A Doctor Warns: This Activity Can Damage Your Baby’s Brain

A Doctor Warns: This Activity Can Damage Your Baby's Brain

In the first two years of his or her life, your baby’s brain goes through some mighty extraordinary growth.

Unlike any other time in their life, your baby’s brain triples in size.

As you could imagine, what your baby is exposed to, as well as if your baby receives too little or too much stimulation, is going to lay the foundations for the rest of your baby’s life.

In the below video, paediatrician, researcher and father Dimitri Christakis presents a scan of the normal brain of a child verses the brain of a child from a Romanian orphanage. Obviously these children have been shown very little love or stimulation.

Seeing the massive difference between the brain scans made him think: if too little stimulation can result in so many inactive areas in the brain, then what about too much stimulation? Can too much stimulation result in hyped up activity in the brain, resulting in just as damaging changes?

Doctor Christakis is the Director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior & Development in Seattle. He has a sobering message about overstimulating your baby or toddler’s brain with screen time.

In fact, he found the more television children watched before the age of three, the more likely they were to have attention problems at school compared to those who watched none.

For every hour of television watched per day, children were 10% more likely to have attention problems. For example, two hours of television per day would equate to being 20% more at risk of attention problems.

Not only is the amount of television important, but what they are watching. Would it shock you to know that even some of the ‘Baby Einstein’ type of programs (especially designed for babies!) are actually not well designed for your baby’s brain at all?

Find out why, and discover more of his sobering findings in the video below, as well as how you can reduce the incidence of attention problems in your children.

It’s Not Just About Babies And Toddlers

In an article on Psychology Today, Gray Matters: Too Much Screen Time Damages The Brain, child psychiatrist Victoria L. Dunckley MD writes:

“As a practitioner, I observe that many of the children I see suffer from sensory overload, lack of restorative sleep, and a hyperaroused nervous system, regardless of diagnosis—what I call electronic screen syndrome. These children are impulsive, moody, and can’t pay attention—much like the description in the quote above describing damage seen in scans.”

We’re currently experiencing something very new, unlike ever before. How bad do things need to get before we pay attention to what’s going on? Over time, an increasing number of screens has encroached into our lives, like a drip feeder. So we haven’t suddenly noticed it. Something that is certain – we need to make sure we lead by example as parents. It’s so very easy to get sucked into screens, even as adults. How can a child’s brain do that for themselves when their brains aren’t developed enough to have the “brakes” to do so? They don’t understand how to stop.

It’s Not A Judgement On Your Parenting

Please do not take this research as a judgement on your parenting. Research is always about learning new ways, so we can do better and achieve better outcomes. We all do what we can to get by. But armed with more information and knowledge, we can make more informed choices. We need to know this information if we are ever going to make a difference.

When we know better, we do better.

What About iPads and Other Educational Devices?

Dr. Christakis says that even in younger children, a small amount of time spent on interactive development apps are okay – it’s the passive television watching that is the problem. He suggested kids younger than 2 may even benefit from 30 minutes to 60 minutes per day of interactive screen time.

In an article for Today, Dr. Christakis was quoted as saying, “interactive iPad and device apps that engage a baby may be as mentally stimulating as old-fashioned toys such as blocks or even a See ‘N’ Say, which allows kids to develop a sense of accomplishment by matching animal images and sounds.”

However, parents must still be vigilant and closely monitor time spent on such devices, as there were still problems such as “compulsive use of iPads” among the youngest users.

But as Christakis says, the bigger problem is the passive television viewing (or videos or DVDs aimed at babies), which is known to have detrimental effects on cognition – which can be overstimulating and potentially harmful.

So, What Are You Waiting For?

Time to get those babies and toddlers outdoors much more. Switch off televisions and get little developing brains outdoors to play – which also reduces the risks of obesity, supports the immune system (vitamin D and exercise) and helps children to learn and socialise with others. Join play or activity groups, like baby music, swimming or gym classes.

By making positive choices for a generation of children being born into technology, we can help make their future a brighter one by making better choices for playtime activities. We can’t predict what it might be like for them in the future, but we can help prevent major problems from having a launch pad.

Can you imagine our kids growing into adults who have problems disconnecting from technology and connecting with each other? What if disconnection became the norm? How will the human species cope without connection and love?

Let’s make a difference, together.

Recommended Reading: For some fun ideas, see our article 17 Activities Your Toddler Will Love and 9 Things To Do When Your Toddler Is Driving You Nuts.

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Kelly Winder is the creator of BellyBelly.com.au, a writer, doula (trained in 2005), and a mother of three awesome children. She's passionate about informing and educating fellow thinking parents and parents-to-be, especially about all the things she wishes she knew before she had her firstborn. Kelly is also passionate about travel, tea, travel, and animal rights and welfare. And travel.


  1. my child will cry till i put cartoons on only then am i allowed to get my household chores done…what else can i do??? my other 2 i didnt allow tv but he will NOT stop crying n hanging on my leg without them!!!

    1. Letting your child watch an age appropriate show for an hour while you get something done is not going to cause massive damage. But when they sit all day watching a show or playing video games they do not develop appropriate communication skills. They need parents to read to them, sing to them, and talk to them to understand language and develop speech skills.

    2. If you never introduced a tv screen to them in the first place they would have never started throwing a tantrum for one. Same thing goes for unealthy foods, etc. You’re in charge of your children’s health, youre helping them develop.

  2. If Baby Einstein is not aimed at baby’s brain growth and development.. What can my daughter watch that IS educational? She loves Sesame Street & Super Why, too. I understand watching a lot of TV isn’t good for her but for the little TV she does watch.. What will be educational ? My daughter is one year old & I am due for another baby girl July 7th ! This info will definitely have an impact on our lives ! Thank you <3

    1. Sesame Street is great! Like he was saying, programs that don’t have a high sequence rate, jumping all over the place. When you start to watch a few shows you really notice it. See how fast the screen flicks and moves – some shows are fast, some slower! 🙂

  3. My 1 year old daughter started watching tv when she was 4 or 5 months old…she loves watching shows in Disney Junior specially Hi5…I even downloaded some series and song compilations and I play it when I need to pacify her or when I need to do chores because I am the only one left at home with her during daytime…on our observation she have learned a lot because of watching tv, like clapping, imitating the sounds of animals (dog, cat, monkey), dancing and many more..She is a smart girl…

  4. I keep pbs on during the day, my daughter is in and out of the house playing and only on occasion stops to see what’s on the tv. She will be two in September. I wonder is it bad that she actually stops to watch? I mean she has actually learned from those shows.

  5. My 11 month old who would
    Never sit in a car seat since 4 weeks had a DVD player in his car to distract him while we make grocery runs. He hardly ever watches tv at home ( shows no interest in anything on the tube for more than 3 minutes which I am
    Glad about) which would
    Mean he is exposed to the DVD say roughly 45 minutes round trip of little
    Bumble bee. I have another lo coming in 6 months so ur thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Is little bumble bees pace one of those u would draw caution to?

  6. My 1 year old watches maybe 15 – 30 minutes of T.V a week and that is usually music videos and she is dancing most of that time! I was the same way with my oldest and now that she is 7 she will watch up to 2 movies a week on and off.. However, she has ADHD and won’t watch more than 5 minutes at a time! So we put it on several times for her to see “missed parts”!

  7. In my experience working with children, the IPad presents many concerns. Mainly, there are so many apps that the child can control him or herself and that strive to praise and reinforce correct answering. Other humans should be the most interesting things in the room to babies and toddlers and we should be praising them when they do something correct or appropriate, not a recorded voice. Small children are not able to attend to a toy or activity for great lengths of time but for convenience sake adults would like them to be able to. Being super efficient with tasks and being an engaging parent are not always things that especially compatible.
    I think a misconception is that if a child can sit attentively in front of a video or iPad app, it will translate to attentive behavior at school. This does not appear to be the case. Story Time at the library is a great environment and is a good opportunity to teach social skills and practice attentiveness. Playing outside is nice but any play involving other children is good. Yet the expectation should not be that small children do not need adults present go teach and praise sharing and taking turns.

  8. My baby watches videos. how can I reverse the effects of it? I’m not letting her watch videos anymore. Though even I let her watch, I do read her books, sing to her and play. But she doesn’t communicate till now. Is the video really causes it or it is in her already?

    1. My child watches videos and loves to sing along to them. He’s not even 2 yet. He talks more then most kids his age.

  9. There was press releases in history with the same warning messages in relation to the distribution of books and literature. How will they communicate with their head in a book?

    1. I think books have a more positive impact on the brain than a screen 🙂 As he explains in the video, the faster the sequencing in the things they watch, the more it can impact their behaviour.

  10. My baby been watching TV since she was 3 mos and it don’t matter what’s on and sometimes she don’t watch TV, but I’m having a hard time getting her to talk or at least say her first word, do TV play a part in that she’s one noe and a complete zombie when TV comes on

  11. My son is two and half years old. He has been watching baby rhymes while eating since he was 9 months old. Without rhymes he never allowed me to feed him. For the past few months I noticed he is having attention problems, didn’t interact till now however he sings complete rhymes. I stopped screen time completely. When I try to interact with him, he doesn’t pay attention, but I sing the same rhymes, he will pay full attention to me. Is there anything wrong I am doing. What can I do to improve his situation.

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