This is only the second study to track the relationship between television and cognitive development in infants over a period of time. The first one, conducted by Dr. Dimitri Christakis at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, found that DVD viewing actually hindered a toddler’s ability to properly learn vocabulary, with infants who spent an additional hour in front of a television learning six-eight fewer vocabulary words than infants who were not in front of a television.
“We don’t have any definitive answers yet as to what effects TV viewing can have on infants with respect to cognitive outcomes,” says Christakis. “But here is what we do know — there is absolutely no benefit to this viewing despite claims that continue to be made by commercial products.”
While Schmidt’s study found no benefit, it ultimately found no negative effect of watching TV. The researcher offers a few reasons why: for one, the children in her study reported less time viewing TV and DVDs than previous surveys of the same aged population; it’s possible that the current study group did not meet the threshold dose of TV exposure that triggered the negative effects found in Christakis’s research. Schmidt’s study also stopped following the toddlers at age 3; she acknowledges that some cognitive changes may not occur until children are a few years older.
TV exposure in babies younger than 2 doesn’t do any good, Schmidt and Christakis agree. But does that mean a few minutes in front of the tube will sentence a baby to remedial classes for the rest of his life? “What I tell parents is ‘Ask yourself why you’re having your baby watch TV,’” says Christakis. “If you absolutely need a break to take a shower or make dinner, then the risks are quite low. But if you are doing it because you think it’s actually good for your child’s brain, then you need to rethink that because there is no evidence of benefit, and certainly a risk of harm at high viewing levels.”
How much television time does your baby get? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
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