I don't have any kids under the age of 3, but I do have a niece under the age of 3. And this frightens me.
Today, Cornell University researchers are reporting what appears to be a statistically significant relationship between autism rates and television watching by children under the age of 3. The researchers studied autism incidence in California, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington state. They found that as cable television became common in California and Pennsylvania beginning around 1980, childhood autism rose more in the counties that had cable than in the counties that did not. They further found that in all the Western states, the more time toddlers spent in front of the television, the more likely they were to exhibit symptoms of autism disorders.Information about autism is everywhere these days, and like with the increase in children's need for medication for attention deficit and everything else, it would be easy to grouse that "we didn't have these problems back in my day. Kids just need to suck it up." But the fact is that there are some very real things that are different today in terms of visual and aural stimulation. If we can buy into the idea that black, white and red toys help infants' brains develop, it makes sense to think twice about what the flashing spectrum of images a TV offers might be doing to them.
I have to admit this is something I never thought about before right now, so I'm probably behind most of you. I know about the effect of TV watching on eyesight development, and on vocabulary--even psychology once the content of programming starts to make the slightest sense. But I never have thought of the effect of the sheer visual stimulation.
If you're the parent of one under 3 (yes you!) you should read the whole thing.