Photo: Leif R Jansson/SCANPIX

Television bad for toddlers' health?

4:43 min

Should you let your children watch TV? Could it even be good for them, or will it lead to problems in the future? Sweden's Karolinska Institute is currently holding a series of seminars about kids and the media, and one of the topics is that of kids and TV. One of the world's leading researchers on the issue, Professor Dimitri Christakis from the University of Washington is in town, and his advice to Swedish parents is, switch off that TV set.

"The more time babies spend watching TV, the shorter their attention spans are when they start school, the fewer words they learn as a baby" he told Swedish TV news.

Professor Hugo Lagercrantz, one of Sweden's leading paediatricians, from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, has organised the seminars, and he agrees. He told Radio Sweden:

"Small children shouldn't look at television at all", he says, "and children aged between two and five, it's ok if they look at Swedish programmes like Bolibompa, but I wish they didn't look at as much television as they do."

He says that this has a purely physiological reason, children's brains grow rapidly when small, and what they do affects how their brains grow.

"This is an imporant stage of brain development", he adds, "The brain increases its weight three times, and the neuronal circuits are formed. If the child is watching TV, it gets the completely wrong impressions, especially with all the zooming and zapping. It's too much, and then abbherent neuronal circuits may be formed, and then this may increase the risk for concentration problems or attention deficits etc when they come to school."

But what does he say to parents that may sometime use the tv as a "babysitter"?

"I can understand them", Professor Lagercrantz told Radio Sweden, "Certainly if you are taking a shower or making dinner, it's easier to put them in front of the television. But that wasn't possible 50 years ago, and it worked nevertheless. I think it would be much better if the parents were talking and chatting to the child, when they are preparing the dinner."

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