Those claims are not backed by evidence, the authors said, adding that communicating with a child while the TV is on may be more important than the type of program to which the child is exposed.
Linebarger said her biggest criticism of the Christakis study is that it did not take into account what effect various types of programs have on parent-child communication.
She said her research indicates that television shows designed for young kids that mimic the storytelling approaches of books are best at promoting language development.
The battle is likely to go on, with plenty of ammunition on both sides.
Since 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics has discouraged the watching of TV or other screen media by children younger than 2.
In addition to its adverse effects on body weight, attention and sleep, watching TV before age 2 may restrict a child's cognitive development and the uptake of language, a variety of studies have found.
But research published in Pediatrics as recently as March found that the amount of time spent watching TV before age 2 was not associated with cognitive development at age 3.
The latest study by Christakis was supported by the LENA Foundation, a nonprofit that develops technology for language research. Three of the study authors were employed by the LENA Foundation.