Doctors want TV ban for toddlers

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The Independent Online
CHILDREN UNDER the age of two should not watch television at all, and older ones should not be allowed televisions and computers in their bedrooms, paediatricians in the United States said yesterday.

In a report that will shock legions of tiny Teletubby fans all over Britain, not to mention their weary parents, the American Academy of Pediatrics said toddlers needed direct interaction with their parents if they were to develop healthy social, emotional and cognitive skills. Watching television may interfere with that growth, said the report in this month's issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Watching television could also affect the physical health of young people, the academy said, and recommended that paediatricians take a "media history" of patients to go with the traditional medical history.

It is to give all 55,000 members a questionnaire for young patients, asking about the time they spend watching films, playing computer games and surfing the Internet. The paediatrician should then counsel the child's parents about areas of concern.

"The importance is to get the message out to people that TV and media consumption has significant health effects on children," said Miriam Baron, the chairman of the academy's committee on public education and co-author of the report.

She said parents should make more of an effort to encourage children to play outside, read books or work with puzzles and games.

But she added that while two-year-olds should not watch any television, there was nothing wrong with a three-year-old spending half-an-hour watching television if the parents wanted a moment of peace.

The academy said that more than 1,000 studies concluded that exposure to media violence can increase the risk of aggressive behaviour in some children and adolescents. It also pointed to the tendency of people who watch a lot of television to be overweight.