A lot has happened in the world of children's entertainment since the American Academy of Pediatrics issued its 1999 recommendation of no TV for children under 2. But 10-plus years later, the answer is the same: Young children learn best from people, not screens. And if you want to help your kid's language skills? Grab a good old-fashioned book.
The new statement, "Media Use by Children Younger Than Two Years," was unveiled in October 2011 by lead author Ari Brown. The AAP based its new recommendations on studies of early childhood brain development, how young kids learn, and the effects that various types of stimulation have on this process. The guidelines do not directly address the use of newer digital devices.
According to Brown, "In today's 'achievement culture,' the best thing you can do for your young child is to give her a chance to have unstructured play -- both with you and independently. Children need this in order to figure out how the world works."
The value of free play and the importance of reading to your child are major themes of the statement, as is caution against products labeled as "educational."
Other key highlights include:
Here are four things to keep in mind if you have kids under 2:
Set limits. It may not be realistic to keep little kids completely away from screens. But the early years are crucial for developing lifelong habits. Set limits by turning off the television when a show is over, or set a timer for a short period of screen time (and sit with your child as they watch and play).
No TV in the bedroom. The AAP recommends that parents avoid placing a television in the bedroom.
Check yourself. Do you leave the TV running? The AAP found that "background TV" can interfere with parent-child interactions as well as a child's playtime. Kids learn from our behavior.
To learn more about how young children use media -- and find out how your family compares to the national average -- check out the results of Common Sense Media's first national study, Zero to Eight: Children's Media Use in America.