NEW YORK, May 5, 2008 - Infants who are exposed to television and video in low socio-economic households tend to have limited verbal interactions with their mothers, according to a new study led by Alan L. Mendelsohn, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Director of Clinical Research for the divisions of General and Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics in the Department of Pediatrics at NYU School of Medicine.
The study, published in the May issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, is the first to assess parent-infant interactions as they relate to specific media content. Overall, parent-infant verbal interactions across broad media content were limited. When the programming was educational and co-viewed by both mother and infant in each other's presence, interactions increased. However, the study showed that educational programming did not promote co-viewing, which is a factor that contributes to verbal interactions.
"Our conclusions are especially significant because parent-infant interactions have huge ramifications for early child development, as well as school advancement and success during adolescence," says Dr. Mendelsohn, MD.
Because of its findings, the new study supports the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics that television should be off limits to children under the age of two. Earlier data on this topic include a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation which cited that 61 percent of children younger than two years of age are exposed to television on a daily basis. In the new study, 97 percent of mothers with 6-month olds reported their infants were exposed to television or radio at the median rate of two hours a day.
The new study's findings also have implications for health care providers who work with parents of young children, many of whom are exposed to television and videos, says Dr. Mendelsohn. The study advises that providers take good media histories. When infant television viewing is likely to continue, the study advises that parents expose their infants only to educational programming that is co-viewed by the mother. Dr. Mendelsohn notes the study also suggests that pediatricians increase efforts to promote verbal interactions with respect to media exposure and other daily activities, such as eating, playing and reading aloud.
Dr. Mendelsohn also underscores the critical importance of the study's findings that the use of educational programming alone did not promote co-viewing, which is a factor in mother-infant interactions. "Our concern is that parents may still perceive educational programming as enough of a reason to park their infants in front of the television, instead of co-viewing and interacting with their infants," says Dr. Mendelsohn. "Passive viewing does not lead to interaction between infant and mother."
The co-authors of this study include: Alan L. Mendelsohn, MD, Samantha B. Berkule, Ph.D., Suzy Tomopoulous, MD, Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda, Ph.D., Harris S. Huberman, MD, Jose Alvir, DrPH, and Benard P. Dreyer, MD.