TV time may affect toddlers’ sensory behaviors

TV time may affect toddlers’ sensory behaviors

Many years ago, the television set was dubbed “the electronic babysitter.” And what parent hasn’t used it for that purpose, if only to get a short respite? Now, new research suggests there’s a downside to putting your toddler in front of the TV too often.

Toddlers and babies who get too much TV time may be more likely to show atypical behaviors such as disengagement from activities. They also tend to crave more intense stimulation and are more likely to get overwhelmed by bright lights and loud sounds than children who get less screen time. That’s the upshot of a study by Drexel University researchers, who studied the habits of nearly 1,500 children nationwide.

To establish their findings, the team analyzed the TV and video-watching habits of babies and toddlers at 12, 18 and 24 months of age. At 33 months, their sensory processing was measured with a questionnaire answered by their parents or caregivers.

The researchers found that even modest amounts of screen time were likely to have an effect on very young children. Among 1-year-olds, any screen exposure was associated with a 105% greater likelihood of “high” sensory behavior. That includes such actions as excessively touching objects or being overly upset by lights and noises. At 18 and 24 months of age, each additional hour of daily screen time resulted in at least a 20% increase in the odds of high-sensory behavior.

So, what’s a parent to do? The American Academy of Pediatrics has an idea: No screen time for kids less than two years old.

As tempting as it is, parents should strongly consider sidelining the electronic babysitter.

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