can television add value to an infant's education?

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Posted by appa | Posted in habits, listen, parenting | Posted on 19-03-2009

Abhinav has learnt quite a few rhymes and vocabulary from watching videos, so I used to think the answer was yes, to a certain extent of course. But this article from Time magazine was quite surprising.

Television often helps as an alternative babysitter or maid, but there are claims that it can add value to education as well and making them smarter.

The claim always seemed too good to be true: park your infant in front of a video and, in no time, he or she will be talking and getting smarter than the neighbor’s kid. In the latest study on the effects of popular videos such as the “Baby Einstein” and “Brainy Baby” series, researchers find that these products may be doing more harm than good. And they may actually delay language development in toddlers.

Are they suggesting a balanced approach, of a little bit of TV? No! They recommend no to any television.

This growing evidence led the Academy to issue its recommendation in 1999 that no child under two years old watch any television.

The reason they give actually makes sense… (emphasis mine)

As far as Christakis and his colleagues can determine, the only thing that baby videos are doing is producing a generation of overstimulated kids. “There is an assumption that stimulation is good, so more is better,” he says. “But that’s not true; there is such a thing as overstimulation.” His group has found that the more television children watch, the shorter their attention spans later in life. “Their minds come to expect a high level of stimulation, and view that as normal,” says Christakis, “and by comparison, reality is boring.”

Pretty amazing similarity in Nipun’s striking post: Attention, please

So what’s the alternative?

The authors of the new study might suggest reading instead: children who got daily reading or storytelling time with their parents showed a slight increase in language skills.

Very simple idea but easy to forget…

“Every interaction with your child is meaningful,” says Christakis. “Time is precious in those early years, and the newborn is watching you, and learning from everything you do.” So just talk to them; they’re listening.

Well in any case here’s one of the Baby Einstein videos on the net… its pretty cool I think.

Another article has a counterviews and presents both perspectives, that reports that viewing within a certain threshold does help.

And studies suggest that parents’ talking and gesturing frequently to their babies early on have a significant impact on their children’s vocabulary and language competence by school age.

This is something we did, that sure seemed to have worked quite well with Abhinav.

TV exposure in babies younger than 2 doesn’t do any good, Schmidt and Christakis agree. But does that mean a few minutes in front of the tube will sentence a baby to remedial classes for the rest of his life? “What I tell parents is ‘Ask yourself why you’re having your baby watch TV,’ ” says Christakis. “If you absolutely need a break to take a shower or make dinner, then the risks are quite low. But if you are doing it because you think it’s actually good for your child’s brain, then you need to rethink that, because there is no evidence of benefit and certainly a risk of harm at high viewing levels.”

In any case I don’t know how to manage to avoid cartoons and stories and rhyms without TV/computers & youtube. One thing that works well is to instead of delegating babysitting to them, we often watch the video with him and explain what’s going on in Kannada, and find him quite responsive to this.

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