Want to stimulate your baby’s brain? Turn off the TV.
From Baby Einstein to Brainy Baby, all kinds of DVDs, computer programs, and video games promise to give your kids an educational edge.
But according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there's no research to support that they work. And on the flipside, there's plenty of research proving that the best way for babies to learn is to engage in free play and interact with a loving caregiver. So when it comes to trying new ways to help your child think, you may want to start by putting that baby program on pause.
Why it matters
Based on studies indicating that too much TV can delay speech, inhibit play, and decrease interaction between parent and child, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV at all for kids under the age of 2. And while your kid won’t be harmed with a little TV or video, remember that every minute spent sitting in front of a TV is a minute when your babies are not exploring the world with all their senses. Research shows that interacting with you is what builds babies’ brains.
As for digital media, there are some new interactive computer programs that show learning potential -- but none of these products are designed for kids under 2. And none have been proven to make children smarter or more school-ready. A study at the University of Washington released in August 2007 suggests “developmental” DVDs and videos can actually delay toddler language development. But because so many kids have access to digital media like tablet computers and smartphones -- half of all children, according to Common Sense Media's 2011 study, Zero to Eight: Children's Media Use in America -- more research needs to be done about the educational value of these products.
Tips for parents of young kids
• If you’re going to let babies interact with a screen, know what they are watching and playing. Be smart about the programs you pick. Choose games or programs that are age-appropriate with non-jarring sounds and bright, stimulating colors.
• Don’t turn TV into preschool. Baby TV has not proven to be of any benefit for school readiness. The best preparation for your children involves spending time with them, reading, talking, and exposing them to the world.
• As kids get older, keep media out of their bedrooms. When TV or computers are in their rooms, kids spend more time using media, and parents are less involved with their choices..
• Teach your children to ask you if it’s okay to turn on media. This simple control mechanism helps keep gaming, TV watching, and online activity from becoming habits.
• Watch the clock. Media use increases as children get older. Less screen time improves your children’s ability to entertain themselves in other ways. Set time rules and stick to them.