If you’re a new mom, you know the scene all too well. Your partner will be home from work soon, and you need to start getting dinner ready. As you prepare your ingredients, you find yourself tripping over your kids as they try to entertain themselves in the kitchen under your supervision. Not only are you worried you won’t have dinner ready in time, you’re concerned about their safety as you boil water and chop vegetables right in their vicinity. You finally give in, plop them on the living room floor and let the television play babysitter for a little while. If this sounds like the type of weeknight you’re familiar with, you’re probably also familiar with the feelings of guilt as you watch your children’s eyes glue themselves to the TV screen. But, is watching TV really something you should prevent your kids from doing? As it turns out, TV might not be as evil as we’ve previously assumed.

In 2003, the American Academy of Pediatrics announced the results of a study that proved TV could inhibit development when young children watch it. Specifically, it stated that kids less than 2 years old should not watch more than two hours of television every day. Many moms were shocked when this study was publicized, and many parents with kids that had a Barney addiction suddenly felt hopeless. However, a more recent study shows that TV is not the root of all evil. In 2007, the same organization proved in another study that television viewing in infancy has no association with language, visual or motor skills at age three.

Of course, the more recent study shouldn’t be your free pass to ignore your kid all day as he watches the tube. Instead, let these new findings give you a chance to relax and ease up on the feelings of guilt. Your child won’t have any serious developmental problems if you let him or her stare at the screen for a little while as you get things done around the house. Be selective about what your child is watching, and he or she might actually learn from watching TV. Consider recording special educational programming whenever it’s on so that you don’t have to only choose from the prime-time lineup around dinnertime. A recorded Sesame Street episode is far superior to reruns of Seinfeld if you need a half-hour of time alone.

Sources: Marie Schmidt et al: Television Viewing in Infancy and Child Cognition at 3 Years of Age in a US Cohort. Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics Volume 123 Issue 3 March 2009

Dimitri Christakis et al: Early Television Exposure and Subsequent Attentional Problems in Children. Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics Volume 113 Issue 4 April 2004

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