In your monthly reminder that you should probably just hand your children over to be raised by doctors before you completely ruin them, a new study suggests that parents who use TV to calm their fussy children are only making them fussier. To reach the scientific conclusion that you’re doing it wrong again, a group of researchers based at the Boston Medical Center, a city at the forefront of tantrums, looked at 7,400 children born in 2001. They first tracked the kids’ abilities to pay attention, calm themselves, sleep, and other self-regulating behaviors at the age of 9 months, then again at the age of 2, after they were first exposed to media. Toddlers who were deemed the “fussiest” were found to have spent more time watching TV—an average of nine extra minutes per day, or approximately 18 of those Microsoft “Honestly” ads. Parents of those toddlers were found to have enjoyed those nine extra minutes immensely.
In the report soon to be published in the Journal Of So What, researchers also found that bright, flashing colors and jarring sounds are not actually soothing over-stimulated children, only quieting them by overwhelming them into submission. And while this may be doing wonders for parents’ coping strategies, doctors argue this could be preventing toddlers from developing their own coping strategies, at least until they’re old enough to learn to emulate them from TV characters like the rest of us.
Furthermore, children who were deemed “persistently difficult” were found to be 40 percent more likely to have unhealthy media habits, often spending more than two hours a day in front of a screen. As put forth by the study’s lead author, Dr. Jenny Radesky, this could eventually lead to problems with their development into a fully functioning adult who spends eight to 12 hours in front of a screen, in order to be able to pay a pediatrician to shame them.
To illustrate the idea that watching television induces anxiety in those who are naturally predisposed to it, NBC News ran an alarmist report about your children’s health. It was full of screaming babies.
The study follows previous, semiannual reports from the American Academy of Pediatrics that have called on parents to limit their kids’ exposure to media to less than two hours a day, instead returning to more traditional childhood pastimes like reading, drawing, and working in coal mines. Researchers say they hope to follow it soon with an investigation into how you’re also fucking up your kids with tablets and smartphones.