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Call for under-twos to be TV-free -

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Call for under-twos to be TV-free

The World Today - Thursday, 6 November , 2008 12:50:00

Reporter: Jane Cowan

ELEANOR HALL: Now to that warning on children and television. A visiting international childhood
expert says children should watch no television in the first two years of their lives.

Dr Michael Rich is the Director of the Centre on Media and Child Health at the Harvard Medical
School and he spoke in Melbourne to our reporter Jane Cowan.

MICHAEL RICH: What we know is that at least for national data from the United States that children
under the age of two on average use electronic games for about an hour, a little over an hour a
day. That 26 per cent of them have a television in their bedrooms and that it is very much
integrated into their daily lives, largely in the format of parents using the television as an
electronic babysitter.

JANE COWAN: Is there anything at all to be gained by children under two watching TV?

MICHAEL RICH: There is no scientific evidence that children under the age of about 30 months,
two-and-a-half years, can learn much of anything other than fairly rote imitation or mimicry from
an electronic screen.

JANE COWAN: You yourself have two very young children. How do you approach this issue with them?

MICHAEL RICH: Oh well they didn't get in front of screens until about 30 months for that very
reason that I didn't want to, I didn't see any positive benefit to be gained from it and my concern
was that the screens did not provide the kind of stimuli that we know are most optimal for brain

The best things are interaction with other human beings face to face, manipulating the physical
environment, stacking up blocks, trying to get a raisin in your mouth and open-ended creative
problem-solving sort of play. So a blank piece of paper and a crayon or a piece of clay to play
with and you know, I read a lot of books with them. They love books.

JANE COWAN: What about older children? How do you suggest parents manage television in the teenage
years for instance?

MICHAEL RICH: Well, I quite honestly I think in the teenage years the horse is out of the barn.

Parents, it is really the school age years where kids start watching television on their own and
actually teenagers, the data show, use television less than school age kids. They start using it
more music and on-line media use rather than television.

But frankly, there is no reason why young people who have otherwise, you know, rich lives and
homework to do and sleep to get need to get more than an hour or two at most of media time each

ELEANOR HALL: That is a childhood expert from Harvard Dr Michael Rich, speaking to our reporter
Jane Cowan in Melbourne.