"In this study, TV viewing in itself did not have measurable effects on cognition," said Dr. Elsie Taveras, senior author of the study and pediatrician at Children's. "TV viewing is perhaps best viewed as a marker for a host of other environmental and familial influences, which may themselves be detrimental to cognitive development."
It's worth noting that while the study took into account a host of variables -- mother's age, education, household income, marital status, and the child's gender, race, birth weight, body mass index, and sleep habits, among other things -- it did not examine the actual content being viewed by the 872 children involved. And though infants and young children who spent hours at a time in front of the television may not suffer from cognitive delays, TV exposure has been associated with increased risk of obesity, poor quality of sleep, and attention problems.
The American Association of Pediatrics still recommends that children watch no more than two hours of "quality" programming per day, and that children younger than 2 watch no TV at all. (Most kids in the US watch about three hours of TV a day). But as any working parent knows, it's nearly impossible to guarantee that your tiny tot will never watch any TV.
A reader recently asked for suggestions for shows that are appropriate for a 2-year-old. Barney was banned from our household when our oldest, now 15, was a toddler -- we just couldn't stand to watch it with her -- but there are plenty of age-appropriate, slow-paced, toddler-friendly TV shows that do make the cut. The details are at Boston.com's Child Caring blog, but Teletubbies (PBS), Sesame Street (PBS), Curious George (PBS), Oswald (Nick Jr.), Yo Gabba Gabba! (Nick Jr.), and Blues Clues (Nick Jr.) are on my toddler's viewing list.