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Monday, July 20, 2009

Should young children watch TV?

I heard a while ago that Dr. James Dobson suggested that children not watch television until age two. At that time my daughter was very young and not at all interested in TV so I wasn't concerned.

Well, Dr. James Dobson's suggestion slipped my mind and about a month ago, my daughter fell in love with Elmo. So I thought I would get her a Sesame Street DVD (we don't have cable). Needless to say, she became addicted and EVERY morning she repeats "Melmo, melmo, melmo!" until I put the video on for her. I was thrilled in fact that I could get 45 minutes of computer/work time in while she was being "educated" by Sesame Street.

But then reality hit home this morning as I was doing research for this post. I was shocked in fact to read that the American Association of Pediatricians recommends that children shouldn't watch TV at all — not until they are age two.

Even Sesame Street? But it's so educational! Well, this sort of burst my bubble:

"In the early days of "Sesame Street," producers noticed that the program wasn't moving fast enough on street scenes to keep kids' attention. What did they do? They utilized advertising research which showed that the best way to engage viewers was through ad-like shorts with quick movement, bursts of color, and loud noises. The result was a cross between entertainment and education, which became known as "edutainment." Sure enough, it's kept kids attention since 1969. But can fast-paced ad-like programming make kids hyperactive? Some researchers think so. "

There was a study done of 2,500 children, ages birth to 3, who watched one hour of television daily. The study showed direct ties to as much as a 10% loss of attentiveness when they reached age seven. The reason for this is the "considerable plasticity" that exists in a childrens brain at this age. By watching TV children's brains are being wired to respond to visual stimulation and multiple visual exposures simultaneously. For more info read this article.

Yikes. Well that's enough proof for me. I hope a months worth of TV watching didn't fry my daughters brain for good.

I guess now my biggest challenge will be breaking her morning "Melmo" habit.

Wish me luck!

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