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Parents are the developing brain’s first and most important influence
Both parent-child interaction and the child’s own experiences during the formative years profoundly affect the development of a child’s brain, and the degree to which that child will function to her potential. Parents know this on an instinctive level, and some of the research done in this area has made its way into popular parenting books. Largely, though, much of the research reporting these findings has been contained in scientific journals that parents would not customarily read. But in 1996 and the year following, Newsweek magazine and then Time magazine raised the findings of pediatric neurology to the popular level.
In 12 pages of coverage in the Time and Newsweek articles, television was never mentioned as benefiting early childhood development. Rather, the waking hours babies spend in front of a TV robs them of the time for parent-child interaction and their own play-time; two activities crucial to the development of intelligence and imagination. The time lost from birth through age five cannot be made up for in later years. Certain aspects of brain development only occur during certain ages, and a child who to some degree misses out on the appropriate stimuli during that period may be somewhat disadvantaged from then on.
These articles urge that parents:
Cuddle the child
Such a list could go on for pages, but of significance is that TV is not advocated as a useful activity for young children.
Common to these activities is parent-child interaction and opportunities for the child to experience her own environment. Playing with her toys stimulates brain development. Repeated experiences, whether alone or with a parent, help "wire" the child’s brain.
Similarly, parents should play back and reinforce the child’s response to his environment; smile and hug him if he gurgles with delight at a toy or pet, or responds to a display window, a cereal box, or a helicopter overhead. Recall, parents are the brain’s first and most important influence.
LimiTV urges parents to use these early and crucial years to help children grow to their full potential. LimiTV believes television should remain absent from a child’s environment at least until age five.
We conclude with very brief summaries of three articles cited in the references, and we encourage parents to check out these sources and the references listed and draw your own conclusions:
1. In "Effects of Preschool Television Watching on First-Grade Children," the authors report: (a) that the more preschoolers watch TV, the less well they do academically in the first grade; (b) the more preschoolers watch TV, the less well-socialized they are in the first grade.
2. Jerome L. Singer and Dorothy G. Singer conducted field studies on children to see if TV can stimulate imaginative play. They subjected four groups of children to different types of classroom situations; two incorporated TV into the sessions, one was a control with no TV, and the last had no TV but an adult present to stimulate imaginative play. The greatest increase in imaginative play occurred with the last group, no TV but an adult present to engage the children.
3. In "Turned-on Toddlers," Halpern writes about the potential over-stimulation of young children that may result from watching TV. This over-stimulation may tax their still-developing neurological systems, and that may result in a short attention span and hyperactivity.
To learn more about non-TV activities for children, please see the section on alternative activities.