New study says early television isn't making babies smarter

Photo Credit: Getty ImagesPhoto Credit: Getty ImagesSure, babies may be mesmerized by Baby Einstein videos, but are they really learning from these infant-marketed flicks?

Mom or Dad may say yes.

But a new study conducted by Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital says that early television viewing has no impact on the cognitive development of kids under three years old.

The study states: "Contrary to parents' perceptions that TV viewing is beneficial to their children's brain development, we found no evidence of cognitive benefit from watching TV during the first 2 years of life."

Details of the Harvard study were published in the latest issue of Pediatrics. And I'm sure they will cause a heated debate amongst parents who question the validity of the results.

The study examined the viewing habits of 862 children over the course of two years. Mothers reported the number of hours their kids watched television at 6 months, 1 year and 2 years of age. They didn't monitor computer or video-game habits.

When the children were 3 years old, tests were conducted to assess cognitive development. You can view the full results of the study by downloading it. Two bits of data that I pulled:

  • From ages six months to 2 years, babies were watching TV for about 1.2 hours per day. (A six-month-old baby watching more than an hour of television seems high, no?)
  • Babies who were breastfed for shorter durations of time, who slept less or had a high body mass index (BMI), spent more time in front of the television.

As Leslie Morgan Steiner reported on Shine parenting, this new study completely contradicts earlier research that indicated television could hinder the cognitive development of young children.

So how is a parent supposed to make heads or tails of all of this information? Common sense always prevails. Moderation is key, as is making sure your child is watching age-appropriate programming.

But for now, at least according to data, watching television isn't making kids smarter. But it's not making them dumb either.

Please, discuss.