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Good news, bad news for tube-watching tots

tv.JPGFrom an AP article of the same title from

The reality: There is little clear data on how TV affects child development at any age, much less before age 2 - and even less research on computers for tots, video games and other now-pervasive electronic media... "Content does matter. Television designed to enhance cognitive development does so," said University of Massachusetts psychologist Daniel Anderson, referring to the well-studied preschool shows "Sesame Street" and "Blue's Clues." But, "other kinds of TV or too much TV may interfere with cognitive development," he warned. "Most immediately, we need to know the effects of very early media exposure." The American Academy of Pediatrics says children under 2 shouldn't watch TV at all, and that older kids should watch no more than two hours a day. Yet the Kaiser Family Foundation found in 2003 that two-thirds of children under 2 were watching TV an hour a day plus spending almost another hour on computer or video games. Almost half of 4- to 6-year-olds had TVs in their bedrooms. And after age 8, "screen time" - TV plus computers and other electronic media - soared to 6.5 hours a day, on average... There's little disagreement that violent programs are bad for kids, leading to fear and aggressive behavior, and that TV in a kid's bedroom leads to sleep disorders. Other issues are confusing. A few studies suggest that baby or preschool TV might lead to attention disorders, because the rapid pace of programming alters brain development _ while other studies directly contradict that... Among the suggestions offered Monday:

  • No adult TV when youngsters are in the room. Rachel Barr of Georgetown University says parents think babies aren't paying attention, but research showed that when "Jeopardy!" was on in the background, tots' play was distracted.
  • If you need to pop in a video for the under-2 set while you cook dinner, talk them through it. "Look, that's a ball, just like your ball." "Oh, see the kitty - what does a kitty say?" It helps their comprehension, Barr's research shows.

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