Dr. Asha Ramachandran is guest blogging this week and discussing appropriate screen time for kids!
Did you know that almost 40% of infants are watching some kind of video on TV by 5 months of age, and the number increases to 90% by age 2?? So what is the big deal–especially since they seem to like it? It all goes back to brain development.
Brain growth is rapid and profound during the first 3 years of life, with the brain tripling in mass in just the first year. What a child is exposed to for stimulation during this time greatly influences this brain development. The truth is what we see on a screen is extremely different from what we see in real life (and not just from a story-line perspective). To truly understand this you have to forget what you know as an adult and see the world through a child’s eyes.
Consider the differences between the 3-dimensional world we live and interact in and the 2-dimensional world television portrays to a child. Seeing things in real life, touching and exploring things with their mouths and hands, are essential to a child learning about our world. Things illustrated on a screen cannot convey that same knowledge or experience. Infants are often distracted by colors and motions on screen, tricking parents into believing they are enjoying the experience, but the truth is their brains are not able to fully understand and make sense out of what they are seeing. It takes 2 full years for their brain to make the connection between what they are seeing on screen to what they are touching in real life.
Watching TV also eliminates interaction with other people – young children learn more from watching emotions, facial expressions and learning to understand body language when they interact with parents, siblings or play-pals than they will learn from watching shapes and colors on television. Evidence suggests that watching screens before age 2 has a lasting negative effect on language development, reading skills and short-term memory. It can also contribute to sleep and attention problems. Having the TV on in the background decreases conversation between you and your child, decreasing exposure to words and language development even further.
After the age of 2, children are capable of learning skills from educational TV shows and gaining benefits in literacy, math, science, problem-solving and socialization. Content matters and having a parent there to watch alongside to help explain and interact is even better. The recommendation is still to cap all screen time (TV,computer and mobile phone videos) to 2 hours per day.
Here are some additional resources if you would like to find out more!
Thank you for reading from all of us here at Weissbluth Pediatrics!