Television plays a central role in children's everyday lives.
Almost all American families have at least one TV set, and half own three or more.1 Two-thirds of children age six and under watch television every day, usually for around two hours.2 But television’s influence doesn’t end when a child’s favorite show is over. Even when he is involved in other activities, such as playing alone or spending time with his parents, there is likely to be a television on nearby. 3,4
A large body of research shows that too much television can have negative effects on children’s behavior, achievement, and health.5,6 Other research finds that what children are watching is as important as how much they are watching. For instance, some studies show that preschoolers who watch educational programs like Sesame Street have better academic outcomes in elementary school.7
What about younger children? Most studies on children and television involve preschoolers and older children, but researchers have recently begun to study television’s effects on children under three. The results consistently show that very young children perceive TV differently than older children and may be affected by it differently. 8
Infants and toddlers watch more TV than ever before.
The first three years of life are the most significant period of a child’s development, especially for the brain, which is growing faster than any other part of the body. During this time, a child’s brain is more receptive to positive influences—and more vulnerable to negative ones—than it will be in later years.9,109,10 years.9,10In the late 1990s, as early brain development became a widely discussed topic, researchers began to ask about the role of television in the lives of infants and toddlers.
Around the same time, the first infant-directed videos and television programs began to appear. 11,12 As a result, infant and toddler exposure to television has increased dramatically in the last 15 years:
- Almost all infants and toddlers are exposed TV or videos every day, usually for about 1 or 2 hours. 12,13
- Around two-thirds of mothers with three-year-olds report that their child watched two hours or more per day. 14
- If background television is included, very young children are exposed to an average of four hours of television each day. 4
Early television watching can endanger healthy development.
In addition to reporting young children’s increased exposure to television, these studies have also discovered that TV in the first three years of life can have a negative impact on healthy development:
- Infant exposure to television has been linked to delayed language development and kindergarten readiness skills. 15,16
- Early exposure to TV has also been connected to attention disorders and sleep problems. 17,18
- TV use at age three has been linked to behavior problems and to long-term effects on social development, classroom engagement, and academic achievement. 14,19,20
Television, videos, and DVDs are not effective teachers.
Advocates of infant-directed programs and videos claim that these products can benefit children. Most are marketed as educational tools that promote brain development and cognitive skills. 11 In a survey of over 1,000 families, parents shared their reasons for allowing their infants and toddlers to watch TV and videos. The most common reason was the belief that “the television and video programs that I have my child watch teach him/her something or are good for his/her brain”. 13
However, claims like these are not supported by research. Studies generally find that for children younger than three years, television, videos, and DVDs are not effective teachers. 21-23 Even worse, they may crowd out healthier activities and set the stage for heavier television use throughout childhood. 12
Based on these concerns, the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) recommends that children under age two do not watch television, and that older children watch only one or two hours of quality programming. 24
Babies' brains are not ready for television.
Why does TV affect very young children differently than older children? The answer involves the remarkable changes that are happening in the brain during the first three years of life. When a baby is born, his brain has about all of the neurons (or nerve cells) it will ever have. But the job of forming connections between them is still underway. This is especially true in brain areas that support advanced abilities like memory and abstract thought.10
Although watching television is a passive activity, understanding television requires certain skills. In the first few years of life, many of these skills are only beginning to develop. To a baby, television is a stream of 2-dimensional pictures that change about every 6 seconds and have no apparent connection to each other, to the sounds coming from the same direction, or to real people and objects. Before a child can learn from television, he must be able to connect these images into a meaningful whole. 25
For the first six months, a baby understands little of what he sees on the screen. TV’s colors and sounds may capture his attention for brief periods, but he lacks the ability to process what he is watching or to pay attention for long. 12
Later in the first year, as his cognitive and perceptual abilities continue to improve, a baby may be able to recognize people and objects on the screen. He is unlikely, however, to grasp how images relate to each other and to the real objects they represent. 26
Most researchers agree that meaningful learning from television is unlikely before age three, when children begin to understand the relationship between TV and reality. 12,26
Children do not have to watch television to be affected by it.
In many households with children, the television is on most or all of the time, whether or not someone is watching. Half of children’s TV exposure consists of background television—television that a child can see or hear even though he is not actively watching. 2,4,26
Everyday activities like singing, playing, and exploring help babies and toddlers sharpen their cognitive abilities and motor skills, but the frequent distractions caused by background television can hinder this process. Young children are less able to focus on active, hands-on play while the television is on. Background TV can threaten cognitive and language development and may be linked to attention problems later in childhood. 17,28
Babies and toddlers are social learners.
Although a baby’s brain is not wired to understand television, it is well-equipped to learn from social interactions. At birth, the brain networks that support interactive learning have already begun to develop. A newborn can recognize faces and voices and is sensitive to social cues such as eye contact, facial expressions, and tone of voice. 29 These cues are learning aids that help babies and toddlers understand their surroundings.
Numerous studies have shown that babies learn better from people than from pictures. For instance, infants and toddlers who see a live demonstration of a simple task are more likely to remember it than those who watched a video of the same task. This “video deficit” continues until around age three and possibly beyond. 26 Positive interactions with parents and caregivers provide the social and emotional context that a baby needs in order to learn effectively.
When the television is on, quality time suffers.
Many educational programs and videos for infants and toddlers claim to benefit children by providing opportunities for parent-child interactions. Research provides several reasons why this is unlikely to be true:
- Even during children's first three years, educational content makes up only half of what they watch. 13
- When the television is on, even in the background, parents talk and play with their infants less often. When they do, they are less attentive and engaged. 4,15
- Even when children are watching programs and DVDs designed to promote interaction, parents watch with them less than half the time. 8,13
Positive interactions are the best learning experiences a child can have.
Over ten years have passed since the American Academy of Pediatrics issued its recommendation that children under age two do not watch television and that older children watch only one or two hours per day. At that time, there was little research on television’s effects on infants and toddlers. Studies that have appeared in the past decade, however, support the Academy’s position.
A heavy diet of television provides only empty calories for a child’s growing brain. Active, hands-on play and warm, responsive parenting nourish children’s early development. Because more time in front of the screen means less time for play and shared activities, TV’s increasing presence in the daily lives of young children has dire implications. The evidence is clear: Parents and caregivers of infants and toddlers can promote learning, achievement, and health by taking television off the menu.
So what can we as caregivers do?
Turning on the television might seem like the easy solution, but the truth is that there are other ways for even the busiest family members to entertain our children…
- Talk to your child; tell him or her a story about your day, about the weather, about an imaginary world, about anything!
- Sing to your child; the tones, pitches, and noises are all new and exciting!
- Point out and count new objects and let your baby touch them. Believe it or not, babies can start learning basic mathematical concepts by simply watching you count something!
Want more ideas? Check out:
Good evidence suggests that screen viewing before age 18 months has lasting negative effects on children's language development, reading skills, and short term memory. It also contributes to problems with sleep and attention.How does television affect infant and toddler development? ›
Good evidence suggests that screen viewing before age 18 months has lasting negative effects on children's language development, reading skills, and short term memory. It also contributes to problems with sleep and attention.Should babies and toddlers watch television? ›
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under 18 months have no exposure to screens (unless they're video chatting with a family member or friend). And even kids older than 1½ should watch or play with screen-based media in small, supervised doses.Is it OK for infants to watch TV? ›
Pediatricians generally recommend keeping children under 18 months from viewing screens. Even after that age, parents should always accompany children with TV watching and ensure they don't get too much screen time, inadvertently impacting their behavioral health.Is it okay for my 2 year old to watch TV? ›
Toddlers 18 months to 24 months old can start to enjoy some screen time with a parent or caregiver. Children this age can learn when an adult is there to reinforce lessons. By ages 2 and 3, it's OK for kids to watch up to 1 hour a day of high-quality educational programming.Can too much TV cause speech delay in toddlers? ›
Studies report a link between TV and language development in young children. The more time kids spend watching television, the more slowly they learn to talk.Does TV affect toddler behavior? ›
Too much screen time can also take away from reading, studying, learning activities, play, and exercise. Digital media can also show alcohol and drug use, smoking, and sexual behavior. Your child may see these things before they are emotionally ready to understand these issues. And before they can make good decisions.Can TV overstimulate a newborn? ›
TVs, phones, and other devices can all be too much for a baby's brain to process before they're at least 18 months old. That's why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding screen use before age 2 — then limiting exposure to around 1 hour of educational programming a day until they're 5. Too much activity.What are the negative effects of television? ›
In This Article: Too much screen time can lead to obesity, sleep problems, chronic neck and back problems, depression, anxiety and lower test scores in children. Children should limit screen time to 1 to 2 hours per day. Adults should also try to limit screen time outside of work hours.What are the benefits of no screen time for toddlers? ›
The benefits of limiting screen time for your child would include, but are not limited to: improved sleep habits, better focus and brain function, increased academic success, decrease in obesity, better vision, and lower risk of anxiety and depression.
Some child development experts confirmed that the show is hyper-stimulating and can cause addiction as the result. Jerrica Sannes, an expert in early childhood, development and education, claimed the show was not only overstimulating, it's also likely to cause behavioral problems and attention disorders.When should I introduce TV to my baby? ›
The consensus among experts is that limited screens and TV viewing are safer to introduce around the age of 18 months. That said, the AAP guidelines state that parents who want to introduce their 18- to 24-month-old to screens should do so together, and with high-quality programming and apps.What happens if I let my toddler watch too much TV? ›
Too much screen time for toddlers may lead to unhealthy behaviors growing up, study says. Toddlers and young children who spend more than three hours a day viewing a screen, either watching TV or playing on a tablet, are more likely to be sedentary by the time they reach kindergarten-age, a new study found.Is too much screen time bad for 2 year old? ›
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends avoiding screens for children younger than 18 to 24 months, except when video chatting with family. The AAP also recommends limiting screen use for preschool children, ages 2 to 5, to just one hour a day of high-quality programming (think Sesame Street or PBS).How much is too much TV for a 2 year old? ›
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no regular TV watching for children under the age of 2, and limiting TV time to around 1 to 2 hours a day for children over 2.Does CoComelon delay speech? ›
Despite recent claims on TikTok—and (seemingly widespread) disapproval—there's no definitive proof showing that CoComelon causes behavioral and/or developmental issues.How does CoComelon affect babies? ›
That's kids' ability to self-regulate and control their emotions. “There's been some studies that have shown that when children watch shows like that, like CoComelon before age 2 when they look at their executive functions later at age 9, they notice that those kids have difficulty with executive functions.What age is CoComelon for? ›
Is there an age recommendation for the show? Everyone of all ages is welcome to CoComelon LIVE! JJ's Journey.What are the symptoms of too much screen time? ›
- Phones, tablets, even watches— screens are everywhere you turn. ...
- Trouble Sleeping. Excessive screen time can disrupt your sleep. ...
- Mood Changes. Too much scrolling and texting may affect your emotional health. ...
- Altering Your Brain. Too much screen time may cause physical changes to your brain. ...
- Tune Out.
Background Noise Is Harmful to Learning
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children under the age of 2 not watch any television.
Using Screens to Calm a Child May Lead to More Tantrums
If your go-to strategy is to distract them or get them to be quiet by using media, then this study suggests that is not helping them in the long term,” according to Dr. Jenny Radesky in the CNN article.
Yes, watching TV is better than starving, but it's worse than not watching TV. Good evidence suggests that screen viewing before age 2 has lasting negative effects on children's language development, reading skills, short term memory, and increases their chances of becoming overweight or obese as they get older.How do I know if my baby is watching too much TV? ›
They Are Physically Inactive. Sure, it may feel like the average toddler is incapable of sitting still ever. But as noted by Kidspot, toddlers who watch over two hours of TV a day are more likely to be less active physically. It's smart to make sure your kid still has plenty of time to run around and play.How do I know if my toddler is overstimulated? ›
- seem tired, cranky and upset.
- cry and not be able to use words to describe their feelings.
- throw themselves on the floor in tears or anger.
- say they don't want to keep doing what they're doing.
- refuse to do simple things like putting on a seatbelt.
- TV displaces active types of recreation. ...
- TV interferes with conversation and discussion time. ...
- TV discourages reading. ...
- Heavy TV viewing (more than 4 hours a day) definitely reduces school performance. ...
- TV discourages exercise. ...
- TV advertising encourages a demand for material possessions.
Watching screens for long periods of time can lead to difficulties falling asleep, disturbed sleep patterns and other health issues. Care needs to be taken with age appropriate content in television shows, games and advertisements –your child could view inappropriate content that is of a violent or sexual nature.What is the danger of screen time for toddlers? ›
Research has shown that screen time inhibits young children's ability to read faces and learn social skills, two key factors needed to develop empathy. Face-to-face interactions are the only way young children learn to understand non-verbal cues and interpret them.How screen time can affect a baby's developing brain? ›
But a new study suggests that too much screen time during infancy may lead to changes in brain activity, as well as problems with executive functioning — the ability to stay focused and control impulses, behaviors, and emotions — in elementary school.How long should a 2 year old have screen time? ›
For children ages 2 to 5, limit screen time to one hour a day of high-quality programming. As your child grows, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work as well. You'll need to decide how much media to let your child use each day and what's appropriate.Why is Cocomelon overstimulating? ›
Repetitive Sounds and Songs
Cocomelon is known for its catchy tunes. Still, the repetitive nature of these songs can be overstimulating for kids with auditory sensitivities. The background music and sound effects may also contribute to sensory overload, making it challenging for some children to enjoy the content.
Peppa Pig is suitable for family viewing and can be enjoyed by older children and parents alike.What color does baby see first? ›
The first primary color your baby can see is red, and this happens a few weeks into life. When choosing visual materials, toys, and books for your child, look for high contrast prints in bold colors.Can my 4 month old watch sensory videos? ›
Is it OK for babies to watch sensory videos? Watching baby sensory videos is perfectly safe for your little one and can help to enhance visual and auditory stimulation, eye coordination and movement, particularly if your baby chooses to dance along to the music.How do I entertain my 4 month old? ›
Play peekaboo. Let your baby discover that actions can make things happen. Provide toys that move or make sounds when your baby plays with them, such as baby musical instruments, busy boxes, or see-through toys that show motion. Sing nursery rhymes like "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep" and "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."How do I entertain my 3 month old? ›
Helping baby development at 3-4 months
Play together: sing songs, read books, play with toys, do tummy time and make funny sounds together – your baby will love it! Playing together helps you and your baby get to know each other. It also helps your baby feel loved and secure.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has long recommended that toddlers under age 2 not watch any videos or television. Previous studies suggest that time in front of a TV or computer screen might actually hurt a child's development rather than help it.Are screens bad for babies eyes? ›
Key Points. Screen time is thought to affect the visual, mental and physical development of babies and toddlers. No screen time is recommended for babies 0 to 2 years of age; preferably less than 1 hour a day of screen time for 2 year olds, and no more than 1 hour a day for 3 to 4 year olds.Am I bad mom if I let my toddler watch TV? ›
No, you're not a bad mom for letting your toddler watch TV while you work from home. In fact, it's a great idea! Toddlers learn best through exploration and play, and by letting them watch TV while you work, you're giving them the opportunity to learn and explore new things.How do I know if my toddler is addicted to TV? ›
- The dangers of too much screen time. ...
- Your child can't control their screen use. ...
- Loss of interest in other activities. ...
- It preoccupies their thoughts. ...
- It interferes with socializing. ...
- Screen use causes serious family problems. ...
- Your kid shows signs of withdrawal. ...
- Their tolerance is increasing.
Good evidence suggests that screen viewing before age 18 months has lasting negative effects on children's language development, reading skills, and short term memory. It also contributes to problems with sleep and attention.
The CDC has set some guidelines for screen time. The CDC advises parents to not give any screen time to children under the age of 2. The CDC asks parents to remove TVs from a child's bedroom and limit screen time to 1-2 hours daily for children between the ages of 8 and 14.Is TV bad for toddlers eyes? ›
A: There is no evidence that sitting too close to the TV can damage children's eyes. It may, however, lead to temporary eye strain. If your children are staring at TV, computer or videogame screens for a long time, there is a tendency for them not to blink.How often should 2 year old watch TV? ›
Limit TV or screen time.
Most parents say their children watch two or more hours of TV a day, despite a recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)Opens a new window that kids ages 2 to 5 spend no more than an hour a day with screens of any kind – TV, tablet, phone, or computer.
When it comes to educational shows like Sesame Street, watching with your child can help them learn more. Young kids learn from lots of back-and-forth interactions. So, asking your child about what they're watching (and answering their questions) increases learning.What is the effect of television on toddler cognitive development? ›
Risks for development
High exposure to background TV has been found to negatively affect language use and acquisition, attention, cognitive development and executive function in children younger than 5 years. It also reduces the amount and quality of parent–child interaction and distracts from play (17,22,35,38).
Young children are less able to focus on active, hands-on play while the television is on. Background TV can threaten cognitive and language development and may be linked to attention problems later in childhood.What is the importance of television in child development? ›
Television can teach kids important values and life lessons. Educational programming can develop young children's socialization and learning skills. News, current events and historical programming can help make young people more aware of other cultures and people.How toddler screen time can impact brain development? ›
Research has shown that screen time inhibits young children's ability to read faces and learn social skills, two key factors needed to develop empathy. Face-to-face interactions are the only way young children learn to understand non-verbal cues and interpret them.What happens when a child watches too much TV? ›
Studies show that kids who watch too much TV are more likely to be overweight — and, depending on the content of what they see, more aggressive. Too much media use is also linked to poor grades, sleep problems, and behavior problems.What are the negative effects of screen time on child brain development? ›
Screen time may affect its growth. A study called Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) revealed that some kids who use screens more than seven hours a day had a thinner cortex than those who used screens less. Future studies hope to show how this will affect kids' brains over time.
Excessive screen time (ST) results in a delay in development of expressive and receptive language. Children learn to express themselves by imitating their parents or caregivers. By the age of three, they start speaking a lot of words.Can TV cause overstimulation in babies? ›
TVs, phones, and other devices can all be too much for a baby's brain to process before they're at least 18 months old. That's why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding screen use before age 2 — then limiting exposure to around 1 hour of educational programming a day until they're 5. Too much activity.Can TV slow baby development? ›
High levels of screen time in young children have been associated with sleep disturbances, obesity, behavioral problems and developmental delays. Previous research has found associations with excessive TV watching in young children and delays in social emotional, language and cognitive delays.Why does TV affect children's behavior? ›
Too much screen time can also take away from reading, studying, learning activities, play, and exercise. Digital media can also show alcohol and drug use, smoking, and sexual behavior. Your child may see these things before they are emotionally ready to understand these issues. And before they can make good decisions.How does television affect children's mental health? ›
They also reported increased loneliness, sadness, depression, negative self-esteem, and aggression. Also, they said they were less sociable. Experts believe having a TV in the bedroom may lead to isolation, less physical activity, and poor sleeping habits. Limit screen time to two hours a day or less.Does watching television impact children's attention span in middle childhood? ›
On the matter of television viewing and attentional problems in both childhood and adolescence, a number of studies in recent years have independently confirmed a significant and long-lasting linkbetween attention deficit disorders and early television viewing.What are the negative effects of TV? ›
Too much screen time can lead to obesity, sleep problems, chronic neck and back problems, depression, anxiety and lower test scores in children. Children should limit screen time to 1 to 2 hours per day. Adults should also try to limit screen time outside of work hours.How does TV affect a child's social development? ›
Additionally, psychologists argue that the large amount of time spent watching TV threatens the cohesiveness of the family. Such negative effects may also include inhibiting children's social development by diminishing the number of conversations between them and their family members.