Television has become an integral part of every home, as it has something to offer to every member of a family, from the oldest to the youngest. But, like every other device, TV can also cast adverse effects, especially on babies and toddlers. In his article published in HealthyChildren.org (October 21, 2016), David L. Hill, MD, FAAP says, “If ‘you are what you eat’, then the brain is what it experiences, and video entertainment is like mental junk food for babies and toddlers.”
There are many other studies too which advocate the cutting down of screen time for children, especially babies and toddlers. Let’s explore the reasons behind this.
When babies and toddlers watch television, it –
1. Impairs mental development: A lot of programmes being shown on TV for children are marketed as educational content that is good for children. However, on the contrary, allowing children to watch these programmes prevents them from thinking, analysing and using their imagination. This is because watching TV doesn’t challenge the intellect. It also leads to delay in the development of language and social skills, as watching TV programmes is a one-way form of communication and doesn’t give children a chance to interact. Thus, watching TV has multiple adverse effects on children’s mental development.
2. Increases aggression: Long hours of watching TV can lead to increase in aggressive, antisocial and criminal behaviour in children. According to the article, ‘TV Violence and Children’, published in AACAP.org (December 2014), “Extensive viewing of television violence by children causes greater aggressiveness. Sometimes, watching a single violent program can increase aggressiveness. Children who view shows in which violence is very realistic, frequently repeated or unpunished, are more likely to imitate what they see. Children with emotional, behavioral, learning or impulse control problems may be more easily influenced by TV violence.”
3. Causes behavioural problems: Watching too much television can cause children to display hyperactive behaviour, become inattentive and disobedient later in life. Research was carried out by Erasmus MC as part of the Generation R population study and the findings were published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (October 2012). According to the study, "Extensive exposure to media influences development, behavior, and day-to-day activities of young children." It also says that, "Sustained and excessive exposure posed a risk for development of behavioral problems in young children, and this conclusion is in line with earlier research on the topic."
4. Leads to health issues: Obesity, which is one of the major causes of many lifestyle diseases, is quite prevalent in children who watch TV for long durations. The major reasons for obesity in this group are decreased physical activity and increased snacking. Also, exposure to advertisements of junk foods makes children more prone to making wrong food choices later in life. According to research carried out by DeBoer et al, published in the journal Obesity (Silver Spring) (July 14, 2015), "Children watching as little as 1-<2 h of TV daily were more likely to become overweight and obese over time. Physicians should encourage families to restrict TV-viewing time to reduce weight gain."
Increased TV viewing also disturbs the mealtimes and naptimes of infants and toddlers. A study by Darcy A Thompson and Dimitri A Christakis published in the journal Paediatrics(October 2005) says, “Television viewing among infants and toddlers is associated with irregular sleep schedules. More research is warranted to determine whether this association is causal.”
A number of research studies have revealed links between excessive TV watching and various adverse effects. In order for TV programmes to have a positive effect, children need to be old enough to understand them, But, this is not the case with children under 2 years. The relationship between watching TV, and infants and toddlers is best summed up in an article by Amanda Gardner in Health.com (May 3, 2010). She quotes Jeffrey Brosco, MD, who says, "Every hour that you're watching TV, you're not talking to someone, not playing a game, not building something with your blocks."
So, parents, although turning on the TV might seem like an easy way out of babysitting, shut it down to help your child grow up in a better way.