Sunday, August 18, 2013

The American Academy of Pediatrics on Media and Babies

Just last week I gave a webinar for our Baby Signs® Instructors that focused on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ position in regard to TV/Videos/DVDs for children under 2. As many responsible parents know, the AAP went on record about 2004 with a recommendation against any TV-type viewing for this young age group.

The issue is important to us here at Baby Signs because we have 6 DVDs designed to teach signs to babies. We produced these DVDs specifically for babies—that is, with very simple vocabulary and images, slow action, animated characters and real babies, and lots of repetition of the signs. What’s more, they work! Babies love them and both they and their parents learn signs from them.

Back to the AAP. What has been the result of the 2004 prohibition? Quite simply, irresponsible parents continue to expose their children to hours and hours of TV, while responsible parents feel guilty about even the smallest amount of such viewing they allow their babies. It’s become a “dirty little secret” that Mom puts on a DVD to gain 30 minutes of respite from supervising her toddler.

What many parents don’t know, however, is that the AAP relaxed its position in a 2011 up-date. In their own words, “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” (2011, p. 4).

We certainly can’t argue with that! We also can’t argue with another of their observations—that many DVDs purporting to be “educational” really aren’t. That’s where the Baby Signs® DVDs shine! We know they teach signs to the babies, and we know from our federally-funded research that signing promotes language and intellectual development. In other words, we know they are truly “educational!”

In fact, the AAP itself has endorsed signing. Here’s a statement from their 2011 book, Heading Home with Your Newborn: “Infant sign language really does deliver on its promise of improved communication….It’s easy to see why so many parents swear by it, why child care centers include it in their infant and toddler classrooms, and why it has become so commonplace as an activity of daily learning” (p. 173-174).

Conclusion: While parents should, indeed, set limits on TV/DVD viewing by their babies and toddlers, at least in the case of the Baby Signs® DVDs, they need never feel guilty about gaining 30 minutes of peace and quiet by turning one on!
Happy Signing! (and don’t forget to look for us on Facebook)


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