Is Watching Television Beneficial or Harmful for Babies?

Babies need frequent exposure to speech in order to develop their language skills, but does the source of the baby’s exposure to language matter? This raises the question: is watching television beneficial or harmful for babies, and how does it impact their language development?

The way we bring up kids has been fundamentally altered by research. Hence, we know that even from birth, interacting with a baby through language and pre-literacy activities, such as chatting, reading aloud, and singing is beneficial. However, many parents today are more busy than ever before, leading many to question whether or not the television (or other displays) is a safe way for their infants to increase their exposure to spoken language. Here is what knowledgeable people have to say about it.

*Image source: Unsplash/Pixelbay/Pexels

Constant interruptions from the outside world hinder education.

Children under the age of two are discouraged from watching television by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). But let’s be honest: it can be tempting to put the kids’ show on PBS Kids and let the cute monsters teach the alphabet while you get some work done. Parents often have a vague notion that excessive television watching is bad for their kids, but few are aware of the harm that even incidental exposure can do, particularly to toddlers and preschoolers.

Babies can start making vowel sounds as early as 2 months, and some may even be babbling by the time they’re 4 months old. Infants’ brains may be small, but they are incredibly active (and hard at work) as they attempt to learn the language of their environment. The more languages a newborn is exposed to, the better prepared they will be to develop their first words.

*Image source: Pexels/Unsplash/Pixelbay

Having said that, not every language is created equal. Having the TV on in the background may be detrimental to your baby’s developing language skills because it serves as distracting background noise. The reason is that TV can’t replace actual interaction with real people when learning a language.

Language acquisition is hindered when the TV is on in the background. As a result of their inability to discriminate between sounds, newborns are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of television background noise on their language development.

Researchers followed a sample of children from the ages of two to six in the first study of its type. The study indicated that children whose verbal IQ was significantly lowered between the ages of 2 and 5 were exposed to television background noise during mealtimes.

*Image source: Pexels/Pixelbay/Unsplash

According to a research released by the American Psychological Association, children in the United States spend an average of 232.2 minutes per day subjected to inaudible television programming. The study found that babies and toddlers, who are the most susceptible to the harmful effects of background TV sounds, were the ones exposed to it the most, which may not surprise stay-at-home parents.

Newborns Need One-on-One Communication

So, if your baby is still too young to communicate, what’s the difference between talking to them face-to-face and having a dialogue with them on TV? To be honest, it’s a fair amount.

As infants and toddlers interact with their parents in the form of questions and comments, they are deep in thought, and their brains are actively striving to learn the fundamentals of language and communication. Paying attention and learning to read nonverbal signs such as body language, vocal tone, facial expressions, and more is essential for effective two-way communication. On the other hand, the act of passively listening to media does not need much mental effort.

*Image source: Unsplash/Pixelbay/Pexels

As an example, if you say, “I love you,” pointing to yourself for the “I” and then pointing to your infant when you say “you,” you are teaching your child that words have meanings. A baby will not place much stock in “I love you” if they hear it on TV.

The best approach to educating your infant to communicate is through one-on-one interaction, as studies suggest that ambient noises, such as the TV, do little more than divert attention away from the task at hand and may have a negative impact on future learning. After all, the more a child hears, the greater their vocabulary will be. Foreign terms kids pick up through media such as movies, TV, and the radio are disregarded.

Tips for Having More Face-to-Face Conversations

There is no need to make room in your schedule and sit down for long periods of face-to-face conversation to increase your baby’s exposure to language. More importantly, that would be incredibly dull for both of you! Instead, make an effort to identify ways to enrich your baby’s linguistic experience in the ordinary course of your day. In any case, I have a few suggestions for you.

*Image source: Pixelbay/Pexels/Unsplash

Read aloud to your child from birth.

Get the whole family in the habit of reading together. Reading before bedtime is a great way to wind down, spend time with loved ones, and connect as a family. Of course, you can tell your child a bedtime story, but you may also read aloud the morning newspaper, road signs, instructions, or anything else with text. Reading aloud, no matter what form it takes is a great way to introduce your kid to new words and phrases, as well as the culture from which they come.

Do something musical with your infant.

If you’re looking for a method to bond with your kid in a lighthearted and humorous way, try singing to him or her. Nevertheless, singing has hidden abilities as well; Unicef reports that singing to your infant can reduce their pulse rate, resulting in a more relaxed baby. Also, your child’s entire brain will be stimulated by singing, which will aid in the development of language abilities.

*Image source: Unsplash/Pixelbay/Pexels

Describe the activities you’re engaged in.

Narrating your daily activities is a subtle technique to increase your language intake. While washing, drying, and folding clothes, you can have a conversation about the process. You can describe your clothing or the baby blanket you made down to the thread count.

Talk with other people in front of your baby.

Hold your infant and let them listen in on your next adult conversation. Their developing language skills will benefit from exposure to various speakers, accents, and vocabulary words.

*Image source: Pexels/Unsplash/Pixelbay

Indulge your infant with a tour while you’re out and about.

I have nothing to say. Explain the world around you. Whether you’re out and about in the community or just exploring your own backyard, this is a great opportunity to introduce your child to the world around them. They will like hearing your voice and may even pick up some new vocabulary.

Meaningful articles you might like: 5 Bad Habits to Break in Children, Implementing Screen Time Limits with Teens, Good Habits For TV and the Internet