Are you smarter than Baby Einstein?
Should you buy those Baby Einstein videos or the ones for the reading babies? Probably not. Not only do babies not know what’s going on on screen TV watching can actually cause a delay in social, cognitive and language development.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against TV watching for children under the age of 2. Infants and toddlers have a critical need for direct, real life social interaction with caregivers, believe it or not TV is not a social interaction. PBS has a great article that answers a lot of questions about tv watching, go here to read it.
Even having the TV on in the background can cause a shorter attention span in 2, 3 and 4 yr. olds. That makes sense, my attention span is shorter when the TV’s on because I’m trying to pay attention to what I’m doing and the TV. I guess that means I’ll be turning my TV off if I’m not actually watching it. According to a TIME article babies hear 770 fewer words from an adult for every hour that the TV is turned on! 770!! That’s crazy! And their vocalizations were lower too which makes sense since they’re not being talked to.
I think what it really comes down to is if you’re replacing social interaction with TV. What I mean by that is if you’re spending a lot of time speaking with your child and allowing them to get plenty of real life social interaction then letting them watch TV while you’re on the phone or on a long car drive probably isn’t going to hurt them. If you’re going to not talk to your child and just sit them in front of the TV for long stretches of time every day so you can do other stuff, well that’s probably going to cause a language delay.
No one would ever do that right? Wrong! In the past week I’ve heard 2 different mothers say things like “I don’t really talk to her, maybe I should talk to her” and “I don’t do much with her or pick her up much”. Who takes an infant to watch a movie just so they can get out of the house? Not just once but several times. OK, ok, it’s not my child and this is just my opinion. You do whatever you want.
So is it OK to use the TV as a baby sitter every once in a while as a last resort, like when you just need to take a shower, probably. Is it OK to let your infant watch TV on a regular basis while you go on about your business, that’s up to you. Read some of the articles and decide what works best for you. Just be informed before you decide to turn on the colorful babysitter that could affect your infants future concentration and language development.