23/10/2009 11:39 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Warning - TV Is Bad For Your Toddlers. Or Is It?

The Australian government is set to issue guidelines advising parents to stop children under two from watching television.

Is this a huge over-reaction or a sensible step to protect toddlers?

Experts seem unsure as to just how harmful television can be for young minds.

But more and more countries are warning about the dangers. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that under-twos are not exposed to any television time, while the French government has banned stations from showing programmes targeted at under-threes.

However the British government doesn't yet offer up any guidance about how much television young children should be allowed to watch.

Draft guidelines drawn up by the Australian government say that watching TV can reduce the amount of time young children have for "active play, social contact with others and chances for language development".

That seems fairly obvious. If a child is gawping at the TV all day, it's not going to be playing so much.

But the guidelines also say that television may "affect the development of a full range of eye movement [and] . . . reduce the length of time they can stay focused".

Jo Salmon is associate professor of epidemiology at Deakin University and was one of the researchers who contributed to the Australian government's draft guidelines.

She told the Guardian: "Children aged six to 30 months who are watching television have less developed vocabulary, display more aggressive behaviour and have poor attention spans.

"Parents and childcare centres are not justified in encouraging children, under the age of two, to watch television."

She says she would not put her young child in front of a television until he or she was over two years old.

The Guardian says Dr Marie Evans Schmidt at the Centre for Media and Child Health found that having TV on in the background while young children were playing disrupted their attention span. Which again, seems fairly obvious. Although it is amazing how many parents do this.

However, Dr Schmidt also found that when she factored in the mother's education and income, any effect of TV viewing on cognitive development disappeared.

So, if you're allowing your child plenty of time to play, reading to them, talking to them and socialising with them, is half an hour in front of In the Night Garden really going to make them aggressive and damage their vocabulary and attention span? What do you think?

Source: The Guardian