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Baby faceQ: Sometimes, we watch TV while our 7 week old is in the room. She’ll typically be in our arms or sleeping in her swing at the time. She never sees the images on TV. The shows we watch tend to be PBS shows, cooking shows, and other non-violent, non-suspenseful things. I wonder if hearing the TV is okay. Is it like hearing conversations for her, or is it an inappropriate stimulus?
Seeking sound advice, in Austin, TX

A: Dear Seeking,

Kudos to you for being careful about the content and amount of TV your infant is exposed to! The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screentime for babies under 2, but if you are going to have the TV on in a room with your infant, the choices you’re making should help reduce its potential negative effects.

Even so, do the following to see how the TV is affecting her and to make sure it’s not taking away from the things she needs:

  1. Interact with her a lot while she’s awake. Research shows that screens can distract parents from paying attention to their children. Make sure to turn off the TV and give her some direct attention.
  2. Talk to her. Unlike television voices, real-life voices respond to the baby, which is important for language development. Recorded voices can’t replace human interaction.
  3. Watch her play. Babies and toddlers learn through creative, problem-solving play (like stacking blocks) and exploring their environment (like petting a dog). Studies show that background TV distracts children from those things. If you notice that she’s looking at the TV, turn it off.
  4. Pay attention to how she acts, and choose content that helps keep her stress level low. Babies hear emotional tone, so watch her even during shows that seem benign to you. She might start squirming when she hears Emeril say “BAM!” but seem content during Martha Stewart’s monotone how-to’s. Notice that and change your viewing choices accordingly.
  5. Notice to how she reacts to commercials. They may sound very different from the shows they surround, so consider muting them.

Enjoy your media and use them wisely,
The Mediatrician®

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