The Impact of TV on Your Child’s Development
By Hallie Bulkin
With the obesity epidemic sweeping our nation the news has put an emphasis on reducing TV time for our youth. Afterall, childhood obesity is a very serious issue. This makes sense as weight is a physical attribute that you can see when you look at a child. What many of us do not realize are the attributes that you cannot see on a child’s body. Attributes like a childs speech development, language development, pre-literacy skills, and engagement in conversations with peers and adults.
Many studies have focused on the topic of the negative impact that TV and media have on infants and toddlers. The far-reaching issues of too much TV-time in this population has serious implications for your child’s near and distant future. One study went so far as to recommend that children should receive NO (none, zero, zilch!) exposure to TV or media prior to the age of 2 years.***
Another study mentioned that for every hour of TV watched infants and toddlers:
- utter fewer sounds
- use fewer words
- engage in less conversation
You may be surprised. That is why I am sharing this with you; it is a big problem and one that you can prevent. There are additional studies that found that children who started watching TV prior to 12 months of age and watched TV for more than 2 hours a day were about 6 times more likely to have language delays.**
There are reasons for this, including but not limited to the fact that:
- There is NO engagement in TV watching
- Children typically don’t talk to the TV (especially before 1-2 years of age)
- Children learn from REAL humans through engagement (not audios or videos of humans; hence why Baby Einstein does not teach your children anything; but we won’t go there.)
So what is a parent to do?
- Turn OFF the TV
- Talk to your children
- Get them talking
- Get your child thinking
If you have an infant that has already been exposed to a lot of TV, you will want to take immediate action and reduce that TV time. In order to encourage more use of words in the future, talk to your infants. Talk to them A LOT! Your infant absorbs everything you say to them. One tip is to follow their focus of attention and talk about what they focus on. Describe the toy, picture, or object they look at; they take in more language when they are focused on what you are talking about/describing.
If you have a toddler who has been exposed to a lot of TV at a young age and has delayed speech and/or language skills, your next step may be early intervention. The sooner you address it the faster your child can get on track with their development and decrease their chances of issues down the road. If you aren’t sure, seek a Speech & Language assessment to see how your toddlers development is doing in comparison to typical development. In the meantime, interact with your child more and encourage make-believe play. Allow your child to direct their own play. You can put out the toys that will get them thinking and talking but then let the child take over and talk about what they are doing with the toys. Be sure to engage with them and hold conversation to the extent possible for their age and abilities.
To your childs development!