Being a parent in a sluggish economy is tough. Raising kids is a demanding job on it’s own and adding money stress to the mix often makes things worse. It’s hard, but like it or not, these are the financial realities many parents are facing today.
To help make ends meet, more and more families are becoming dual-income households. Studies show that 80 percent of children have parents who both work full-time in the first year of life.
But that extra paycheck may come at a price. For every minute mom and dad spends at work, they need someone else to watch the children. For millions of American this involves placing their infant child in childcare, which often stirs up feelings of anxiety and guilt in parents. It’s a hard choice, but what effects does being in childcare really have on the child’s development? For decades, these questions have disturbed and even panicked parents. Fortunately there are experts who can help make that decision less stressful.
“Parents looking for clear information on how childcare affects children are given a bewilderingly diverse set of conclusions,” says Kevin Nugent, PhD, founder and Director of the Brazelton Institute at Children’s, a research and training organization dedicated to studying the development of newborns and young children. “But it’s not all bad news.”
Michael Rich, MD, MPH, is Children’s Hospital Boston’s media expert and director of Children’s Center on Media and Child Health. Take a look at his blog archive or follow him on Twitter @CMCH_Boston
On Monday, the American Academy of Pediatrics came out with a revised policy on media for kids two and younger. The recommendations for this age group are much the same as they were in 1999—that it is best for their developing brains and bodies to avoid both screen use (such as placing a toddler in front of a TV or video) and background media (such as leaving the TV on in the same room where a baby is playing)—but there is new scientific evidence to support these recommendations. An infant’s brain triples in volume in the first two years of life and research suggests that brain development during that time can benefit the most from:
We already knew that newborn brains develop in response to whatever is in their environment. New research from the past 12 years suggests that interacting with people, exploring the physical world (like stacking blocks or “reading” board books), and playing in open-ended ways are great for that development. And no matter how “educational” their content, screen media can’t provide that kind of environment.
That said, screen media aren’t toxic for babies—they’re just not really what they need. And other kinds of media, like music and books, can be great for kids of this age group. The updated AAP policy statement also recognizes that there are good screen media options for preschoolers, whose brains have developed to the point where they can learn from electronic screens.