The AAP, TV And Toddlers

19 October 2011

The AAP (American Academy of Paediatrics) once again issued a statement urging parents to limit the time children under the age of two spend in front of screens.

Back in 1999 when they first called on parents of young children to pretty much ban television and to fill out a 'media history' at their doctor's visits, the suggestion was a lot more stringent than it is today.

It seems that the AAP have taken a different approach to the issue this time, stating “Video screen time provides no educational benefits for children under age 2 and leaves less room for activities that do, like interacting with other people and playing.”

While this is all well and good, I have questions and I'm sure I'm not the only parent that does. The AAP are very firm that a child shouldn't watch TV when they're under two. So what happens to the child's brain between two years and two years and two days? Or is it not about a physical reaction that stops or starts at a certain age?

Or what if you've spent all morning at toddler group, have come home, had a nap, been for a walk to the park and now pop your tot in front of In The Night Garden while you get dinner started? Are you actively damaging brain cells by doing so? And is the effect the same if you let them watch home videos?

The AAP statement on TV an Toddlers says “Pediatricians strongly oppose targeted programming, especially when it's used to market toys, games, dolls, unhealthy food and other products to toddlers.” Which makes me wonder if that's not the core of the issue – the marketing to children, and the effect that has on them, long term. Is the AAP perhaps too soft to speak out against what is a multi-billion-choose- your-currency industry? I was horrified recently when my daughter apparently correctly identified a TV character on a friend's t-shirt: she'd seen that particular show one time at my in-laws house. I didn't even know the programme's name, much less the character!

I wish I could sit up on my high horse here and say my child never watches TV – and she never did until 18 months – but now she sometimes does. I'm very selective about what she watches, and more often than not it's a Disney Pixar film, rather than TV, and we avoid the channels with advertising on them, but am I damaging my child? I don't thinks so. But I wouldn't, or I wouldn't do it.

It all still makes me uncomfortable, really, and I'd love to know what the actual root of the concerns is?

Is it TV that's bad? Is it programming that's bad? Is it the lack of interaction? The placid sitting and lack of activity? What do you think?

TOPICS:   News and Recalls


  • Emma Kelly EDITOR
    I've had similar thoughts to you Luschka. My wee one has never really watched TV, she's about 17 months now. Last week, my sister showed her in the night garden and she was pretty fascinated. And then I thought were my actions in not showing her this, making her miss out on something fun, even if it is only half an hour a day? Since then, I let her watch a little, but now this report makes me want to turn it off completely again!
  • RebelNine
    Congratulations on keeping your child away from the TV until the age of 18 months... I have not been anywhere near as morally upstanding! The full text of the report is now available for review here and whilst I want to declare that it is just scaremongering tactics by a team of Bourgeoisie researchers looking for a reason to spend their research grant it isn't. However common-sense parenting will see you through and whilst I agree with the findings these edicts will never make law and what my Granny says holds true as much today as the day she told me "a little of what's bad for you is good for you"!
  • LuschkaPP
    Thanks RebelNine. While I'd like to say yes, we tried hard and succeeded, it really was more a matter that we spent a lot of time travelling while her travel was free, on the one hand, and that we lived somewhere without tv/tv sockets for six months, knowing that we'd only be there for the summer, so didn't bother with a tv. It's only since we've been settled in our own home again and I've been pregnant/ill/tired that TV has slipped in again. It's certainly not a moral victory won on our side - I think it was just circumstance. I agree with you on both counts though - there probably are parents who NEED that research to get the common sense into them, and your Granny was probably right too... I know I feel that way about both red wine and chocolate cake ;)
  • LynleyOram
    I wouldn't give a baby either red wine or chocolate cake :D I'm more like RebelNine, and probably had the telly on more than I should have. That said though, it was hard not to as son would have it in the background as he played out a game based on whatever was on telly. He had very firm tastes though. Never liked teletubbies or tweenies, but was addicted to Night Garden.

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