Screen Media, Early Cognitive Development, and Language

Babies’ learning from screens

Authored by: Deborah L. Linebarger

The Routledge International Handbook of Children, Adolescents and Media

Print publication date:  May  2013
Online publication date:  July  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415783682
eBook ISBN: 9780203366981
Adobe ISBN: 9781134060559


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Screen media exposure (i.e., any audio-visual content that can be viewed on TVs, DVDs, iPads, mobile devices, computers) for children under three years is prevalent. Recent surveys of infants and toddlers in the US indicate that more than 99 percent of families have TVs in their homes and 74 percent of infants are exposed to TV before the age of two (Rideout and Hamel, 2006). Babies under two spend about 1½ hours per day watching screen media turned on specifically for them (Rideout and Hamel, 2006) and spend about 5.5 hours per day in a room where the television is on in the background (Lapierre et al., 2012). A majority of parents believe that particular types of screen media content (e.g., infant-directed DVDs like Brainy Baby or Baby Einstein) can be educational and beneficial to their infant’s development (Rideout et al., 2003; Zimmerman et al., 2007). Standing in contrast to these parents’ beliefs about the benefits of infant screen use is the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP, 2011) position statement that viewing by infants and toddlers is not recommended and is likely harmful. Some researchers have argued that any exposure to screens leads to over-stimulation and later developmental problems (e.g., Christakis et al., 2004; Zimmerman et al., 2007) although more recent evidence indicates that the relations among viewing, infant capacities, and developmental outcomes are more complex and nuanced (e.g., Barr, 2010; Linebarger and Vaala, 2010).

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