Eh-Oh! Pediatricians
Ban TV for Toddlers
No wonder the teletubbies talk funny!
by David Burke

A policy statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics has made clear what many parents have suspected for a long time: Television is bad for young children. In the Academy's journal Pediatrics the report's authors write: "Pediatricians should urge parents to avoid television viewing for children under the age of 2 years."

It continues: "While certain television programmes may be promoted to this age group, research on early brain development shows that babies and toddlers have a critical need for direct interactions with parents and other significant care givers for healthy brain growth and development of appropriate social, emotional and cognitive skills." The Academy also recommends that viewing for older children be limited to two hours a day.

Media commentators seemed unable to come to grips with the simplicity and directness of the Academy's message. Many were left clinging to their usual advice that 'moderation is best'. Anne Woods, producer of the Teletubbies, tried to reassure parents that watching her programme was somehow an interactive experience for children, and the programme's US marketer, Kenn Viselman, dismissed the advice of the 55,000 doctors as "a bunch of malarky".

But the Academy is not going away. They have also advised their members to ask parents about "media history" when treating eating disorders and obesity. Their report will add to concerns raised in 1996 by a study in Manchester showing that exposure to television causes delayed acquisition of language in toddlers.