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Can I watch TV with my baby?

Quick Answer

It is generally not recommended for babies under 18 months to watch any TV. limited, high quality programming may be ok for kids 18-24 months in small doses. For kids over 2, educational TV and high quality programming is ok in moderation. Avoid screens within 1 hour before bedtime.

When can babies start watching TV?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding any screen time for children under 18 months old. This includes TV, tablets, smartphones and computers. Babies’ brains are undergoing rapid development during these early months, and human interaction is essential for building language, motor and social skills. Screens can get in the way of face-to-face learning.

Some studies have also linked excessive screen time in infancy to issues like speech delay, irregular sleep patterns and obesity later on. Screens themselves are not inherently bad, but they should not replace human interaction during your baby’s critical developmental windows.

After 18 months, high quality programming may be ok in small doses if you watch together and discuss what you see.Educational shows like Sesame Street can help reinforce alphabet and number skills. But limit viewing to no more than an hour a day, and avoid passive screen staring.

Tips for watching age-appropriate shows

If you choose to introduce TV after 18 months, here are some tips:

– Pick educational, non-violent shows like Daniel Tiger or Blue’s Clues. Avoid overstimulating or scary content.

– Watch with your child and discuss what you see to reinforce learning. Ask questions and connect it to real life.

– Limit viewing time to no more than 1 hour per day, and take breaks for physical activity.

– Avoid screens for at least 1 hour before bedtime, as blue light can interfere with sleep.

– Monitor kids’ reactions during and after shows. Turn it off if they get overstimulated or scared.

– Offer creative interactive toys like blocks or puzzles during viewing to allow play and hands-on learning.

– Make sure TV does not replace reading, play time, family meals and other important daily activities.

– Set limits and be consistent with rules. Toddlers and preschoolers cannot self-regulate media use.

Potential benefits of educational TV

Educational shows and apps designed for preschoolers can help build early academic skills when used appropriately and in moderation. Benefits may include:

Literacy: Shows like Sesame Street teach letters, words and rhyming. Related games can reinforce phonics.

Math: Counting numbers, shapes, patterns, addition and subtraction are taught through songs, visuals and stories.

Science: Exploring animals, nature, space, weather, vehicles and more can introduce new concepts.

Social-emotional skills: Characters model things like sharing, routines, naming feelings. Songs teach self-regulation strategies.

Creativity: Imaginative shows can inspire children to play pretend, build stories and fuel their imaginations.

Cultural awareness: Kids can learn about different family structures, races, abilities, traditions.

As long as parents co-view, discuss and limit consumption, age-appropriate educational shows can be beneficial in moderation without displacing human interaction and play time.

Risks of excessive TV time

Too much passive screen time, especially content not designed for toddlers, can have downsides:

Delays learning: Less human interaction can impact language and social progress.

Shorter attention spans: Zoning out to fast-paced shows may decrease focus.

Irregular sleep: Screen light before bed and violent content can disrupt healthy sleep.

Obesity: Inactivity plus snacking while watching raises obesity risks.

Aggression: Violent media can desensitize kids to aggression.

Commercialism: Ads for unhealthy food or inappropriate products appear even in kids’ shows.

To minimize risks, limit overall time and avoid solo viewing. Check content and your child’s reactions. Use TV only to supplement, not replace, interactive learning.

Alternatives to TV for babies and toddlers

Since the first two years are critical for brain growth, aim to maximize “serve and return” interactions through:

– Reading together

– Playing with toys that inspire curiosity like blocks, shape sorters or push cars

– Pretend play and making up stories

– Exploring outdoors and going for walks

– Dancing and listening to music

– Arts and crafts like coloring, play dough and finger painting

– Showing them how everyday tasks are done like cooking, cleaning or getting dressed

– Conversation and learning nursery rhymes or songs

The key is engaging with your child, responding to them and promoting back-and-forth interaction. This builds social, cognitive and communication abilities much more effectively than passive TV watching.

Setting family media rules

Once you choose to introduce TV, establish house rules around when, how much and what content is viewed. Tips:

– No screens during family meals or for at least an hour before bed.

– No TV in bedrooms. Keep it in common living areas.

– Set time limits based on age, like 30-60 minutes for preschoolers. Use a timer.

– Preview shows before kids watch to check messages, tone and suitability.

– Co-view and discuss content to reinforce learning. Ask questions.

– Encourage play and social interaction after viewing, not more passive watching.

– Be consistent and have caregivers reinforce the same rules.

– Set a good example by limiting your own device use around children.

– Avoid using the TV as a babysitter. Active bonding is best.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is any TV ok for babies under 12 months?

No, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screens at all for babies under 18 months. Their brains are rapidly developing, and they learn best through real world interaction. TV provides only passive stimulation and can be overstimulating or frightening for infants.

How much TV is too much for toddlers?

For children 18-24 months, limit TV to just a few educational programs a day, if any. Watch together and use it as a springboard for real world interactions. For 2-5 year olds, up to an hour a day of quality programming can be ok as long as it does not displace play, reading, family time and outdoor activity. More than 2 hours starts to be excessive.

Should the TV be on in the background around babies?

No, passive background TV should be avoided. Babies cannot distinguish program content, and it can fragment their attention. Real world interactions, songs and reading together are much more valuable. Save TV for focused viewing of age-appropriate content for limited periods.

What are signs my toddler is watching too much TV?

Signs of excess include frequent tantrums when the TV is turned off, not paying attention to real world play or interactions, delayed language skills,preference for screen time over outdoor play, and resistance to routine activities like eating or bedtime when the TV is off.

Are “smart” or educational programs better than regular shows?

It depends. Well designed educational apps and shows can build academic readiness skills with the right adult guidance. But many programs labeled educational have little real learning value, or become distracting “busy work.” The more interactive and hands-on, the better. Passive watching without discussion provides limited benefits even if labeled educational.


TV can be part of a balanced media diet once babies reach 2 years old, but is not recommended for younger infants. When introducing TV, choose age-appropriate educational content and watch together. Limit overall time and avoid displacing more valuable play, reading and family interaction. With the right balance under parent supervision, TV can be used judiciously to supplement toddlers’ learning without becoming excessive. Maintain consistency with rules, and prioritize real world interaction for maximum development during these crucial early years.