Friday, October 21, 2011

AAP: Unstructured play better than screen-time for developing minds

The American Academy of Pediatrics has released a long-awaited updated policy towards children watching television. The last policy was released over 10 years ago and urged parents to restrict the amount of time babies under the age of two watch television. Many studies since that time have revealed that TV is not beneficial for the developing minds of young children and could actually cause harm. This new policy tightens up those recommendations and highlights the benefits of unstructured play as an alternative.

Educational videos and TV shows targeting toddlers and babies have no benefits for developing minds and long hours of screen time could actually lead to language delays and attention problems. The AAP also points out that even when parents are watching their own TV shows and movies that it's taking away quality time that could be spent helping their children learn from play and other activities. Parents talk less when the TV is on and babies' brains thrive on hearing language in close interactions.

So, what does the AAP recommend instead of screen-time for the family? Simple interactions and unstructured play are the best for developing babies and toddlers. Instead of turning on the TV while making dinner, they recommend setting the child down on the floor with a safe toy for independent play. Independent play encourages babies to think creatively, problem solve and entertain themselves.

The recommendations come at time when the average 12-month-old spends an average of two hours a day of screen-time in some form, including devices such as iPads, which are included in the new policy. Before the age of two, babies simply don't understand what's happening on a screen - it just acts as a mesmerizing box of light. Once they reach the age of two, they are more capable of grasping images on a screen.

How much times does your child spend looking at a TV or a computer?

It’s Official: To Protect Baby’s Brain, Turn Off TV [Wired]
'Screen-Free' Play Best for Toddlers' Brains [HealthDay]