Low-Income Moms Rarely Speak to Infants During TV/Video Time

What they're watching impacts frequency of verbal interactions, study finds

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MONDAY, May 5, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- When infants in low-income families are watching television or videos, their mothers seldom speak to them, a U.S. study finds.

"There has been a dramatic increase in television programming directed toward young infants. This has occurred despite recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics that children younger than 2 years should not watch any television. Much of this programming is marketed toward parents as 'educational,' despite limited data to support this assertion," noted Dr. Alan L. Mendelsohn, of the New York University School of Medicine, and colleagues.

They found that over one 24-hour period, 149 of 154 mothers (96.8 percent) reported that their 6-month-old infants had a total of 426 exposures to television or videos. These included: 139 exposures (32.6 percent) to educational programs for young children; 46 (10.8 percent) to non-educational programs for young children; 205 (48.1 percent) to programs for school-aged children, teenagers or adults; and 36 (8.5 percent) to unknown programs.

The mothers reported that they talked to their infants during 101 (23.7 percent) of those 426 television and video exposures.

"Consistent with our first hypothesis, interactions were most commonly reported in association with educational content, especially among programs that had been co-viewed," the researchers wrote. "However, approximately half of the exposures consisted of programs not intended for young children; these were not associated with frequent interactions even when they were co-viewed."

"Our findings are important, because parent-infant interactions are associated with long-term developmental-behavioral outcomes. Verbal responsiveness is frequently seen in association with reading and playing with toys. Given the large amount of media exposure and low frequency of reported interactions, additional study is needed to determine whether media exposure can facilitate interactions of sufficient quantity and quality to be associated with benefits for young children," the researchers concluded.

The study was published in the May issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Internal Medicine.

More information

MedlinePlus has more about children and television.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, May 5, 2008

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