Television, videos, computer games, and tablets can offer all sorts of stimulating activities for our children. When these products first hit the market, I was thrilled. The activities were fun and educational. It wasn’t like I was plopping my toddler in front of the television to watch some mindless drivel. But I quickly realized that every child I saw watching and playing with educational programs or software seemed to be addicted, to easily have tantrums when pried away from the videos and games, and to have really short attention spans. I began to wonder if it really is a great idea for my children to use these electronic devices.
Apparently I wasn’t the only one concerned. Multiple studies have been done examining this issue and according to Dr. Dimitri A. Christakis, watching television “rewires” an infant’s brain. He says, “In contrast to the way real life unfolds and is experienced by young children, the pace of TV is greatly sped up. Quick scene shifts of video images become ‘normal,’ to a baby when in fact, it’s decidedly not normal or natural…Exposing a baby’s developing brain to videos may overstimulate it, causing permanent changes in developing neural pathways.” The result appears to be an increase in children with ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. In the study of more than 2,000 children, Christakis found that a toddler watching three hours of infant television daily had nearly a 30 percent higher chance of having attention problems in school.
The solution? Go back to basics. Turn off the electronics, or at least limit them. If you really need a break, find a friend with children and trade off some babysitting time. Read to your children. And let them play with traditional non-electronic toys – like pot lids and spoons!
Christakis, D. A. (2009). The effects of infant media usage: what do we know and what should we learn?. Acta Paediatrica, 98(1), 8-16.