It's a plot right out of a kids' TV show: A mean little monster is stealing stuff from children.
But this isn't a new episode of "Dora the Explorer"--it's real life, and the monster is in your home right now, stealing linguistic ability and cognitive development from any baby in its grasp.
It's the television--and while no one should be surprised to find it's bad for kids, a new study shows how it's especially harmful for babies.
Researchers say those who spend even a little time in front if it develop more slowly than those who don't watch any.
And it starts with just an hour a day.
In a study of 259 lower-income families in New York where Spanish was the predominant language, researchers found that kids who watched at least 60 minutes of TV a day were behind the others in language and cognition.
Overall, the TV-watching babies scored a third lower on developmental tests, according to the study in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.
The researchers say the kids weren't actually abnormal--just on the slower side of normal, which is hardly a consolation prize. After all, "my kid is on the slow side of normal" isn't the kind of boast you hear from most parents.
The study also found that educational shows are no better--and, at least, no worse--for babies than the sillier fare older children might enjoy. But that doesn't mean all TV is equally bad, because the study found that adult-oriented shows had a worse effect on the babies than the children's shows.
But really, you don't need to waste time trying to sort the good shows from the bad ones--because all the studies point in the same direction: There's no such thing as "appropriate" TV programs for your baby.
Try reading, playing, and talking instead--because studies have found that babies who are most engaged by their parents develop faster and bond better.
It will take more energy and effort than simply turning on the television--but if you put the time into it, you really will have a child worth boasting about.