'Educational' TV for under-2s could stunt their development
'EDUCATIONAL' television programmes aimed at the under-twos do nothing to stimulate them and could actually stunt their development, according to new guidelines on the subject.
Paediatricians say there is "no evidence" that television programmes for the under-twos, marketed as educational, actually help them intellectually or socially, because they simply cannot understand them.
Watching television merely gets in the way of activities that such young children do understand, and do benefit them - most notably free play and engagement with other people.
DVD products such as Baby Einstein are marketed squarely on the premiss of educating babies and toddlers, while there are numerous British-made programmes, such as In the Night Garden, aimed at the age range.
While it is not presented as specifically educational, the popular BBC programme includes simple repitition of numbers and phrases that could be regarded as such.
Researchers said that children under two learn nothing from TV but watching too much can slow their speech development, making them behave badly.
They said parents were too quick to accept the educational value of a TV programme without actually checking if their children will learn anything from it.
The new guidelines were presented today at the annual conference of the American Academy of Pediatrics, in Boston, Mass.
Dr Ari Brown, managing director of the AAP's council on communications and media, said: "Many video programs for infants and toddlers are marketed as 'educational' yet evidence does not support this.
"Quality programmes are educational for children only if they understand the content and context of the video.
"Studies consistently find that children over two typically have this understanding.
"Unstructured play time is more valuable for the developing brain than electronic media.
"Children learn to think creatively, problem solve, and develop reasoning and motor skills at early ages through unstructured, unplugged play.
"Free play also teaches them how to entertain themselves."
Writing in the guidance that there were "even entire cable networks" geared towards under twos, he noted that television executives viewed them as "key consumers of electronic media".
The updated guidance follows a document issued in 1999 that paediatricians should "urge parents to avoid television viewing for children under the age of two".