Watching tv

Watching tv

Parents of infants and toddlers should limit the time their children spend in front of televisions, computers, self-described educational games and even grown-up shows playing in the background, the American Academy of Paediatrics has warned.

Video screen time provides no educational benefits for children under the age of two and leaves less room for activities that do, like interacting with other people and playing, the group said.

The recommendation is less stringent than its first such warning, in 1999, which called on parents of young children to all but bar television watching for children under two and to fill out a ''media history'' for doctor's office visits. But it also makes clear that there is no such thing as an educational program for such young children and that leaving the TV on as background noise, as many households do, distracts both children and adults.

''We felt it was time to revisit this issue because video screens are everywhere now and the message is much more relevant today that it was a decade ago,'' said Dr Ari Brown, the lead author of the academy's policy, which appears in the current issue of the journal Paediatrics.

Dr Brown said the new policy was less restrictive because ''the academy took a lot of flak for the first one, from parents, from industry, and even from paediatricians asking, 'What planet do you live on?''' The recommendations are an attempt to be more realistic, given that, between TVs, computers, iPads and smartphones, households may have 10 or more screens.

Recent research makes it clear that young children learn a lot more efficiently from real interactions - with people and things - than from situations appearing on video screens. The new report advises parents to be mindful of how much their own use of media is distracting from playtime.