How does television affect babies?

Television for toddlers: that's how harmful it is

Even if TV programs and videos promise learning effects, they do not promote the development of young children. Studies show that many hours in front of the television can inhibit language development. According to US experts, free play promotes toddlers more than television programs and videos with an alleged learning effect. "Small children learn best by interacting with people, not in front of the screen," emphasize pediatricians. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued a statement tightening previous warnings about electronic media in the first few years of life.

The AAP statement is based on over 50 studies that have looked at the effects of television and video on children under two years of age since 1999. The academy claims to have 60,000 paediatricians and surgeons in the United States.

Many parents keep their children happy with television

According to the academy, there is a great risk of employing young children with the help of electronic media. Because the range of mobile devices is getting bigger and bigger. In a US survey, according to the AAP, recently 90 percent of parents admitted to using electronic media to keep their offspring happy before their second birthday.

Many three-year-olds have their own television

Every third child aged three and over has a TV in their room. "If children sit in front of a screen a lot in the first years of life, they tend to be linguistically inhibited when they start school," explains the lead author, Ari Brown.

In Germany, corresponding data on this age group is only being collected in the current Kiggs study. The reason for this was a study by Robert Schlack of 10,000 school beginners in 2005. "If you watch three hours of television per day, the rate of language disorders at school entry increases by 50 percent. If you spend more than four hours, the gross motor abnormalities as well as the visa motor problems double" , reports Schlack, who works at the Robert Koch Institute.

The smaller the child, the worse the effects

"The smaller children are, the worse television affects them," confirms Fabienne Becker-Stoll, head of the State Institute for Early Childhood Education in an interview. This is extreme with infants who are still in the baby seat in front of the television and cannot move away by themselves. Instead of learning effects, there is only damage here. "A baby's brain needs immediate feedback. In order for it to learn, parents not only have to respond sensitively but also immediately to the child when it screams or cries, for example. However, a television never reacts," explains the psychologist.

Behavioral disorders from television

Doctors also worry that toddlers tend to have restless sleep if they watched TV before going to bed. "The lack of sleep can lead to behavioral and health problems," says Brown. A new study will provide information about possible long-term damage, which will follow the influence of electronic media on the development of children and adolescents over a period of 20 years.

A running television disturbs concentration

The AAP also attacks parents' TV consumption. Even if the little ones play while the television is on, their concentration is disturbed. Instead, parents should take care of their offspring.

Do not let children use the remote control

Parents are therefore in a bind. "No family forego the television as soon as children come. You have to limit the damage," advises Becker-Stoll. For the expert, this means watching TV on the parents' lap together with explanations of what has been seen, as well as selecting a program that is suitable for children. "This never exists if 20-minute commercials are only interrupted by a few minutes of the program, because advertising for children is always highly suggestive. Therefore, even five-year-olds should never be allowed to operate the remote control."

Reading aloud as a better alternative

As a far better alternative, the Munich psychologist recommends reading aloud, which can even begin at a few months old. The US pediatricians recommend free play, in which children learn on their own to think creatively, to solve problems, to develop their motor skills and to occupy themselves. "Children learn best from people, not from screens," she says.

More on the topics

  • Parents,
  • Small child,
  • TV for children,
  • TV,
  • Video,
  • Education,
  • Educational counseling,
  • Parenting tips,
  • Media,
  • Media education