Many infants in Germany watch television before they can walk and talk. Even before their first birthday, 13 percent are allowed to sit in front of the box.
As they grow to the age of four the percentage rises to 96 percent. These are the result of an opinion poll among 776 mothers carried out by the International Institute for Youth and Educational Television (IZI) in Munich.
The main reason why parents watch television with toddlers is that they enjoy snuggling up in front of the set. Ninety-one percent of they interviewees gave this reason. Eighty-five percent leave their youngster with the TV while they are doing housework chores.
For one in three families with toddlers television is part of their regular bedtime ritual. But TV consumption starts even before birth, according to the expert on children and television, Maya Goetz.
Children listen to TV sounds in their motheršs womb. It is a proven fact, says Goetz, that babies remember signature tunes of soap operas their mothers have been watching during pregnancy.
According to Goetz infants can understand and imitate simple TV scenes from 18 months onwards. They are especially sensitive to threatening and loud noise.
Long-term studies had shown deficiencies in two- and three-year old children who are watching television for more than 90 minutes per day. Goetz advises parents to wait as long as possible before exposing their children to regular television viewing.
British psychologist Aric Sigman recommends total television abstinence for children under three. In his view television is unhealthy. It causes obesity, diabetes, and autism, even Alzheimeršs disease. According to Sigman a six-year-old child in the UK has on average spent a whole year in front of the TV.
Other articles by Wolfgang Polzer: New "Darfur" in Northern Sudan?
Wolfgang Polzer (56), is senior news editor of the Evangelical News Agency (idea) Wetzlar (Germany), which he joined in 1981. In all, he has spent 30 years in Christian media.
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