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No TV for children under 2, urge doctors (nytimes.com)
253 points by anigbrowl on Oct 18, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 135 comments

My son is 21 months and we have never sat him down in front of a TV with the express purpose being education (so no Baby Einstein DVDs...what a joke) nor babysitting (passive viewing of a cartoon). He has been exposed to my iPad, my wife's iTouch and both of our phones, and Cablevision provides a 'Kids Music Channel' which plays a variety of kid-friendly music while cycling through a dozen or so static images including ballons, a rubber duck in water, and a car.

The only line in that article that I take issue with is the following: Even so-called educational videos do not benefit children under 2 because they are too young to be able to understand the images on the screen, the doctors’ group said.

Maybe it's because we read to my son daily and have incorporated teaching him sign language from the time he was 4 months, but he most definitely can recognize the images on the screen and frequently both speaks and signs the correct image on the screen (balloon, duck, dog, car). If we had never done any of these activities with him then I highly doubt he would be able to recognize the images on the TV, and there might be a distinction between understanding and recognizing that I am not making, but he most definitely is displaying some sort of connection between the images on the TV and the books/drawings/in person experiences he has.

I think the key take away from this, or other studies of its kind, is that passive media should not be the influential experience that a child so young should be exposed to.

My daughter is almost the same age as yours and does the same thing. The only time we have the TV on with her around is either the Toddler Tunes channel or sports (mostly because it's the only thing we ever watch around those times). One thing I've noticed is that my daughter never sits down in front of the TV just to watch. She has no desire to do it at all. The closest she comes is she'll says "Dance, dance" and point to the TV. If we turn on the music channel she starts bouncing around, dancing with myself or my wife, or picks up a doll to dance with.

We also read every night, but don't do the sign language thing.

> incorporated teaching him sign language from the time he was 4 months

If you don't mind elaborating on this, why did you teach him sign language?

Having it so your baby can ask for milk long before they get upset or too hungry is great, having them tell you that they're finished eating is much better than having them just throw food on the ground ;) Babies are cognitively capable of communicating they just haven't developed the skills for speech yet.

This! We started baby sign and could communicate these basics with our daughter before she was a year old. It might not sound like much to start communicating 6 months earlier, but I can only describe it thusly: awesome.

It's a popular trend because kids are able to do sign language before they're able to speak. IIRC it doesn't seem to help their language acquisition or cognitive develop at all, but it doesn't seem to hurt much either.

I've heard that it can lead to less frustration when the child has a means to communicate with the parents. If they know enough to be able to sign their brains are developed enough to want to communicate something.

As a counter-point, my daughter did not pick up on sign language at all. The advice that we got was to stick with a single sign and keep at it until she signed it back at us. My wife chose "Milk," but that was probably a poor choice. I don't think that she recognized "Milk" as being an object until well after she was speaking. It wasn't until she started drinking non-breast milk that she started saying "milk."

Now she's 19 months old and the only sign language that she know is "more," but she has an great vocabulary. She can even say her own name and the names of all of her friends. (It's also really cute when she says 'zombie')

  > I've heard that it can lead to less frustration when the
  > child has a means to communicate with the parents.
Absolutely. Our youngest kids learned a small handful of signs (five or so) before they could speak, and it made things much easier. "More", "milk" (was hard to teach, but when it stuck it was great), "banana", and few others. Someone else here said "done" was useful, and I wish we would have done that one.

It's pretty common to teach children a little bit of sign language before they can talk, actually. I remember being really impressed that my niece was able to ask for more of something (generally food) using sign language long before she spoke her first word.

We're doing this with our second child now. It removes a lot of frustration from the parents and the kids when the child can actually communicate about what they want, see, hear, think, etc. It seems to cut down on fits, and definitely helps us communicate. As one of the other commenters said kids' language apparatus is fully functioning before they have the fine motor skills necessary to make all the speech sounds they need to say words, so it's a nice hack :) Teach them sign language which they have enough fine motor skills to use until their mouth control gets to the point that they can speak.

Our first kid is now 5 and doesn't really remember any signs, but he said sentences and told stories even in sign language before he could speak well.

> As one of the other commenters said kids' language apparatus is fully functioning before they have the fine motor skills necessary to make all the speech sounds they need to say words

To add to this: My son is 30 months, and his speech is coming along well, but one really fascinating part is how he will construct sentences that are far more elaborate than what he can say, and substitute "missing" words for with a specific sound.

It is clear these aren't "just" sounds from how he'll repeat phrases with the right number of "words", just some of them are padded out because he doesn't know how to say them yet, and then gradually more words will get added to the various phrases as he figures out how to pronounce them.

Children can usually learn to sign before they can learn to talk. My toddler had a vocabulary of about a dozen signs before he could say any useful words. It help relieve a lot of their frustration, and generally makes them happier when they can communicate.

We didn't teach our son signs on purpose, but he picked up some by himself before he could speak.

For example, we would point at a bottle of milk to see if he wanted some, and he would soon start copying our gesture by holding up one hand as if a bottle placed upright, and pointing at it with his other hand. Soon he would do that whenever he wanted milk, before he got thirsty enough to start crying.

A lot less guesswork for us, and a lot less crying for him.

> The only line in that article that I take issue with is the following: Even so-called educational videos do not benefit children under 2 because they are too young to be able to understand the images on the screen, the doctors’ group said.

Yes, that line basically tells me that either these doctors don't have kids or they haven't been paying attention to them.

My wife and I chose to adopt a "no screen time" policy for our child, who is presently 7 months old. Here are my observations so far:

1. At a restaurant with TVs, we've observed our child go from laughing and socially engaged, to completed zoned out and unaware of people in mere seconds, just because the television appeared in his field of view. :-(

2. At less than three months of age, he had a fit when pulled away from the television, under the watch of in-laws.

3. Both parents have iPhones, Macbooks, and have a tendency to flop in front of the TV (Roku, Hulu, Daily Show) in the evening. Our no screen time policy prevents us from gazing into our own screens without paying attention to the needs of our son.

4. Finally, most advertising is obnoxious and has no place in my home. Why expose our infant to it? He'll have the rest of his life to be accosted by ads.

My wife and I have found similar results as an experiment with three of our children (yes, experiment) progressively allowing more screen time per child at a younger age. We have found that attention span alone is inversely proportional to the amount of screen time allowed.

We now limit to just 1/2 hour per day per child in a family of iphones, ipads, itv, laptops, kindle, etc.

As a result, our oldest who collectively has as much screen time as our youngest is into reading/writing, drawing and someday soon I intend to get her writing some code. Of course, your millage may very, and I'm not quick to judge others when it comes to parenting. Not an easy task.

While I completely agree with you, the one thing I question about the restaurant tv example is, does the child zone into the tv because it is something they rarely experience and provides changing imagery that catches their eye?

Again, I don't disagree with the overall point, I just wonder if their interest that you are experiencing is due to the intrigue of something new and not necessary zoning out just because it is a tv.

If I'm in a restaurant and there is a TV in my field of view, my eyes are continually drawn to it. It's the nature of the bright, changing image.

I have the same experience. Even if the TV seems to be tuned to an "ads-only" channel, or some sporting event that holds utterly no interest to me, it captures my attention repeatedly.

It's like the visual equivalent of a mosquito buzzing by my ear; not at all desirable, but extremely difficult to tune out.

>"Finally, most advertising is obnoxious and has no place in my home. Why expose our infant to it? He'll have the rest of his life to be accosted by ads."

Advertising for products used by children has changed dramatically over the past few decades. Juliet Schor's book Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture documents the change and the strategies used.

It is one of the most influential books about raising children I read.


I have older kids. When we switched from regular TV to DVR, Netflix and iTunes (eg when we stopped watching commercials), their desire for inane stuff dropped significantly.

That alone makes paying for a series on iTunes worth it for me.

Can you summarise the interesting points rather than sending us all off to read a whole book to find out how advertising has changed over the past few decades?

> At less than three months of age, he had a fit when pulled away from the television, under the watch of in-laws.

Really? My son was not even able to have a fit at 3 months old. He was pretty blob-like...

I agree, at that age any observation is purely conjectural. In my case, with less than four months of age my daughter would have a fit for nearly anything including us just trying to move or acomodate her position to get more confortable.

At that age they are just passively interacting with the world, so it would really make no difference it they stare at the TV, a mobile toy or the parents interacting with each other. Whichever is most colorful or resambles a face is more likely to attract attention. It's only after three months or so that you can say that the baby can somewhat interact with anything.

I think that if you're ignoring your kid and watching a lot of TV the problem is that you're ignoring your kid.

If you're watching more than about an hour of TV per day as a new parent then you either have a staff of people caring for your kid or you're slacking off.

If you don't converse with the child's other parent or others in the household b/c the TV is the center of everyone's attention, then you have a relationship problem or dysfunctional family situation.

This anti-TV meme is mostly luddite fearmongering intended to get joe and jane sixpack to stop vegging out in front of the TV and start being engaged as parents.

Sure, having disengaged parents or parents that don't interact verbally will create an impoverished environment for a kid, but it's not the fault of the glowing box anymore than it would be the fault of the chess board if the parents gazed silently at the board for hours at a time and ignored the little one.

This anti-TV meme is mostly luddite fearmongering intended to get joe and jane sixpack to stop vegging out in front of the TV and start being engaged as parents.

That is not what the Academy of Pediatrics is actually saying. They specifically say that you as the parent is not required to engage with your child the whole time - however if you are NOT engaged with them, you are still better having the TV off, because children gain valuable skills from solitary play.

In other words, it's not a simplistic case of "Parents better than TV"; it really is a case of "no TV better than TV".

Obviously with all these things, quantity does matter.

I should add the other benefit of no screen time before two: when you finally do introduce programming, at least in my experience, kids are far more highly engaged with it, so when you expose them to it later it seems to "take" better. Anecdotally, the kids who are exposed to it as babies seem to also not to focus attentively on it when they are older, so if you do want to take advantage of the screen's great educational potential (not talking about the Baby Einstein crap), you do seem to be better off holding off for the first couple of years.

But couldn't some programming be beneficial and some harmful?

It just seems like quite an oversimplification to say that all TV is neutral or harmful to development.

My kid is 15 months and we occasionally play "signing time" sign language training DVDs. She's learned a lot of spoken vocabulary from it, and appears to be in the 99th percentile for language development. She doesn't typically sign anything (except for milk) but the other day I asked her what the sign is for a few things and she actually seems to know them.

There is no way to tell for certain, but I credit the signing time videos with giving her a very clear sense of core (verbal and signed) language symbolism. The repetition of words, signs, and pictures has always seemed quite interesting to her, with the less familiar, more abstract words/concepts initially seeming a bit less interesting and subsequently gaining significance as her overall awareness improved.

I have noticed on the few occasions when we've had a movie or show on the TV when she's been around that she'll initially pay close attention to it and then after a minute or two begin to stare blankly at it... this is quite the opposite reaction she has to the signing time videos.

So to summarize I'm skeptical that it makes sense to generalize too much about the specific age ranges when kids are "ready" for various stimuli. I think that metaphor is stretched too far. Instead, a child will find certain stimuli intensely interesting (including some stuff that may be on a TV). To the extent that the child can conceptualize the structure of the stimulus enough to provoke learning, the stimulus can be considered "good" or beneficial to learning. But the developing brain will also get overwhelmed, so after a certain point even a good stimulus becomes noise and can only lead the child to exert effort to tune it out, which would use up cognitive effort for something without any learning benefit.

Its called "television programming" for a reason.

Do you want to program your kids mind, or are you going to let someone else do it .. ?

ok you have your anecdote, they have their big study. i know where my bets are.

Hah not trying to argue for anything based on the anecdote, just using it to suggest that the premises of the study might not be all that realistic. It's easy to get caught up in the result of an official sounding study which may actually be ill-conceived.

My wife use to be a social worker.

It is incredibly sad how many children are put in front of a TV all day. And not Sesame Street or even cartoons - but Soap Operas, Jerry Springer, Cops, Fox News etc. Picture a dirty trailer home, behind on rent, no job, fast food for every meal and a rented 52-inch rear-projection TV that is on all. the. time.

When health care professionals make statements like this, the bad parents are who they are picturing in their head. They know the good parents (like the ones that read HN) can make informed decisions for themselves. But the bad parents have to be told "absolutely no TV" because there is no concept of moderation.

the good parents (like the ones that read HN)

I greatly respect the people I’ve interacted with on HN, but I would stop far short of assuming that intelligence and competence in something like hacking automagically transfers over to an orthogonal skill like parenting. This is partly because of my own anecdotal experience raising children while working in software development, and partly because of what I’ve observed which is that nearly every successful professional class assumes that they are good parents and clearly superior to people who are financially unsuccessful.

Often times, they are. Some people have poor life skills that translate directly into poor parenting skills. Some people have good life skills that seem to cross over directly into good parenting skills. But some poor people are great parents, and some successful people do not practice good parenting... Yet.

One of the attributes of being a good parent is to recognize when you could be even better. Thus, I guess my real message is that regardless of how we view our parenting skills, we ought to be open to the possibility that advice like this may apply to us even if we aren’t living in a trailer.

(Disclosure: I live in an extremely modest cottage that is Toronto’s equivalent to a trailer home).

Slightly facetious with the HN == good parenting comment. But in general, if you are the type of person that likes to learn, problem solves and strives to improve, you'll do fine at parenting. "Approach parenting like a startup" isn't such bad advice. In general.

Dwelling type, of course, is immaterial. I was illustrating a group of people who have extremely poor judgement, children being only one of them (i.e. you shouldn't be renting a giant TV if you can't pay rent or provide for your children).

Picture a dirty trailer home, behind on rent, no job, fast food for every meal and a rented 52-inch rear-projection TV that is on all. the. time.

That is absolutely appalling. Rear-projection? It's 2011, get an LCD already!

If it hadn't been for watching Sesame Street and Reading Rainbow at that age (c.1988), I wouldn't have been able to participate in the mind bending parlor trick wherein my father handed his two year old son a box of cereal, and I promptly sounded out Maltodextrin (or whatever else).

(And if I hadn't been that two year old, it's unlikely I'd be the voracious reader and passionate lexidweeb I am now. In fact, it's unlikely I'd even have the same brain, so to speak.)

Now, my parents reading to me most every night (apparently even when I was in the womb) also had a tremendous effect, but when I was a kid my dad traveled for work upwards of 300 days a year. And my mom had to take care of everything else. So there wasn't always someone available to read to me, but Big Bird and Geordi LaForge were there every morning.

Just sayin'.

(If the point of that article wasn't "no TV under 2" but "no bullshit TV under 2," I agree, but I would ammend the statement to "no bullshit TV under 200," or simply "no bullshit.")

You're misreading the headline or misinterpreting your parents. When you were reading as a "two year old", they mean you were between your second and third birthday[1].

When the study says "No TV for infants under 2" they mean babies between birth and their second birthday. And the recommendation isn't about "bullshit" TV, it's about the fact that kids watching a screen aren't interacting with a human being and learning how to communiate. The studies correlating TV watching with delayed speech are very well supported.

[1] Obviously it's likely you were closer to three. And knowing now how parental memories can, heh, embellish things, I strongly suspect that most of your most memorable reading tricks happened when you were, in fact, three.

"it's about the fact that kids watching a screen aren't ... learning how to communiate (sic)"

Does sign language count as communication? Because my son learns signs from occasional DVD watching and then applies them in the proper contexts - sometimes without any reinforcement from his parents or anyone else.

Pretty sure that qualifies as learning how to communicate.

Clearly I'm no expert, nor do I know if studies have been done on the effect of TV watching on ASL acquisition.

I'll bet good money, however, that however many signs your <2yo son learns from watching a DVD, he would learn more from signing with you instead of passively watching the device. Which, for verbal speech, is exactly what the studies show.

Maybe, but now you've changed your argument. Previously it was that they weren't learning at all, now they aren't learning as well. Even so, there are points in response:

1. I'm really not equipped to show him the multiple images of a coat or someone putting on a coat, or other children doing signs of coat. The video is. I don't know if this matters or not. It's certainly possible it doesn't.

2. I have to make dinner for us all at some point. As much as I'd love for my 15 month old to patiently engage in conversation with me while remaining a safe distance from the stovetop, it just doesn't happen. There are times when a parent's attention just cannot be 100%, or even 75% on their child. So yes, maybe he would learn EVERYTHING better if I were there to teach it to him, but the fact is that even the best parents can't be.

I've reread my posts, and don't see where I said children weren't learning. The science shows kids who watch TV speak later, period. Anecdotes (your kid learning some signs from a DVD, the earlier poster learning to read from TV) don't change that. Sorry, but they don't.

As for point 2, I don't disagree at all. Everything is a tradeoff, no parent can be perfect. Most kids turn out fine anyway. If you have to give your kids TV (my 3 year old gets about two hours a week, for instance) then do so and don't feel guilty. But don't try to justify it as educational; the science disagrees.

As long as we're being pedantic:

1. The first word I ever sounded out on my own (at least in an adult's presence) was "Mobil"—from the sign above the gas station near our home in Glendale, CA. (Très Américain, non?) For all I know this was before I turned two.

2. Most of the "embellished" stories regarding my memorable reading tricks come from family members who joined us on a trip to Lake Tahoe in the winter of 88/89 and were astounded/terrified to see me reading things like the snack bar menu. This was beyond the point of sounding out "Mobil" or "Maltodextrin"—I could read the menu, I comprehended that apples were available, and I wanted one.

3. My 2nd birthday was in July of '88. So yes, I was between my second and third birthdays. But no, I wasn't closer to three, or "in fact, three."

I'm not intending insult your status as a prodigy. I'm just cautioning that you aren't interpreting the recommendation properly. One data point doesn't do much to disprove the existing studies that show a clear anticorrelation between speech development and screen time.

Basically, you're saying essentially that parents should ignore clear science and let their kids watch ("non-bullshit") TV because you know a kid who watched a lot of TV and is really smart. That's bad science, and frankly it's bad parenting.

Ugh—glad I'm in no way responsible for a potentially interesting discussion devolving into Yet Another Internet Dickwaving Match. Thanks for the downvotes, btw. /s

If you want to interpret my decision to describe my admittedly statistically insignificant experience (which is directly related to the topic at hand) as an attempt to flaunt any sort of status, that's your own business.

It isn't really your business to reinterpret the details of my personal life incorrectly to support your argument.

I'm not "saying essentially" that parents (in particular the parents reading this right now) "should" do anything. As has already been addressed in the comments:

1. HN readers (parents or not) are not the target for this recommendation. (What else is new?) 2. Bad parents, or those who are inclined to make bad decisions as parents, might benefit more from advice along the lines of "You stop watching TV, and please get your shit together; alternately, don't have kids," rather than "No TV under n." 3. It's highly likely that the recommendations are intentionally rigid in order to have the strongest impact on those potentially bad parents.

As it pertains to the messaging surrounding the AAP guidelines as reported by the NYT, a lot of it comes across as FUD, to me. For instance, "Secondhand TV" is just a ridiculous thing to say.

Again, I'm not telling anyone do do anything. I am saying that while I don't intend to ignore this study, it's also far from the only data point I'll be taking into consideration as I conduct my own life.

As it turns out, I'm usually the guy mocking people for disregarding science in favor of catchy anecdotal "evidence," "conventional wisdom," or semi-plausible, hippy-dippy alternatives. If my hypothetical future wife wants to play Baby Einstein or Mozart through her uterine wall for our hypothetical future fetus/infant, I'm going to have some questions about why we're doing that, or at least why we're not playing Ryuichi Sakamoto or The Doors instead.

I would find plopping my (fingers crossed) future child down in front of a TV for extended periods unacceptable, regardless of what's playing. I also have some experience which indicates that not all screen viewing is detrimental, and I'll be taking that into account, whether or not it's a statistically defensible position.

Ultimately, I'd hand an iPad (another one of those dangerous screens) running NodeBeat to my one-year-old without a second's hesitation, and I don't really give a shit what the AAP has to say about that.

(edit: Okay, maybe at least a second's hesitation, but moreso for the physical safety of the child and the iPad, not due to concerns about hindering the development of the child's mind. The development of the child's mind is exactly why I would want him/her playing with NodeBeat, etc.)

For what it's worth (and obviously it's just a single informal anecdote), there was a song my wife and I sang quite a bit while she was 6-9 months pregnant. It was pure magic after he was born -- singing it could reliably make him instantly stop crying during the first year of his life. Admittedly I don't remember when the first time we tried singing it to him after he was born, it probably was at least a couple of weeks. And yes, singing other songs generally did not have that effect.

.. and I probably wouldn't know the alphabet ;)

Maybe I read this too quickly, but it seems like they're extrapolating from a fairly obvious "Don't let your one year old watch TV ten hours a day" to "Don't let your one year old watch any media at all", without any actual research evidence cited to back up that leap.

Or to put it another way, I'm really seriously doubting I measurably harmed our boy by letting him watch 15 minutes of traditional music videos a day when he was a toddler. (Mostly Liz Carroll, Peter Horan, and Daniel Payne, as I recall.)

The study also refers to heavy use but does not define what heavy means.

    Heavy media use in a household is defined as one in which the television is on all or most of the time.

What the heck is "all or most of the time"? Which time?

What if everyone including the child is regularly out of the house for all but a few waking hours per day?

"the television" -- which one? Does the one in the teenager's bedroom count? How do computers factor in?

Please tell me they used stricter and more thorough criteria than that for "heavy media use".

I'm not here to promote the idea of children under 2 should watch TV, but statements like this largely invalidate studies such as this:

"The pediatrics group’s guidelines point out that research to date suggests a “correlation between television viewing and developmental problems, but they cannot show causality.”"

That doesn't invalidate the study at all. A correlation is still a very real statistical thing. It doesn't automatically imply causation, but it doesn't rule it out either. In fact, it's usually pretty good evidence in favor of causality. If this correlation shows up in enough studies without any alternative explanations, causality would become the prevailing theory. Dealing with human subjects and long term effects is difficult; controlled experiments are rarely an option.

"A correlation is still a very real statistical thing. It doesn't automatically imply causation, but it doesn't rule it out either. In fact, it's usually pretty good evidence in favor of causality."

If A and B are correlated, it might mean that A -> B, or that B -> A, or that there's a C that leads to both A and B. Without further data, there is no way to distinguish between these possibilities. And often the actual causation is different from what you'd guess based on intuition alone.

I have no idea why you're being down voted.

I see it as a very real possibility that there is a "C" leading to both increased TV consumption and developmental challenges, namely, poor parenting.

There are statistical tools that can be used to control for confounding variables, unfortunately they are not always used correctly. Often a study in psychology relies on methodology to control for confounding variables, using only a chi-squared test (or similar) as their statistical measure. In many of these cases, the data is screaming for the use of a marginally more complex statistical method. A simple linear regression attempting to control for omitted variable bias would be a great improvement in many cases.

When you're making a claim about causation, there is certainly more required than simply statistical evidence of correlation. Even if some of these studies did more work on controlling for omitted variable bias, you would never know it from reading this article and for that reason should take it with a grain of salt.

You're overextending the logic here. Yes, that's a correct explanation of the difference between correlation and causation. But just because the B->A case matches logic doesn't mean that it works as a hypothesis. (In this case, I guess it would mean that children with speech delays are able to induce their parents to let them watch more TV -- that's absurd to the point of being nonsensical).

In fact, where there is a clear and sane hypothesis in play (e.g. "time spent watching TV is time not spent learning to talk") it almost always works out that further science shows the causation that you expect. That's true across fields, and it really shouldn't surprise anyone.

It's just that the experiments required to show that are harder. Simple demographic studies are a lot easier and cheaper. So you do those first, then work up the hard stuff when you know where to look.

Taking your point literally, it would never be useful to do demographics like this because you can't "prove" the causation. But of course that's ridiculous; these studies are immensely useful and improve all our lives.

"In fact, where there is a clear and sane hypothesis in play (e.g. "time spent watching TV is time not spent learning to talk") it almost always works out that further science shows the causation that you expect."

There can be more than one clear and sane hypothesis, even if it doesn't occur to you immediately. For example, Wilduck below suggests poor parenting as an underlying cause for both these effects.

Here's another example. It is well-known that there is a correlation between the global temperature and the levels of CO2 in the atmosphere (from looking at historical data). It is widely believed that higher CO2 levels lead to higher temperatures. On this basis governments have capped CO2 emissions, with real economic implications. This seems reasonable, doesn't it?

But some scientists who are working on this suggest an alternative explanation; here's the gist of it. There is a lot of CO2 trapped in ice, due to some historical reason that escapes me at the moment (it's not my field). As temperatures rise, ice melts and CO2 is released, leading to higher CO2 levels in the atmosphere. If this is the correct explanation, following your advice and putting caps on CO2 emissions certainly did not "improve all our lives".

"it almost always works out that further science shows the causation that you expect."


"Taking your point literally, it would never be useful to do demographics like this because you can't "prove" the causation. But of course that's ridiculous; these studies are immensely useful and improve all our lives."

Not at all. Sometimes correlation is enough. For example, if an insurance company finds a correlation between having red hair and being involved in more car accidents, they can use this information to their advantage.

> children with speech delays are able to induce their parents to let them watch more TV -- that's absurd to the point of being nonsensical).

Is it? A child that does not speak much takes more effort to engage with in play that does not get boring and tedious to the parent, and may get frustrated with the parent more easily from finding it hard to get their meaning across. In this case more TV would be a "solution" for both parties, and might be arrived at simply because it causes fewer tantrums and less stress for the parents.

I don't believe that's the most likely cause, but I also do believe one should be exceedingly careful about jumping to conclusions about cause based on "common sense" and correlation, because a whole lot of explanations that people would never even think of suddenly seem like common sense after the fact.

> In fact, where there is a clear and sane hypothesis in play (e.g. "time spent watching TV is time not spent learning to talk") it almost always works out that further science shows the causation that you expect.

Does it?

Well put.

More and more papers these days rely on loose correlation to point to conclusions (not saying the linked one is because I didn't actually read the paper, just the link).

I'm sure it's a similar scenario all around, but at least in Brazil, universities are very, very production-driven, so any paper out is better than some good papers out, which leads to a rather poor quality overall.

In fact, it's usually pretty good evidence in favor of causality.

What is that statement based on?

Yup. In social science (IIRC, I wish I could find the reference), three conditions much exist to infer causality: 1) Temporal precedence, that is A must precede B in time, 2) correlation, and 3) (IIRC) explanation that confounds have been considered and (statistically) rejected.

Of course, the best way to demonstrate causality is empirical test with a treatment and control group, but this is rarely possible in social sciences, and in studies like this would be downright unethical.

Thus, we're stuck trying to determine causality, and correlation is a strong tool to help us get there.

This is not a study, but guidelines. And I think it's a reasonable guideline because it's a warning. It means, "We cannot show causation between the two, but we also can't rule it out based on the evidence. The data we have and our understanding of how humans develop during infancy leads us to conclude it is safer to avoid letting children under 2 watch tv."

My one and a half year old learned the alphabet by watching a cartoon several times. I think there is a healthy balance to be found somewhere between 24/7 and zero.

The point of the study isn't that kids can't learn from the TV-- of course they can-- but that they'll be _better_ at learning when it's you talking to them, or reading them a book, or playing, or something that's more interactive.

We have a four year old who we've tried to limit watching TV, because you can see a noticeable difference in demeanor and attitude when the TV is on versus when playing by themselves or with us. Of course there's going to be some TV time, but for a kid under 2, I would tend to agree with the study, with the addition that even something like an iPad can be much more of a learning tool.

why does there have to be some TV time?

I don't know if you have kids, but looking after them (some kids more than others) can be an utterly exhausting task that starts at dawn and doesn't end until 8:00pm. Television turns out to be something that can occupy some of the most hyperactive kids with minimal supervision.

If you asked any worker "why does there have to be a lunch break" they'd look at you like you were insane. I think the same applies here.

If you think looking after kids ends at 8pm, I'd question whether or not YOU have any either ;)

There doesn't have to be any-- the reality is that for a vast majority of parents, it's easy to slip and let your kid watch Yo Gabba Gabba for a half hour once every few days, just to catch the slightest break.

And by the time my toddler was 18 months she could count to 16, but we don't watch TV. Your kid may have done that anyway if provided the same stimulation by other means. It's not a reason in itself to watch TV.

And its not a reason to not. If the kids can pick up ABCs/Numbers while watching 1/2 hr of TV or 1/2 hr of you working hands on with them, doesn't change anything. So advocating no TV is a poor reason in this particular case. I think we all agree there is a healthy balance to be met.

"If the kids can pick up ABCs/Numbers while watching 1/2 hr of TV or 1/2 hr of you working hands on with them, doesn't change anything."

I really hope you didn't just say that there's no difference in learning between talking with your kid, or having them zone out in front of the tv.

I can see how my message would mean that, since I wanted my point to be brief.

I spend a lot of time reading to my kids and playing with them. I've seen how much they pick up that way. However, I haven't come across a book or way to hold my 2 yr old's attention to get them to learn ABCs and their sounds. She loves to read and see pictures and point at things but she isn't learning letters that way.

She watches about 15-20 mins of Leapfrog: Letter Factory and I was amazed how quickly she started recognizing her letters.

I'm not suggesting TV is a replacement to reading but rather than another medium of learning is a tool that can be leveraged.

Also my point was more towards the article headline (less so the content) in general where a blanket statement like 'watching TV = bad for infants'. Rather we should find a balance between reading, music, outside play and even TV.

I agree that limiting screen time is important, and my wife and I are careful to limit our son's screen time and not expose him to "second hand TV." That said, I take issue with the following passage from the article:

"Even so-called educational videos do not benefit children under 2 because they are too young to be able to understand the images on the screen, the doctors’ group said."

My son watches a DVD from the "Baby Signing Time" series 2-3 times per week. At 15 months, he sports a 30 to 40 word signing vocabulary. While my wife and I work to reinforce many of the more useful signs (more, milk, eat, etc), there are a number that he has picked up straight from the video (banana, coat, cat, etc). As much as I'd like to believe that he's a genius, I think its much more likely that the doctors' group is just wrong about what children can understand on screen.

In the article one frustrated-sounding doctor says no one is listening to the message. Maybe that's because they're preaching zero tolerance rather than moderation. Perhaps that's because they're worried that parents will take moderation too far and they think zero-tolerance is safer. Either way, to say children under two can't learn from a screen is simply wrong. I see the evidence every singe day and the doctors are welcome to see it for themselves.

My two and a half year old has a number of favorite videos, and when watching them, he will frequently turn to us and tell us to watch and then go on to launch into lengthy verbal explanations of what has happened or what will happen up to about 5 minutes ahead in the video. He's done this for months.

Of course "under two's" versus 30 months is a big gap, but it's not like he just suddenly started telling us these things either - a lot of the words and phrases he's picked up over the last year comes straight from things he's seen on TV or DVD's.

> Even so-called educational videos do not benefit children under 2 because they are too young to be able to understand the images on the screen, the doctors’ group said.

So, we have been watching TV with my 20-month old daughter since she was around 9 months old. We watch kids shows and talk about it while we watch it together. And she knows exactly what is going on in the show and has for a long time. I'm sure she doesn't understand 100% of it, but it is obvious that she is picking up things.

* She knows the characters by name as soon as they are shown

* She talks about things she sees in the background

* Since last month she sometimes laughs when they do something that is meant to be funny

* She counts out loud to 10 with the characters on TV when they start counting

My feeling is that a constant TV in the background is a distraction for anyone, including babies. But having kids shows AND (here is the key part) watching them together and talking about it, re-enforcing the points of education, talking about the background, and asking questions about what is going on does in fact help with their development.

Perhaps the most useful way of looking at this, is to think about whether a child who isn't exposed to TV until two years old would gain benefit, over children who are.

I agree with the premise that, being able to respond to feedback, and alter and hone their responses over time is a central part of any child's development. TV isn't as passive as some commentators make out - but the mechanisms required to process the sound and images we see in an interactive way require a degree of development that a very young child isn't likely to possess.

There's one thing that I am certain of; I think advertising aimed towards children should be banned. If there's any evil that could (and should) be stopped it's the drastic effect that commercial advertising can have on impressionable minds.

Well there's TV networks like PBS and I think Qubo that have limited advertising. Also, why stop at banning advertising to children when even a large percentage of adults have impressionable minds :).

Indeed, watching TV is not a passive, structured experience, as the experts claim. No more than is reading a book, or playing with lego.

If it were then TV shows would not be interesting.

My guess is that there are two factors which may harm children's development. One is that watching TV until exhaustion, if done too often, may divert resources which would otherwise have gone into growing the brain. This applies only in the very early years when that growth is rapid.

The other is parents using TV to pacify children instead of helping them and paying attention to their problems.

While I don't necessarily disagree with the notion of minimizing television exposure this is starting to develop a smell of dogma.

The one thing we know about young kids is that in spite of our tendency to treat them like delicate petals they are actually incredibly robust and the idea that 30 minutes of well chosen television in a day can be so harmful that it outweighs the benefit of the tremendous relief it may give a parent to have this small amount of time to do other tasks - or god forbid, relax for a few minutes - seems crazy to me.

And also, why just TV?

There are an awful lot of things in a modern house that are TV-like (big bright screen, moving images, sound) so is watching moving video on a computer or tablet screen better or worse than the same amount of TV?

Do the negative effects end the moment you can interact with what's on screen? How much do you have to interact with what's on screen, is there a threshold?

The way it's getting I could imagine people getting all cargo-cult with this thinking, eschewing their TV's & plonking their kids in front of the computer (to watch the same content) instead.

For those who can't read this behind the paywall:


Or, you could just delete your cookies. The NYTimes "pay wall" is not very sophisticated (probably on purpose).

So, interacting with your children is better than letting a TV babysit them. I think the same thing can be said for adults.

My kids were on tv-diet for about 5 years and it was overall very positive experience. There're several things here:

a. TV (and other one-way information sources) is really bad for babies/toddlers who need two-way interaction with the world.

b. for older kids(~4y+) replacing regular TV channels with dedicated documentary/learning videos in reasonable quantities is beneficial.

I'm quite curious on how virtual interactions(ipad/etc) affect child development, any research links?

The article doesn't mention radio. Is Car Talk is going to harm my child or just make him laugh at his own jokes?

Anecdotal evidence. I listened to NPR a lot with my first child, and other than a faint liberal bias, he has turned out just fine.

I'm acting to limit my daughter's exposure to TV, and this is a topic I'd like to make a more substantial post on, but until that happy moment, I'd just like to note that: "The real World often has a slight liberal bias..."

edit: just sneaking a few minutes on HN while she watches Nihongo Quick Lesson on NHK (via Roku). Only a few shows actually really engage her, but this is one of them... She shouts and dances with the Mime guy for example.

I think as with most things, the key is moderation, and a couple of hours of TV seems unlikely to do substantive harm in the context of a day that involves lots of play in the nursery, lots of reading with daddy and mummy, running about in the yard for an hour etc.

It'd be really interesting to know who would mod this post down, and why?

Note, I didn't mod you down, but it was probably just the naked politics of it.

Yes, it will harm your child. Children can only pick up language by listening to people in the room, they can't pick up language by listening to the radio or watching videos. They also can't pick up language from people in the room very well if there is a radio or TV on in the background.

No one is really sure why this is the case, but it is very well proven. (It's called the video deficit, even when you're just talking about audio.)

If this weren't the case then you would be able to teach your kids the phonemes of other languages just by playing audio tapes of native speakers for them, but unfortunately this doesn't work so if you actually want your kids to be bilingual then you need to sign them up for an exchange for age one.

Mine has expressed an interest of becoming a lawyer at the prestigious Dewey, Cheatam, and Howe law firm.

The difference with tv and radio is that you can still play with your child with the radio on.

My 1.5 and 2.5 year old kids are both well acquainted with "Sprout" Channel, a preschool channel, and have been for over a year.

Not only do they know what they are seeing on the TV, regularly talking about various stars of the channel, such as Nina and Star, but the 1.5 y/o can even ask for the channel by name "I want sprout", and the 2.5 y/o can additionally even work the remote to get it, and say the numbers "1","1","9" as he's pushing them. Finally, my 1.5 y/o is already addicted to books and will page through them when there is a commercial or something she's not interested in.

They both learn a ton watching sprout. My 1.5y/o does dances and things that she sees, as well as says things I know she never learned from us.

We also have a large selection of YouTube playlists of childrens songs, age appropriate cartoons, and slightly non-age appropriate cartoons like 1940's vintage Micky Mouse cartoons. Again, they both ask for the playlist they want "I want Micky", "I want Dragon", "I want Caillou", etc.

Kids learn by observing the world around them. When I was a kid, I was watching my parents work a cattle ranch. My kids are often stuck in the house for five or six hours at a time, because I don't have a cattle ranch. They've explored every room, cabinet, jar, and canister that they have access too, and their huge collection of books hold no mysteries for them. You can only sit and try to read for so long, before you're sick of it for awhile, and they know all the pictures and can correctly tell you every animal, vegetable, vehicle, and geographical feature those books contain. What they see on the TV and computer supplements their learning opportunities.

Based on my experiences, I have to call bullshit on this politically correct article, and those like it.

Some statistics and information from the 2008 book Parenting, Inc.:

"A nationally representative study from the 1990s found that only 17 percent of children under one were watching television and fewer than half of children between the ages of one and two watched. In a 2006 study of 1,009 parents, 40 percent of babies were watching TV or DVDs/videos by three months; the average baby started watching videos at six months and regular television at ten months." Source: Parenting, Inc., p. 142

"Knowing that television viewing by children under the age of three is associated with reduced reading scores on tests that measure reading recognition, reading comprehension, and memory makes these statistics all the more alarming. Surveys show that children six and under spend three times more time in front of a TV, computer, or video game each day than they do reading." (p. 143)

Today [2008], a Baby Einstein DVD retails for $19.99, and those aimed at children under two account for $1 billion in sales." (p. 120)

"In a 2004 survey by the nonprofit Zero to Three, 82 percent of parents were comfortable or very comfortable with children under two watching television, and 89 percent were satisfied with the quality of available videos. By the age of twenty-four months, 90 percent of babies are regularly watching TV, DVDs, and videos for an average of an hour and a half per day. When asked in a nationwide study why they exposed their babies to media under the age of two, despite explicit warnings against it from the medical profession, parents said 'education.'" (p. 126)

"A 2005 study of 1,000 children published in Archives of Pediatrics found that children who watch TV before age three have lower cognitive scores at age seven." (p. 131) "For each additional hour of daily TV viewing before age three, the chances of having attentional problems increased 10 percent; a child who watched two hours a day on average was 20 percent more likely to have attention problems." (p. 131)

"Studies show that high levels of television viewing before age three are associated with subsequent bullying, and impaired reading and mathematical proficiency. A 2006 study in Pediatrics found that the more television children under five watch, the less likely they are to engage in creative play." (p. 130)

"According to Dimitri Christakis, the director of the Child Health Institute at the University of Washington, overstimulation is damaging to the developing mind. The brain's orienting reflex, first described by Ivan Pavlov (of the famous dog), is triggered when a baby hears a strange sight or sound: He can't help but focus. Rapidly changing colors, sounds, and motions force a baby's brain to stay at attention. Each time her gaze might wander, action rivets her mind back to the screen. [...] Parents say, 'My child can't stop looking at it! She Loves it!' Christakis said. 'Well, true, she can't stop looking at it, but that does not mean she loves it.'"

"A 2007 study by Christakis, Meltzoff, and their colleague Frederick Zimmerman found that for every hour per day spent watching baby DVDs and videos, infants understand an average of six to eight fewer words than infants who did not watch them. Not surprisingly, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television viewing before age two-- a fact of which only 6 percent of parents are aware, even though the warning was established in 1999." (p. 132)

"While certain types of media exposure can be beneficial to three- and four-year-olds--the best example is Sesame Street, which has been shown in reliable studies to help some preschoolers with learning skills--there is no evidence that exposure before that age is a good idea and plenty to suggest that it's harmful. In fact, watching even Sesame Street before age two is associated with delayed language..." (p. 133)

"In an experiment conducted by a Georgetown University researcher, parents were explicitly told that videos were to be shown to their babies in order to determine whether or not babies could learn from TV and videos. Many of the parents then told the researcher that they had already read research supporter the videos' educational value. But they couldn't possibly have done so--no such research exists. Parents have clearly absorbed the advertising and marketing messages implying educational value and assumed there was proof behind the promises. One thirty-three-year-old stay-at-home mom told me she tried to get her son to watch educational television, but he just didn't seem interested, and she would try out Baby Einstein DVDs instead if they weren't so expensive. 'I Personally think it helps them with speech, learning to say words, and the alphabet,' she said." (p. 134)

"Patricia Kuhl, who studies language acquisition at the University of Washington, conducted an experiment in which a native Mandarin speaker played with a group of babies for an hour a day while speaking Chinese. Through laboratory testing, she found that babies were subsequently able to recognize Mandarin sounds. But not one of the three control groups-- a set of babies who saw the Chinese speaker play with babies on a video, another group who listened to an audio recording of the Chinese woman playing, and a third group who had no exposure to the Chinese speaker-- were able to distinguish Mandarin sounds from English ones. It turns out that in order for a baby to learn a foreign language, a foreign-language-speaking human being needs to be present." (p. 122)

"In one study of two-and-a-half-year-olds, it took six viewings of a video to accomplish what a single live demonstration could do with simple-step operations like removing a mitten or playing with a puppet, a gap that has come to be known as the video deficit. Research has also suggested that while children can learn new words from watching TV, videos are less effective than live experiences, particularly for viewers under two." (p. 131)

"A 2005 study in American Behavioral Scientist concluded, 'Although the experimental studies are still few, they are remarkably consistent in indicating a video deficit for children 24 months and younger. Although there is some learning indicated by some of the studies, the learning is dramatically less than found for equivalent live displays.'" (p. 124)

In school we studied research that correlated how many of hours of TV a day a person watched, and life expectancy. As many people thought the more tv you watched your life expectancy fell.

When you first hear that it sounds like TV can reduce your years on earth.

When they took a close look though they found a confounding variable; health care.

Those who watched more TV tended to be poorer, and thus had less healthcare. It's possible that the same thing is happening in this group of research as well.

"It's possible that the same thing is happening in this group of research as well."

In this case we already know that the most important mediating variables for predicting outcomes on the relevant measures are parent-child talk and self-directed play, so it's very easy to see how each hour of watching TV causes increasing damage. I'm sure some of the gap is because of mere correlation, but it's also clear that TV watching itself is a huge part of the problem if only because it prevents the child from getting the types of interactions they need for their brains to develop properly. (whether or not the TV itself fries their dopamine system or whatever directly is still an open question.)

But you're not grasping the point. Correlation is not causation. If parents are poor, work three jobs ("fantastic!", says George Bush), and don't have time to tutor their kids, their kids may watch more TV and may have lower test scores..... but there's absolutely no proof anywhere that TV "causes damage". None. Zero. Nil.

He wrote "I'm sure some of the gap is because of mere correlation", so I think he IS grasping the point.

Personally I thin it is OBVIOUS that TV is damaging children since it is unnatural the same way sugar is. The kids of our ancestors have been crawling around on the floor exploring and playing for millions of years - sitting in front of flickering lights for hours on end for just 30 years.

A lot of medicines are "unnatural the same way sugar is". Are they obviously damaging children too?

If the kids are otherwise healthy and eat a lot of the medicines, then yes, obviously. Eating a lot of medicines is OBVIOUSLY very bad for healthy children.

You're moving the goalpost and being intentionally obtuse.

Vaccines then. Clothes. Shoes.

Want more examples of "unnatural" things?

The point is to equate something being "unnatural", whatever that is supposed to mean, with it being "OBVIOUSLY bad" is so inane that I really do hope you're either a troll or just plain did not think through what you wrote.

'"unnatural", whatever that is supposed to mean'

It is supposed to mean huge changes from the relatively stable environment present during human evolution. The environment we are adapted to operating in. Unless you are a creationist, that should be pretty obvious.

Really, what's more unnatural than reading words on a page or manipulating figures.

I think that is a good argument. Isn't the main premise of your argument that parents should spend more time with their kids talking.

Like it seems as if TV is being specially berated when it could really be anything that takes time away from interacting with your child that is bad.

It's not just that you're not interacting with them, it's that it's preventing them from engaging in self-directed play, which is necessary for developing executive function among other things.

The reason TV is being singled out specifically is because it's basically causing permanent brain damage in 90+% of kids. Sure, there are other ways of fucking up your kids as well, but in terms of what people are actually doing TV is at or near the top of the list.

All these people who think it's ok to let their kids watch 'just an hour' of TV per day are probably why ADHD now effects over 9% of kids.

The researchers make claims like the kids watching tv have no idea what's going on. My kids would play Angry Birds and rearrange our iPhone icons to make their favorite apps more accessible. (They could also explain some of what was going on in tv shows they liked.)

Maybe these researchers are Skinnerian behaviorists who think the kids are just exhibiting behavior.

Not "kids". Kids under two. Here's the sentence you're quoting:

Unlike school-age children, infants and toddlers “just have no idea what’s going on” no matter how well done a video is, Dr. Troseth said.

How old are your kids?

The article also mentions specifically that once kids are over 3, they can learn from some TV -- Sesame Street specifically has been the subject of lots of studies, and shows some benefits, though it still can't compare with learning from actual people.

That's the main takeaway -- for kids under 2, it's actively harmful; for kids over two, it's not as bad, but kids will still be better off if it's possible to spend those hours interacting with people or playing (by themselves, with others, anything).

Right. And I was Referring to my kids' behavior at 18mos.

It's a good point, but I rather suspect that if we can find a link to the studies listed here that economic status would be statistically controlled for. For research at this level I would be greatly surprised if it weren't.

Surveys show that children six and under spend three times more time in front of a TV, computer, or video game each day than they do reading.

This comment is quite strange...

No TV is so 1990. Really, today 'No TV' would be easy to achieve while still overdosing on Youtube, netflix and so on.

Computers screens are more often than not the delivery vector for your daily dose of passive consumption. And it's not just the desktop machines either, it's the iPads and the phones that happily join in.

Even not having a TV no longer means that you are immunized against this, and being without internet access is far worse than not having cable.

For one the internet is far more addictive in many ways (think minecraft, the various role playing games and social websites) and besides that it has so many legitimate uses that one could easily burn up a whole day without ever leaving the comfy chair in front of the big tft in consumptive mode without so much as a glance at the television.

By TV they mean video content, it's still TV even if you're watching it on your computer.

There is a major difference between viewing TV content on your computer and TV content on your television - on your computer, you need to actively select new content once your current content is finished. Television has the property that once turned on, you are subjected to a constant stream of content (including advertisements) and thus it is much easier to turn your brain off.

Actually a lot of it is specific to TV, because some families just leave it on in the background all the time:

“I like to call it secondhand TV,” said Dr. Brown... Studies cited in the guidelines say that parents interact less with children when the television is on, and that a young child at play will glance at the TV — if it is on, even in the background — three times a minute.

> No TV is so 1990. Really, today 'No TV' would be easy to achieve while still overdosing on Youtube, netflix and so on.

I disagree. You can leave TV on and have an uninterrupted stream of content, images, sound, noise constantly delivered to you with zero effort. Not so with Netflix or Youtube.

You can't "leave Netflix on" because at the end of the program it will just stop and wait for you to choose another one. That alone makes a huge difference (to say nothing of the absence of advertising).

I don't think that watching TV is categorically bad, i.e. the content and the amount is important. I think when pediatricians make this recommendation they mean "a totally attentive parent vs. regular TV programming", which, of course is not always the case. Watching an educational program, e.g. Barney or Sesame Street, etc. may be much better than sitting in a room with an inattentive (e.g. reading the paper) parent (or worse one who's on edge).

For me, TV refers to the device itself, not to programming. My son only watches content from Netflix and PBS Kids (the latter does have brief sponsor messages).

"I don't think that watching TV is categorically bad, i.e. the content and the amount is important."

That's just plain false. The content does matter between ages 3 and 5, but before age two the content is irrelevant because of the video deficit.

Well, what I meant was content in the sense that grown-up material and commercials. I don't think watching news on TV with your one year old will have the same effect as watching Barney.

"I don't think watching news on TV with your one year old will have the same effect as watching Barney."

The only thing that might make a difference is how many times the camera angle changes per minute, but other than that there shouldn't be any difference between content made for adults and content made for kids.

  “As always, the children who are most at risk are exactly 
  the very many children in our society who have the fewest
  resources,” Alison Gopnik, a psychologist at the
  University of California, said in an e-mail.
Indeed. And such "at-risk" children often inherit genes predisposing them to exactly the kinds of issues the studies uncover (and blame on watching too much TV). The problem is that most of these studies don't control for genes; there's no way to tell if TV-watching is the source of the problems or if it's the genes of the parents who let their babies watch lots of TV. Until the studies are re-done while controlling for genes, the conclusions (and the corresponding recommendations) are useless.

Parents who read a lot to their children have children who grow up to be more verbal. But parents who read a lot to their children also tend to pass on genes for verbal fluency. Studies that adequately control for genes show that reading to children does virtually nothing for their verbal ability—it's all in the genes, and in random events over which the parents have no control. See http://www.ted.com/talks/steven_pinker_chalks_it_up_to_the_b... and http://www.amazon.com/Blank-Slate-Modern-Denial-Nature/dp/01... for more.

Awesome! I laughed at the "secondhand TV" part. Good article that reminds me of another I recently read talking about getting away from being distracted (like this article) and spending time letting your brain work: http://www.fastcompany.com/1700298/what-happened-to-downtime...

I can relate to this. My son was watching TV when he was 2 or so (stupid Baby Einstein - we were thinking we were doing a good things). But, then he started having problem with speaking. Went to speech therapists and things: but the thing which helped the most is: no more TV.

Apparently, at that age the biggest problem is that kids can't pick up language and speech by watching videos.

When I was a student, I definitely let my son watch too much television (now he has ADHD - not sure if they're related - but from studies it sounds like they're connected). It was a babysitting tool and I couldn't afford daycare in the evening as well when I had to study. Now, we have a nanny and our kids hardly watch tv at all. Our baby seems to be drawn to the iPad and iPhones and we're keeping these away from her. We're smarter and definitely not student 'poor' anymore and this has definitely affected how much tv our other kids watch.

So many comments seem to gloss over the fact that kids are very different and what works for you is cool and all, but not necessarily going to work for others.

Going with no TV is noble, good for you. But going from heavy use to no use is not necessarily the reason your child is doing so good. There is a balance is that balance is unique to each child.

From the article: "Watching television or videos is discouraged for babies younger than 2 because studies suggest it could harm their development, a pediatricians’ group said Tuesday."

But you say: "There is a balance is that balance is unique to each child."

How do you know that there "is a balance unique to each child"? Do you have studies to backup your assertion similar to those cited in the article?

I'm glad the study excluded interactive educational games, which I think can be very beneficial when used in moderation along with reading and creative play.

I will not make my kids watch TV until they are old enough for school. Why would I?

I find it somewhat strange that video games are OK (it's on a screen but interactive) and I guess live theater is OK (it's passive but not on a screen), but the combination of passively watching something on a screen is not OK.

Video games allow the user to interact with the media and cause reactions to input. It allows us to explore causality at a very personal level, even though the systems and entities invovled are entirely virtual.

Live theater allows the user to control what to focus on during each scene. If there is a conversation, we can choose who the "camera" is pointing at. We are also looking at real human beings interacting with each other. The experience is mildly interactive.

Passive screen-based media gives us neither set of choices.

How is looking at an image of live human beings "worse" than looking at live human beings (which is ultimately an image too)? If the child is given a remote control, does that count as interactivity since he can choose what to look at while exploring causality?

By the way, I'm not arguing that TV is good for kids. I'm just trying to analyze the argument in favor of preventing infants from watching passive screen media.

You can't compare seeing human beings interacting in a "true 3D", real-life setting to the same thing happening on a screen. You don't get depth perception, and there are artifacts of recording in video and audio (even in modern HD shows) that make a real-life scene distinctly different. I don't know scientifically how that's important, I just know there's a difference. You know there's a difference if you ever see someone on TV and then see them in real life for the first time.

A remote doesn't explore causality inside the media, it's only exploring "when I press a certain button it will switch to a different show which is not of my choosing and which I can't predict". They might correllate pressing the same numbers with the same show at the same time of the day. The "camera angle" interactivity in live theater doesn't get into causality at all, just different ways you can look at or listen to a scene, but in videogames causality is rarely so random.

Think of it at a very basic, I-don't-know-what-TV-or-videogames-are level: I press the channel up button on the remote, the image suddenly changes to something entirely different. If I do this a few hours later, the former image and the latter image are entirely different from before. Let's even assume I'm watching Netflix and I've figured out how to navigate menus: the menu is interactive, but the media I'm watching doesn't give me any control over what's happening inside the media. In a videogame, if I press a button a character will move, a gun will shoot, a menu will open. If I do the same thing a few hours from now, the same thing will happen. A different thing might happen in a predictable context: if my dude is in front of a wall he might climb the wall rather than jump when I press A, it's generally bad design to allow otherwise. The link between cause and effect is much more clear, and my role as an agent of cause is much more clear as well.

If you try going to see some live theatre in person, I think you'll understand the difference between it and television.

I understand that they are different. I wanted to know why one is worse for child development.

People should not do studies into parenting. Parents should use their damn common sense. Everything in moderation.

There is no such thing as 'common sense'. Everyone learnt what they know. Genetics alone gives you a series of reflexes, some body changes and a few basic urges. Everything else was learnt somewhere, somehow and at some time. The only 'common' part is where you learn something or experience something in much the same way as someone else. We do not all share the same collective experiences.

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