Does TV Really Rot Your Brain?

Any of the kids I nannied for back in the 90’s can tell you the answer. They’re all teenagers now, but when they were two and three years old they quickly learned that when they begged to watch TV, my response was always the same. TV rots your brain!


To be fair, I did let them watch a little of the boob tube. Lion King had just come out and we all loved it. Blues Clues was another favorite. It was one of the first “interactive” shows and I liked that. They never should have tried to replace Steve, it wasn’t the same after that. Little Bear was sweet and full of important life lessons. Of course, you can’t forget Sesame Street, which is how I learned to count in Spanish before I could count in English.

As you can see, I’m not opposed to watching a little television, but I am opposed to allowing babies to watch it. Baby Einstein videos, which have made megabucks over the years, are NOT educational and NOT good for your baby. In fact, watching TV under the age of two might actually be bad for your child. It probably seems logical that babies are learning something from these seemingly harmless videos. After all, it’s just toys and puppets. Very simple images set to classical music. How can that be so bad? You might be surprised.

According to some new research, which got the attention of the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies under the age of two don’t understand what’s happening on the screen. It distracts them from play, which is thought to be a critical developmental need. You may not realize it, but when the TV is on, even as background noise, we tend to talk and interact less. Your baby’s language development relies on him hearing you speak the language. It’s no surprise that early TV watching is linked to ADD and some developmental delays. Check out this great article by Brandon Keim for more information.

If you’re looking for a moment’s peace, try letting your baby play independently in a safe place instead of plugging in to the TV. Independent play is important for many reasons, the least of which is entertaining yourself while Mommy takes a shower.

As a sleep expert, I have seen the direct result of TV exposure in babies. I advise my clients to not let the baby even get a glimpse of the TV in the hour before bedtime. No laptops, smart phones or anything else with a light-up screen. Even babies whose mothers have the TV on while nursing in the middle of the night can have a harder time settling back to sleep (and mom will too!). Babies and young children who fall asleep watching TV are much more likely to have frequent sleep disturbances throughout the night. In truth, we all should avoid TV right before bed. Sorry Letterman.

As always, if you find yourself in need of some expert advice or hands-on help, we’re here for you!


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