'Passive' TV can harm your baby's speech making it harder for them to later cope in school
Children are as vulnerable to the effects of ‘passive TV’ as they are to secondhand smoking, according to experts.
Casual exposure can harm their language development, making it harder for them to cope when they go to school, they claim.
The American Academy of Paediatrics has included warnings about ‘secondhand television’ in its guidelines for children aged under two.
Exposure: Young children are as vulnerable to the effects of 'passive TV' as they are to secondhand smoking, according to researchers
Parents are more tempted than ever these days to rely on TV or computers to keep babies and toddlers entertained, the academy said.
But as well as discouraging the amount of screen-time to which youngsters are exposed, it cautioned against adults watching television with them nearby.
Studies revealed background TV reduced the time small children spent playing and caused their concentration to wander.
The AAP report said TV deterred children and parents from interacting, which it said was crucial to vocabulary development.
‘When parents are watching their own programmes, this is “background media” for their children,’ it said.
‘It distracts the parent and decreases parent-child interaction. Its presence may also interfere with a young child’s learning from play.’
It said parents needed to understand that 'their own media use can have a negative effect on children'.
Easy option: Parents are more tempted than ever these days to rely on TV or computers to keep babies and toddlers entertained
Experts say that so-called 'unstructured' free play time is more valuable for the developing brain than electronic media.
They also believe that TV viewing around bedtime can cause very young children to sleep badly.
'If you’re trying to connect with your kids, you’ve got to turn the screens off,' said Ari Brown, a Texas paediatrician who led the AAP’s new research.
Whenever the focus in a room is on television 'there’s less talk time', she added.
She said families should try to switch off TVs when nobody was watching and adults should wait until very young children are in bed before sitting down to view.
Lisa Guernsey, an early learning expert, said parents are distracted by TV in the same way that pre-schoolers are affected.
Meanwhile, other U.S. research has shown that children aged eight and under spend nearly four times as much of their day watching TV as they do other activities.
On average youngsters watched television shows for 1.44 hours compared to around half an hour for reading, listening to music or playing computer games.
Common Sense Media, which surveyed 1,400 parents, said the data should serve as a ‘wake up call’ to parents.
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