Is TV Bad for Babies?

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Here’s a common scene: You’re trying to make a dent in the growing mountain of laundry. Then, the phone starts ringing. Then, the baby starts crying—and to get a short break, you plop her in front of the TV.

Every parent in the developed world is probably guilty of it, but that still doesn’t make distracting your baby with the tube a great idea. Doctors have long said that tots shouldn’t watch too much television, but not long ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics went a step further and said kids younger than age two shouldn’t watch TV at all.

But what’s the big deal?

The main problem is a lack of interaction. “Babies like to look at human faces, especially live ones,” says Elizabeth Cralley Wetzler, Ph.D., a child psychology professor at American University in Washington, DC. “A TV program may feature people, but they aren’t responding to your baby’s vocalizations.” Compare this to real-time play, where she always gets a reaction from you.

That lack of engagement is confusing for babies, says Cralley Wetzler. What’s more, babies younger than two don’t have the ability to follow story lines (even simple ones geared towards kids). For your little one, the stuff coming out of the TV is just a jumble of bright lights and sounds. Here’s healthier ways to keep her entertained instead.

Become the entertainment

Even if you’re busy doing something else, let your baby play and watch you nearby. Keep it interesting and boost your interaction by narrating as you do: While putting clothes in the wash, label the items, say who each item belongs to, or comment on the color. You get stuff done—and she learns something!

Encourage tummy time

The more time your baby spends confined in front of the television, the less time she gets to enhance her developmental skills. Whether your baby is mobile yet or not, let her hang out on a blanket surrounded by toys. This gives her the chance to practice balancing, reaching, lifting, sitting, and crawling instead of sitting put and watching moving pictures.

Have your baby watch herself

Even babies love staring at themselves, so take advantage. A shatter-proof baby mirror will get your baby acquainted with her own little adorable reflection, plus help her learn how to focus and explore the different things she can do with her facial muscles. Get started by holding the mirror and tapping on it to get her attention.

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