Children younger than 2 should play, not watch television or...

Children younger than 2 should play, not watch television or videos -- even if marked educational -- the nation's largest group of pediatricians said. Credit: iStockphoto

Children younger than 2 should play, not watch television or videos -- even if marked educational -- the nation's largest group of pediatricians said.

Updating previous guidelines on babies' television exposure, the American Academy of Pediatrics released new recommendations Tuesday, citing stronger evidence of electronic media's harm on childhood development.

"In today's 'achievement culture,' the best thing you can do for your young child is to give her a chance to have unstructured play -- both with you and independently," Dr. Ari Brown, the lead author of the policy, said in a statement.

These guidelines are more relevant than the last policy statement, issued in 1999, with the growing popularity of children's television programming, DVDs marketed for the under-2 age group and mobile video devices, the researchers said.

In a statement Tuesday night, the company that produces the long-running PBS children's show "Sesame Street" said the daily program's curriculum is designed for children ages 2 to 5 and acknowledged children do watch at younger ages.

"We take issue with the statement that media has potential negative effects and no known positive effects on children under the age of two," Sesame Workshop said. "Content and context matter. Media can be used as a valuable educational tool when parents use the content to interact with their children."

Jackie Chung, 39, mother of two from Massapequa Park, said she put "Sesame Street" or "Barney and Friends" on for her children before they were 2, often watching with them. "Sometimes you just need a break," said Chung, who thought the guidelines went a bit too far.

Many video programs for infants and toddlers are marketed as "educational," yet evidence does not support this, the findings say, because children younger than 2 typically can't understand the content and context of the video.

"Time spent watching television is time not spent playing creatively with blocks, or talking to adults or other siblings," said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park.

The guidelines will appear in the November issue of the journal Pediatrics and are online now at aap.org.

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