not convinced that you have any other options?Call your mom and ask her because they raised all of us without that luxury. 

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Laura

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