In a recent survey, 90 percent of U.S. parents said their children age 2 and under watch some form of electronic media -- on average, children this age watch 1-2 hours per day. By age 3, almost one-third of children have a television in their bedroom.
Parents who said educational television is "very important for healthy development" are twice as likely to keep the television on all or most of the time, lead author Dr. Ari Brown said.
The study found:
-- Many video programs for infants and toddlers are marketed as educational, yet evidence does not support this.
-- Unstructured play time is more valuable for the developing brain than electronic media. Children learn to think creatively, problem solve and develop reasoning and motor skills at early ages through unstructured, unplugged play. Free play also teaches them how to entertain themselves.
-- Young children learn best from, and need, interaction with humans, not screens.
-- Parents who watch TV or videos with their child may add to the child's understanding, but children learn more from live presentations than from televised ones.
The findings are published online ahead of the November print issue of Pediatrics.