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Can toddlers learn sign language by watching DVDs?

Michael RichMedia expert Michael Rich, MD, MPH, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital Boston, answers your questions about media use. Last week, he discussed a report detailing just how much media kids are using.

Here’s this week’s question:

Q: In your NPR Parents’ Journal interview, you stated that children under the age of 30 months do not learn anything about language from TV programs, but I disagree.  My 17-month-old daughter is not allowed to watch entertainment TV, but since she was 9 months old, she has watched a baby signing language DVD series about 3 times a week.  Now she knows about 80 signs (and about 60 spoken words), and learning sign language as a family has greatly enhanced our relationships because she can tell us what she needs without crying and throwing a tantrum. I feel strongly that the 1-2 hours of media exposure a week are making her toddlerhood much less frustrating and are worth whatever negative effects are possible. I would love to hear your thoughts on this matter.
Serious about Signing, Baltimore, MD

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