Kids: To TV or Not TV

Article excerpt

Byline: Anna Kuchment And Christina Gillham

Parents who feel guilty about letting their kids watch TV might breathe a sigh of relief after talking to Deborah Linebarger. Linebarger, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication who studies the effects of media on young children, has let all her kids watch some TV from the time they were babies. "There's evidence now that certain kinds of programming can help kids with language development and can be beneficial in moderation," she says.

Some studies have linked TV and videogames with obesity and attention-deficit disorders. And the American Academy of Pediatrics says kids younger than 2 shouldn't watch any television at all. But, despite these warnings, 90 percent of 2-year-olds regularly watch TV, DVDs or videos, and one third of 3- to 6-year-olds have a TV in their bedroom. So child-development experts have turned their attention to helping parents make smart choices. A growing body of research shows that, if parents select programming wisely, set time limits and watch with their kids as much as possible, children are likely to benefit rather than suffer any negative consequences. "I don't think TV screens for any age should be dealt with as something toxic," says Dr. Michael Rich, a pediatrician at Children's Hospital Boston and director of its Center on Media and Child Health (cmch.tv). Some advice on helping your children navigate the video landscape:

Ages 0 to 2."There's nothing better for infants' development than human interaction," says Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington and coauthor of "The Elephant in the Living Room: Make Television Work for Your Kids." Last year Christakis coauthored a study that found a correlation between baby video and DVD viewing and poor language development in babies ages 8 to 16 months. But Linebarger says to follow your kid's cues. If your child seems interested in TV, an 11- to 12-minute episode of a commercial-free show like Nickelodeon's "Blue's Clues" or PBS's "Arthur" is unlikely to do harm and could help him learn new words. …