Children and TV

November 19, 2007

It's the question that's been asked and answered many times over -- is TV ruining a young child's brain? The American Academy of Pediatrics says no TV for kids under two. Producers of children's programming argue it can be educational. Parents, in the meantime, are left a bit confused.

Lisa Guernsey, a parent herself, spent the last two years researching children and television for her new book, "Into the Minds of Babes: How Screen Time Affects Children From Birth to Age Five." She says the bottom line lies somewhere in the middle. That in short viewings, TV should be OK as long as the content is appropriate. But what's missing from the discussion, she suggests, is the context -- how TV is viewed at home?

"It turns out there's a lot of research that shows background tv has negative impacts on kids," said Guernsey.

Yes, background TV. Guernsey says when TV is just on in the house, even when the kids are not watching, it can change the way they play, even toddlers.

"They shorten their play time with a particular toy go from one toy to another to another if say Jeopardy was on," said Guernsey.

Smarter approach to kids and TV:

  • Content - linear story line, slow pace, invite interaction
  • Context - focused TV watching, no background TV
  • Child - quality one on one time

    Guernsey says the smarter way to approach TV and kids is the three C's -- content, context, and your child. For content, research shows, a good program should have a linear story line, move at a slow pace and invite interaction. For context, her advice is focused TV-watching, maybe 30 minutes a day, and no background TV. And make sure your day includes plenty of quality time with your child one on one.

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