Monday, October 31, 2011

Lots to Cheer About in the Latest AAP Recommendations about TV

Once again the news is full of reports about a statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) about TV and children under 2. To find out exactly what the new policy statement says, I bypassed reporters’ interpretations and went straight to the AAP article itself in the latest issue of the journal Pediatrics. What I found there is actually very good news for the Baby Signs® Program in regard to our hugely popular and very effective signing DVDs.

POINT 1: The AAP’s is not banning the use of video programming for children under 2, only urging parents to be cautious about amount and selective about content.

“The AAP realizes that media exposure is a reality for many families in today’s society. If parents choose to engage their young children with electronic media, they should have concrete strategies to manage it…. It is important to set limits and create balance at an early age” (p. 4).

In regard to the need for caution, they make the excellent point that “screen-based” programming (including computers, smart phones, etc.) can be addicting at any age and that it’s up to parents to see that their kids are not losing out on other important experiences like interactions with parents and sibs, being read to, and playing independently.

POINT 2: Much of what is advertized as “educational” for this age group really is not. A main point here is that children under 2 can’t process information very well and, therefore, “are more likely to learn from a live presentation than from a televised one” (p. 2). But here’s the good news for our DVDs. They do cite an exception from the research literature—a 2007 study published in the journal Developmental Psychobiology showing that 12 to 21 month old children were just as likely to imitate specific actions demonstrated via videotape (versus demonstrated by a live person) when “the screen demonstration repeats several times” (AAP, p. 2).”

Hmm… actions that are repeated. Sound familiar? That’s exactly what our signing DVDs do in spades! They aren’t trying to teach abstract concepts like numbers or letters. They demonstrate specific actions (signs) not just several times but many times. So, not only do we know from our own and hundreds of parental reports that our DVDs teach signs, but the AAP provides an independent research foundation for that conclusion.

And don’t forget the fact that being able to sign has been proven (through our federally-funded research) to promote language and cognitive development as well as enrich parent-child interactions. So, if any video programming can be justifiably called “educational,” it’s ours!

CONCLUSION. In my opinion, the AAP is doing a service by warning parents about the potential negative effects of unregulated “screen” time and unsubstantiated claims of material being “educational.” But that’s only part of the story. They are also providing support for our position that if parents need a bit of time to fix dinner, fold the laundry, or even just relax, they can feel very comfortable choosing a Baby Signs® DVD to entertain and educate their baby!

Happy Signing (and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook)!


Linda Acredolo, Ph.D.
Co-Founder, the Baby Signs® Program
Professor Emeritus, UC Davis
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