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Tune In to Find Out if Your Child Is Developing Normally

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Lloyd asks parents if their child recognizes these TV images as one of several questions asked to evaluate a child's development when there is a developmental concern. "I ask other questions, like, 'Does she help around the house? Does she follow simple instructions?'" he says.

One advantage of the TV image recognition question is that parents understand it and "they can answer it clearly." Whereas, Lloyd finds that other developmental questions asked of parents, like "Does he follow instructions?" are not always easy for them to answer.

"As a technique, [recognition of TV images] is not a particularly sophisticated one," Renee Wachtel, MD, tells WebMD in an interview about the study. "They asked parents at what age they thought their child could recognize these different things on television, which is really quite different than actually testing the children to see what they could, in fact, recognize. So it is very second hand in that regard." Wachtel is a professor of pediatrics and director of developmental and behavior pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

"Then obviously, you get into the other set of issues: whether children who are very young should be watching television at all," she says. "While the [American] Academy of Pediatrics and many pediatricians do not feel that young children should be watching TV, I think there are much better ways to be determining how well your child is doing developmentally. We are much bigger proponents of reading books to your children and having your children identify pictures rather than things on TV as a better way of teaching your child and knowing whether your child is learning what you are teaching."

Lloyd says he is aware that promoting the use of television as a diagnostic tool is controversial, especially in light of the American Academy of Pediatrics' recent recommendation that children under the age of 2 watch no television at all.

"Other pediatricians have said to me, 'You are sending the wrong message with this test,'" says Lloyd. "On a bad day you could imagine that some mother will hear about this, spot that her 16-month-old child isn't doing it, and then sit the child in front of the television for four hours as therapy. This is my nightmare scenario."

"Of course whether the child has normal development or not, they are better off not plopped in front of the television," says Lloyd. "In fact, as a result of this, I talk about the dangers of excessive television more."

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