Too much of TV can harm infants

January 14th, 2009 - 2:09 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 14 (IANS) Letting infants watch TV could really harm them in the long run, warns a leading child expert.He advised parents to limit the amount of TV children watch before the age of two, after an extensive review showed that it can counterproductive for them.

Dimitri A Christakis, a professor at the Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of Washington, also voiced concern about DVDs aimed at infants that claim to be beneficial, despite a lack of scientific evidence.

He referred to France that last introduced tough new rules to protect the health and development of children under three from the adverse effects of TV.

Christakis’ extensive review looked at 78 studies published over the last 25 years and reiterates the findings of numerous studies he has carried out with colleagues into this specialist area.

He points out that as many as nine in 10 children under the age of two watch TV regularly, despite ongoing warnings, and some spend as much as 40 percent of their waking hours in front of a TV.

“No studies to date have demonstrated benefits associated with early infant TV viewing,” says Christakis, whose review looked at the effect that TV has on children’s language, cognitive skills and attentional capacity, as well as areas for future research.

“The weight of existing evidence suggests the potential for harm and I believe that parents should exercise due caution in exposing infants to excessive media,” he says.

“For example, the American Academy of Paediatrics discourages TV viewing in the first two years of life, but only six percent of parents are aware of this advice despite ongoing publicity.”

Key findings of Christakis’ review includes a 2008 Thai study that found that if children under 12 months watched TV for more than two hours a day they were six times more likely to have delayed language skills, said a Washington release.

Another study found that children who watched baby DVDs between seven and 16 months knew fewer words than children who did not. Infants as young as 14 months will imitate what they see on a TV screen, but they learn better from live presentations.

These findings were published in the January issue of Acta Paediatrica.

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