When your toddler starts to throw a tantrum, sometimes the easiest thing to do is turn on his favorite TV show and let him calm down. This simple solution, however, could be doing some serious harm.
A new study finds that using the TV to calm down your child could actually have the opposite effect. The study, which observed more than 7,400 children born in 2001, required caregivers to assess a child's media exposure and self-regulating behaviors at 9 months old and 2 years old. Those with fussy tendencies — struggling to pay attention, sleep, or keep calm — had nine more minutes of media exposure a day than the more laid-back toddlers. Researchers also noted that this extra exposure, although small, could have a huge impact on children's futures.
"The more media children are exposed to, the more they start to expect it and prefer it to other activities," Dr. Jenny Radesky, the study's lead author, tells Today.com. She also noted that while children seem to be at peace in front of the TV, their cool composure could be a result of overstimulation and being "stunned into silence." In order to keep kids calm and engaged in the outside world, Radseky suggests keeping screen time to a minimum.
"When media is used as the primary way to calm kids down, that can be a problem," she says, "because kids won't learn how to do it themselves."