Bringing your ï¬rst, new baby home from the hospital is an extremely special time. It’s ï¬nally time for your newborn to become a part of your family’s daily life.
But let’s be honest. For the ï¬rst few weeks, your newborn is really only focused on a few things: eating, sleeping, playing and maybe learning to crawl. As a new parent, you sometimes have to ï¬nd things to keep yourself busy. Some new parents will pick up a new book but others participate in the trendy “binge-watching” of television shows or choose to have the TV on while caring for their newborn.
The question: Is this a bad thing?
Many studies speak to reasons why children should not watch television, but if your baby is so young it can’t even lift its head, is it so bad to have the television on to pass the time? There are two sides to this question. The following is merely “food for thought”. It’s up to you to use your best judgment as a parent to decide what’s right.
The Reason Why It’s Wrong
Children’s brains triple in mass in just the ï¬rst 12 months1 and what happens around them during this time greatly inï¬‚uence how their brains develop. As an newborn stares at a television, they may see bright colors and motion but aren’t capable of making sense of what it means. This confusion is the reason why children up to age 3 do not learn as well from a screen.
Before age 2, watching television can also contribute to problems with sleep and attention as well as have lasting negative effects on children’s language development, reading skills and memory. Even just having the TV on in the background is enough to cause these issues. Plus, as a parent is watching the television, they’re interacting less with their child.
The Reasons Why It’s Not So Bad
Despite the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that kids under 2 should not watch any TV,2 surveys say that around 40 percent of infants are watching some sort of television screen by the age of 5 months.3 But are they really watching?
When you turn on the television, it’s for you as the parent to watch. Your baby may not be facing it and is clearly not getting anything out of it. So what’s the harm? Jill Stamm, PhD and Director of the New Directions Institute for Infant Brain Development, believes a little TV time here and there won’t be an issue. “Let’s get real — sometimes you need a few moments to regroup. There will be no permanent harm, but we do know that it doesn’t help them, and it does seem to slow development. At the very least, you will break even,” she says.4
Others say that turning on the television while you’re nursing or the baby is sleeping isn’t bad at all. Distraction isn’t as big a risk when they’re a newborn. Just be sure to keep the volume low and the lights low in the room so the surroundings remain dark and calm.5
Advice For Either Path You Choose
The important thing to remember if you’re going to turn on the television is to choose what you watch carefully. As an adult, your TV show of choice wouldn’t be anything from “Sesame Street,” especially if your newborn is sleeping, but be sure to steer clear of violent television with bad words and shooting scenes. Children who view violent acts could develop aggressive behavior or fear the world is a scary place.6
Also remember that you’ve just brought home a baby for the ï¬rst time, and they don’t stay babies forever. As a parent, limit your TV time so you can get the most out of spending time with your child. The beneï¬ts work both ways.
- 1 http://www.healthychildren.org/english/family-life/media/pages/why-to-avoid-tv-before-age-2.aspx
- 2 http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/family/tv_affects_child.html
- 3 http://www.healthychildren.org/english/family-life/media/pages/why-to-avoid-tv-before-age-2.aspx
- 4 http://www.parents.com/baby/development/intellectual/kids-and-television/?page=2
- 5 http://www.babycenter.com/0_solutions-to-new-parent-dilemmas_10346047.bc
- 6 http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/family/tv_affects_child.html
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