Long term consequences of babies watching TV?
February 22, 2010 4:29 PM   Subscribe

My 10-month-old son is often entranced by the TV. Should I bar him from watching at all?

He's a healthy and happy infant--almost a toddler--but my wife and I are concerned and just plain in the dark about babies watching TV and any long-term consequences of such. The standard line among American doctors is no TV at all under 2 years of age.

We don't actually watch TV much, but if the kid is in the room with me (as is the norm), then often he'll lock eyes with it as if in a trance. We'll frequently just turn it off when the kid is in that trance state, or my wife and I will try to distract him with games and toys and tickling and whatnot, but it's difficult to do that and watch at the same time. But darn it I want to watch TV sometimes.

So here are my questions. One, are there any serious side effects to babies watching too much--or any--TV? I'm really nervous that it could cause ADD or autism or something else I've not discovered. Surely there have been scores of people in the past 60 or so years who watched a lot of TV as babies...how common is this? Knowing my parents--God love 'em--I'm sure I watched countless hours of TV as a baby.

And lastly, what do you do to get your kid to stop watching TV?
posted by zardoz to Health & Fitness (51 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Not being a parent (though having been a child), I can only guess that TV will affect every kid differently. But I would think that if there were to be a universal rule about TV watching, it would be that it ought to be just a completely normal part of life. It would seem to me that this would be the best attitude for people to grow up learning- watch the television (or hyper-compu-vision or youtube or whatever) when there is a good reason for it, and not as an activity in and of itself. Everything that was severely limited to me as a child became a fairly significant source of over consumption issues later in my life, so I'm guessing there must be a bit of a universal in there.
posted by gjc at 4:40 PM on February 22, 2010


Ours does the same. I haven't found any hard evidence on developmental effects one way or the other; since there's ADHD in the family, though, and since relatives who have it say they find it worsens with a lot of TV/internet time, we decided to play it safe and only watch when the kid's asleep. It's actually kind of nice, having a fixed after-hours TV-watching date two or three times a week.
posted by Bardolph at 4:42 PM on February 22, 2010


That happened to our daughter, too. Remember when he was younger and would get stuck staring at a light or something? That's called "obligatory looking." I think the TV viewing fixation during later infancy has some similar aspects, though I am not a child brain development specialist.

Our doctor said not to worry about it, but if she got fixated for too long, to turn her away and get her involved in something else. (You're already doing that.) I'm not aware of TV viewing causing ADD or autism, but like you, I like to err on the side of caution. I'll watch this thread with interest to see if anyone else has new insights.

Our daughter started kind of understanding what was going on in the programs before she was even 2 (reacted by getting scared), causing us to abandon the idea that we could watch whatever we wanted right in front of her.
posted by Knowyournuts at 4:51 PM on February 22, 2010


Why wouldn't he lock eyes with the TV? Not only is TV appealing to look at, but everyone else in the room, including you, is staring at the screen too -- you're teaching him to watch TV by watching it in front of him.

There is tons of research out there about television's negative impact on babies and young children. Googling around will give you plenty of it.
posted by hermitosis at 4:52 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Eh, whatever. I was raised by the TV. Learned to read at age 2. I'm still pretty smart, if I may say so myself. Absolutely riddled with ADD, mind you, but I'm not at all convinced that's related to the TV.

What I would suggest, however, is 1) educational, 2) imaginative, 3) you like it too, and 4) small doses, then switch it off and read a book.

Also: Babies love talk shows. Hey, actual people actually talking like human beings, as opposed to a bunch of fuzzy muppets with screechy voices and terrible grammar. (Not that Sesame Street doesn't have its place. I just really hate Elmo.)
posted by Sys Rq at 4:52 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


He looks like he's in a trance because he IS in a trance. I forgot who said it, but TV (and other sensory overstimulation) puts people in a state similar to hypnosis. (And interestingly, sensory deprivation may cause hallucination.)

As long as you aren't watching TV for hours on end, and just limiting it to a show or two a night, I don't think there's much of a problem (IANYD).
posted by thisperon at 4:54 PM on February 22, 2010


I don't think you should bar him from watching at all but you should set limits. Studies have shown that tv use has been correlated with a rise of autism - while correlation is not causation I do think it's sensible to limit his tv consumption. I think if he's watching it while he's in the room with you or your wife and you guys are interacting with him while watching (ie, not just plopping him down in front of it and leaving), it'll be fine.
posted by distracts at 4:55 PM on February 22, 2010


I was the same way (and am still if I'm not very careful or am too tired). My parents got rid of the TV. I am forever grateful to them for it. Fear not- if he's like me, he'll be able to fill his RDA of mindless-trash with novels from a very young age.
posted by small_ruminant at 4:58 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


People's stories are not hard data. Everyone who says 'I watched TV and I'm okay' should be ignored.

The research is quite clear that there are short and long term negative outcomes from viewing TV. Google it. Someone not on their phone will link to the AAP lit review page. Attention, focus, reading, math and language skills are all affected.

I'm not a kids and media researcher, but I am in a university department full of them. They all agree that infant TV viewership is not good.

That being said, my 15 month old has some TV exposure (we TiVo The WonderPets) in these cases:
- we can't get him to sit still for a snot extraction
- 1 parent is home and so sick in bed and 15 minutes of TV is the only rest possible
- airplane ride after all else has failed

Once I get home, I'll post some links if no one else has.
posted by k8t at 5:00 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Huh. I pretty much react the same way to a screen turned on in the room. Isn't that what they're for?

Like Sys Rq I grew up with a lot of TV, often on in the background when I was doing other things, but not always. I loved stories, and the television offered a wealth of them. There's references in my babybooks speaking to my love of television (how I wanted to watch it allll the time). I neither have ADD or autism.

I'd suggest watching TV with your son. Talk to him about what's there. Sing along to the music. Point out characters and talk about them. That way, even if it's not "educational programming," it's still an educational experience--though I am a big fan of Sesame Street, particularly the earlier seasons, which was really made for adults and toddlers to watch together.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:00 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


My wife's an early childhood education consultant and I have a 15 month-old daughter. She's of the opinion that small doses of gentle programming is harmless enough, but too much is bad because a child develops through play, not by watching TV. Since my daughter has been old enough to be interested in it, she's been allowed to watch Sprout in 15-minute blocks when it's appropriate for her to be still. Examples-- when one of us is home alone with her and need to get her dinner ready she gets to watch TV so dinner can actually get on the table; when she had bronchitis and had to inhale from a nebulizer, TV was the least-stressful way (for everyone) to get her to sit still long enough.

She says that a relationship between TV and ADD isn't established, and in any case would involve much larger doses than someone who even thinks to ask would expose their kids to. Autism "sounds like a big stretch." The real problem with TV and infants/toddlers is that it encourages them to be sedentary and passive at a time when they should be actively exploring.

There isn't an absolute answer about the "incidental watching" that your son is doing while you watch programs that interest you. If it's the major source of time that you spend with your child (and it certainly doesn't sound like that's the case), then it's bad. If it's occasional and you're taking some time to otherwise engage him while you follow what you're watching, it's not perfectly optimal, but it might be the rest you need to keep being an active parent. For the record, my wife's only "incidental TV" with my daughter is CBS Sunday Morning. I expect that I expose my daughter to a few hours of incidental TV a week and my wife doesn't have a problem with it.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:01 PM on February 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


Surely there have been scores of people in the past 60 or so years who watched a lot of TV as babies

Things have changed a lot in 60 years: round-the-clock programming on hundreds of channels (as compared to the 3 stations I grew up with that signed off before midnight), content accessible anytime via tapes, DVDs, DVRs, PPV, as well as video gaming and computers. The time spent in front of a TV should be counted as just one part of total time spent in front of a screen.

There's no upside for the kid in watching TV at that age. The issue now is the child gets into the habit of being entertained by watching TV which can lead to increased risk of childhood obesity and increased blood pressure due to a sedentary lifestyle from lots of screen time and decreased literacy if parents fail to establish limits and it's a lot harder to impose limits on a child later than to start out with limits in place.

Anecdotally, I can always spot who the TV watchers are among my son's classmates/friends: they are the ones who whine about missing "their shows" when we go to the park and the same ones who write regurgitate TV show plotlines (characters and all) instead of their own creations during language art class.

But darn it I want to watch TV sometimes
This is why Tivo was invented. Watch your shows when the kidlet is asleep.
posted by jamaro at 5:03 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


FWIW, I have ADHD to spare, and there was no TV in my house until I was 11 years old. OTOH, I did exhibit a trance-like state on those occasions when I could watch TV at other kids' houses.
My guess is that the TV trance -> ADHD relationship is less causal and more indicative of an already extant condition.
posted by willpie at 5:04 PM on February 22, 2010


There's a good deal of evidence of how excess TV limits development in the very young. You allude to it yourself. It strikes me that when people ask questions like these, they often know the answer already.

A couple of data points:

* My parents/family watched a lot of TV growing up. It was addictive for me for the first ~30 years of my life. That's a long addiction.

* Cutting the cable was one of my best decisions ever: It helped me break that addiction, and will help my little kid from ever developing it.

* There are many developmentally useful (or at least neutral) videos out there (Baby Einstein, etc); and, it's much easier to apportion and limit exposure to those entrancing, dancing electronic images when you have to load DVDs than with the endless stream of TV.

* I don't know how many hours -- hours, and hours -- more conversation, playing, math, puzzles, games, and reading my kid got because we couldn't plot her in front of the TV, but they were many. Think of it this way: 1 hr/day * 365 d/yr * 5 years = 76 days of television in a child's first five years. 76 days worth of any sort of play or real-life interaction beats 76 of TV.
posted by slab_lizard at 5:06 PM on February 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


She says that a relationship between TV and ADD isn't established

She takes exception with my paraphrasing. There are lots of studies suggesting links. Nobody knows how much is too much.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:08 PM on February 22, 2010


Anecdotally, I can always spot who the TV watchers are among my son's classmates/friends: they are the ones who whine about missing "their shows" when we go to the park and the same ones who write regurgitate TV show plotlines (characters and all) instead of their own creations during language art class.

Anecdotally, I did this as a kid (I remember one whopper of a tantrum about missing the Super Mario Bros: Super Show in first grade) and, despite years alternating drawing pictures of TV characters and drawing pictures of my own design, and despite a long stretch of writing fan-fiction when I was a preteen, grew up to go to grad school and get disgustingly good grades and become a writer. As to the previous generation, there are plenty of pictures of my mother dressed up as Superman, she was such a fan of the show. I'd like to see some hard evidence that this actually has some impact on an adult's imaginative capacity. I realize that the plural of anecdote is not data, but I've known plenty of other creative adults who had a similar love for existing media as children.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:10 PM on February 22, 2010


So here are my questions. One, are there any serious side effects to babies watching too much--or any--TV?

I heard a pediatric neurologist interviewed recently for a radio program say that it was bad.

I can't find a link, so I'll have to subject you to my garbled re-creation.

I recall him saying that babies will look at anything in their environment that changes rapidly as part of a threat assessment program, as well as from what we would describe as curiosity or interest, and then look away after a bit when it settled down. But TV never settles down, and the baby is quite literally captivated by it.

I believe he said something about elevated stress hormones as a result, but I'm not certain.
posted by jamjam at 5:13 PM on February 22, 2010


I think the rule of thumb is no more than an hour a day. I read an article once linking the fast cutting in modern TV to ADD because it forces the eyes to refocus unnaturally often(think split seconds), thereby training the brain to have a short attention span. Older television does not harm the brain in this way, because the use of longer cuts allows the viewer to observe the action in a way much closer to reality. I think blue's clue's is okay, because of the slow panning, but I will not let my toddler watch baby Einstein.
posted by debbie_ann at 5:20 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


> what do you do to get your kid to stop watching TV?

You turn it off. When my son was a toddler we didn't let him watch TV, and watched it ourselves (raging hypocrites that we are) after he was in bed. Now he has the most glorious ADHD you can imagine, but it let me feel self-righteous when he was younger.

My kids now get an hour of screen time a day if they want it, which they usually pick TV for. They love TV, but usually don't think to ask for it. We don't have cable, so anything they're going to watch has to come through Roku or a DVD and they've never gotten into the habit of casually flipping on the TV to see what's on.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:21 PM on February 22, 2010


Actually, some TV has been a great way to learn about things like exotic animals, songs and letters.
posted by debbie_ann at 5:21 PM on February 22, 2010


Here's some research accessible to the general public:

PBS FAQ

Kaiser Family Foundation


The effects of infant media usage: what do we know and what should we learn? - 2009 review of literature

In terms of background TV, here's something from the PBS link (that summarizes other research):
Regardless of their age, children from heavy-television households watched more television and read less than other children. Furthermore, children exposed to constant television were less likely to be able to read than other children. Also, other research has shown that one-, two-, and three-year-olds' play and attention spans are shorter in length in the presence of background television, and parent-child interactions are also less frequent in the presence of background television.

In terms of ADD/ADHD (from the 2009 study linked above):
In 2004, we conducted a large observational study of over 1300 children and found a modest association between TV viewing before age 3 and attentional problems at age 7 (73). In that study, parents were prospectively asked how much television their child watched when they were between 1 and 2 years of age and again how much they watched when they were between 3 and 4 years of age. At age 7, they completed the Behavioural Problems Index which includes questions related to attention and impulsivity (73). The more TV children watched as infants, the more likely they were to have attentional problems at age 7 after adjusting for an exhaustive list of co-variates. Specifically, each hour of TV watched on average was associated with an increased risk of being in the 90(th) percentile for attentional problems (OR 1.09 [1.03–1.15]).
posted by k8t at 5:35 PM on February 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


Here's a lit review from 2005.
posted by k8t at 5:45 PM on February 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I forgot who said it, but TV (and other sensory overstimulation) puts people in a state similar to hypnosis. (And interestingly, sensory deprivation may cause hallucination.)

I read an article once linking the fast cutting in modern TV to ADD because it forces the eyes to refocus unnaturally often(think split seconds), thereby training the brain to have a short attention span.


My understanding is that the hypnosis-like state comes about because the eyes do not refocus during viewing. The screen typically remains at a static distance from the viewer, and the picture maintains its own focus (you don't have to refocus to see something in the background or on a different part of the screen).
posted by troybob at 5:48 PM on February 22, 2010


Someone got me a copy of Into the Minds of Babes: How Screen Time Affects Children from Birth to Age Five and I can't recommend it highly enough. It's informative and does a wonderful job of comparing and deciphering conflicting scientific studies.

Most of the book centers around the American Academy of Pediatrics's recommendation for absolutely no TV watching for children under the age of 2, and the ensuing panic that even a just a glimpse of television could be damaging to young children. The conclusion was that while TV should not be used as a substitute for human interaction (it's not so effective for language and visual development), there is no evidence that a little TV here and there has long term cognitive effects.

Don't beat yourself up.
posted by Alison at 6:09 PM on February 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


And lastly, what do you do to get your kid to stop watching TV?

I think you're hoping that there's some answer other than the obvious one (turn off the TV). There isn't, unfortunately. It's hard enough to get adults to unglue their eye from a TV set that's turned on in the same room. With kids, or toddlers, or infants it's impossible.

So, if you decide that it's important not to expose your kid to TV, you need to just turn it off. The bonus, of course, is that you might end up playing with your kid instead of watching TV yourself. That's how your kid benefits from reduced exposure to TV. They get increased exposure to human interaction, which is what they need developmentally.
posted by alms at 6:23 PM on February 22, 2010


Take from it what you will, but the American Association of Pediatricians has recommended against television for children under the age of two because it can lead to attentional problems by the age of seven. You can read the study for yourself. (IANAD!)
posted by asciident at 7:01 PM on February 22, 2010


Sorry, I got their formal name all mixed up! American Academy of Pediatrics!
posted by asciident at 7:02 PM on February 22, 2010


The real problem with TV and infants/toddlers is that it encourages them to be sedentary and passive at a time when they should be actively exploring.

Exactly. Even if you don't want to believe the research about television and brain development (remember, we're talking kids under two here, not first-graders or 10-year olds) think about it this way: the first two years of life is when our brains do a tremendous amount of growth and development. The way this happens is through active exploration and manipulation of our environment. (Picking things up, manipulating objects, crawling, etc.) Your child is really not awake that much (although it might seem like it), so why would you want to have them lose some of that growth time sitting in a trance?
posted by chbrooks at 8:15 PM on February 22, 2010


FYI, pretty much all babies do this. The moving figures on the screen catch the eye, and the fall straight into "the trance".

Its best to limit it, if only to establish healthier ways to entertain themselves or self-sooth. If they are looking at the screen, they are not doing anything else: playing, babbling, banging pots, crawling, bugging mom, whatever. All of which are healthy active things for them to be doing.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:34 PM on February 22, 2010


"The conclusion was that while TV should not be used as a substitute for human interaction (it's not so effective for language and visual development), there is no evidence that a little TV here and there has long term cognitive effects."

Yes, and many of these studies focus on low-income families or families with limited resources of other sorts (limited English; a single parent with two jobs so little time with the child, etc.). A child who gets little language exposure at home, little time with his or her parents, and watches TV is in a very different situation than a child with (say) an at-home parent who talks constantly, who is read books before every nap and bedtime, and who watches a little TV now and then.

That AAP recommendation actively annoys me because it makes such a sweeping generalization based on such limited data, and takes a hard line that's been interpreted to the point of hysteria. Not that my kid watches TV yet (I don't even have cable, so I wouldn't have any kid-appropriate TV anyway), but I got called out as a bad parent for watching Olympic skiing while breastfeeding him! Ridiculousness. (I've had friends who were rebuked for entertaining their kid in a long line by lighting up the screen of their phone and letting it go out and lighting it up and letting it go out, much to the child's delight ... because that's apparently "screen time." Crazy.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:51 PM on February 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee, you think that there's only "limited data" and that these studies don't control for socioeconomic status?

As a person who has read hundreds of these studies and understands the stats and the methods involved, I can assure you that all of these other factors like the ones that you list are controlled for.
posted by k8t at 8:58 PM on February 22, 2010


PS, Eyebrows, I'm not trying to imply that you don't understand the stats and the methods. And I completely agree that the AAP recs are way too hysterical, as are the tales that you tell of breastfeeding and friends entertaining kids with their phones... and you're completely right that SES is a major factor in a lot of the earlier studies about negative effects of TV on kids.

BUT, there is evidence that there are negative effects more generally. (Also, everyone that I know that studies kids/babies and media limits their screen time. That means something to me.) And finally, I find that as a new(ish) parent, it is easier for us to try to take a hardline personally with our son so that we make our best effort to limit screen time. So perhaps we're a little extreme in our own home.

Anyway, I wanted to add that to my last comment.
posted by k8t at 9:05 PM on February 22, 2010


I'd like to see some hard evidence that this actually has some impact on an adult's imaginative capacity. I realize that the plural of anecdote is not data, but I've known plenty of other creative adults who had a similar love for existing media as children.

I think it's important to remember the developmental stage we're talking about here -- under 2 years. Babies' brains grow and change so much over that time period, it's just really easy to see TV having a completely different effect on a baby than it does on a child. This kind of comes off in the same way as "I don't see why you shouldn't feed your new baby plain old cow's milk; I drank milk all the time as a kid."

It seems to me that the AAP's statement and research on the topic is at least prima facie evidence that it's a good idea to turn off the TV when your 10-month-old is distracted by it.
posted by palliser at 9:06 PM on February 22, 2010


I'm really nervous that it could cause ADD or autism or something else I've not discovered.

So, before my son's autism was diagnosed, when he was a baby, we watched the Baby Einstein videos. We had about a dozen of them.

He was fascinated by the videos. I mean, it was really freaky. Baby tranquilizer. I'm ashamed to say that we definitely used them as a parenting crutch. His favorite was Baby Neptune, and to this day, he loves watching and playing with running water of all kinds.

Years later, I think about them, and his reaction to them. Was my son fascinated by the videos, to the point where they played a part in his delayed development? Or was he autistic first, and because of his pre-existing condition, he was naturally tuned into them?

The latter, I think. His non-disabled, 99th-percentile-on-every-measure, fireball of a younger brother didn't react in nearly the same way to any sort of television. He didn't like Baby Einstein at all.

I wouldn't worry about TV causing autism. Thought, I think TV could cause all sorts of other problems, when, like anything, it's taken to an extreme. Relax. Be a good parent. You already know how.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:31 PM on February 22, 2010


Cool Papa Bell, a lot of research speculates that kids on the spectrum (and ADD kids) are more tuned into the high levels of stimulation from TV, so you're probably right in your belief that he was tuned in.
posted by k8t at 9:36 PM on February 22, 2010


If you want to watch TV, try limiting it to shows you can watch on your laptop so that baby can't watch the screen.

It really is depressing to see a 2-year-old who doesn't want to go outside or talk to you because the TV is so much better.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:29 PM on February 22, 2010


Your baby should not watch TV.

Within reason, a couple hours a week, it doesn't matter - but by not letting your baby watch TV you can establish a different set of habits (for both of you) that will likely be more rewarding. Things like interacting and finding ways to keep occupied and interested when the parents need a moment of peace and quiet.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:54 PM on February 22, 2010


Can you get a DVR and watch when he's asleep or entirely occupied in another location?

It seems that would solve your whole problem (other than keeping programming to what you can reasonably watch during that time).
posted by batmonkey at 1:46 AM on February 23, 2010


This article has some insights about background tv.

My son watches tv, more than I'd like sometimes, but our policy is when he starts getting obsessive and demanding about something he gets cut off from it. (He just turned two.)
posted by wallaby at 3:01 AM on February 23, 2010


This kind of comes off in the same way as "I don't see why you shouldn't feed your new baby plain old cow's milk; I drank milk all the time as a kid."

It seems to me that the AAP's statement and research on the topic is at least prima facie evidence that it's a good idea to turn off the TV when your 10-month-old is distracted by it.


It's no different from "the kids I know who watch TV are [essentially] unimaginative brats." Anecdote is anecdote. But if we're not worried about what children who watch TV will end up like as adults, then what are we worried about?

Eyebrows McGee and k8t highlight some of the limits with this study. A couple of hours of limited screen time a week--particularly if it's not used as a substitute for human interaction (IE, children watch with their parents) won't hurt the kidlet.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:19 AM on February 23, 2010


It's no different from "the kids I know who watch TV are [essentially] unimaginative brats." Anecdote is anecdote.

What I was saying is that one anecdote (if jamaro was talking about kids she knows who've been watching since before age 2) is at least relevant, whereas yours -- your memory of being a child, which you can't have meant when you were 10 months old -- is irrelevant, given the difference in brain development between a baby and a child. Acceptable TV-watching habits at age 7 don't mean anything to what should be done with a 10-month-old, just like acceptable eating habits at age 7 don't mean anything to what should be done with a 10-month-old.

The AAP recommends a limit of up to an hour a day at age 2, so as you can see, this research and these recommendations are heavily age-dependent.

Nothing has been said here, and no one has linked to any research, that answers the research on the side of not letting babies watch TV. The objection to the research -- that SES would affect the data -- was rejected as not fully understanding what researchers do when they analyze this data.
posted by palliser at 6:13 AM on February 23, 2010


Sorry for the follow-on: It seems to me that the objection to TV in a child -- that it will stunt their imagination and replace creative play with derivative play -- is completely different from the objection to TV in a baby. With a baby, it's almost a potential mechanical problem -- that the fast-developing baby's brain will latch on to these images in a way that sort of confuses it and makes it grow differently. It just doesn't seem to me that we can dismiss the potential problem here by saying that it's only a couple of hours, that the parents talk to the baby about what's on TV, etc. Those seem like great ways of treating TV with a child. But if we're talking about the possibility that the images affect the baby's brain, when they're staring at them, it seems to me best left to the folks who study these things for a living, rather than the common sense "everything in moderation" mantra that works for a lot of other parenting dilemmas (including TV for the 2-and-over set).
posted by palliser at 6:19 AM on February 23, 2010


We have a 10 month old daughter and have decided to largely keep her away from TV. Originally it was based soley on the AAP's recommendation, but watching how much of a trance she goes into freaks me out a little. And moreover, it's easy for me to see how quickly TV would become a crutch.

The trick is just to have a "TV off when she's in the room" rule. It can be a challenge but is a pretty easy way to go about it.

This isn't to say she never watches TV -- just last night we watched some Olympics together to calm her down after a crying fit -- it's just that it's a rare treat.

But you know what? Everyone makes different parenting choices, and that's ok. Raising a kid is hard enough without beating yourself up over every little thing.
posted by bitterpants at 6:28 AM on February 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


It seems to me that the objection to TV in a child -- that it will stunt their imagination and replace creative play with derivative play -- is completely different from the objection to TV in a baby.

That might be so--but jamaro's reference was, it seems, to school-aged children as well. As for your objections that I couldn't possibly know how much television I watched as a child/toddler, this is mostly something I've grokked through conversations with the adults who were there (IE, my mother) and records of the time--baby books. It seems odd and inconsistent to dismiss one sort of anecdote--anecdotes that don't support one's argument--but to allow others.

Anyway, it looks like the book recommended by Alison offers an interesting counterpoint to the AAP's guidelines--and a more reasonable counterpoint at that, asking parents to consider context, content, and child in making media decisions. It also sounds like these guidelines are more realistic: I've known parents who were dead-set on exposing their kids to no television at all in a child's infancy, but by the second year were using the TV as a babysitter. Moderate and reasonable use overall would be preferable in my mind. But maybe that's just me.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:58 AM on February 23, 2010


It seems to me that the objection to TV in a child -- that it will stunt their imagination and replace creative play with derivative play -- is completely different from the objection to TV in a baby

And yes, I agree that this is a different objection, but it's one that was raised here and seems relevant and worthwhile to address.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:59 AM on February 23, 2010


Got it, sorry for misunderstanding your point.
posted by palliser at 8:12 AM on February 23, 2010


A few more thoughts--

When is your daughter's bedtime? Our daughter is down-and-out by 8 p.m. at the latest, leaving us plenty of time for TV viewing and other grown-up activities. Even at 17 months, it's always the same problem--the minute the TV goes on, she stops playing/running/talking and becomes entranced. Now, she interacts with the TV a little more than she did as a tiny baby (saying hi to the people on TV, identifying things that she sees and knows--cars, animals, etc), but it still seems too passive compared to her usual play.

I think that using TV for parenting emergencies is a great idea (kid or parent is sick, parent needs to make important phone call, etc), but I think it's probably best to get in the habit of having it off while your daughter is awake. Or, maybe the non-watching parent can hang out with baby in another room, or maybe watching parent can watch online if possible.
posted by tk at 8:20 AM on February 23, 2010


I'd like to see some hard evidence that this actually has some impact on an adult's imaginative capacity.

This is not at all what I was trying to represent in my anecdote about the TV watching kids (and for clarity's sake: these are kids who live in homes where the TV is always on as opposed to kids whose screen time is limited but not completely banished).

But if we're not worried about what children who watch TV will end up like as adults, then what are we worried about?

Because 18 years of childhood is a painfully long time to spent with anyone who is more interested in images on a screen than family and friends. This applies to parents, too.
posted by jamaro at 9:21 AM on February 23, 2010


People learn from their environment. When you introduce teevee, you're giving a television producer the job of teaching and socializing your child. The time you're spending watching teevee is time you're spending not directly interacting with your child. So, choose what you're going to watch with your child carefully, and limit the amount of teevee time. I enjoyed watching Sesame Street with my child, and we loved Shining Time Station with the Jukebox Band and Ringo Starr. We taped shows for those emergencies when having the teevee was a blessing.

Kids who don't watch teevee are usually more physically active, do better in school, have more time for sports, music, and play. There's very little documented benefit from teevee. So, make conscious decisions abut it, and you might as well start now.
posted by theora55 at 11:01 AM on February 23, 2010


nthing limited access to TV watching. If I ever have kids I plan to severely restrict their TV viewing habits, preferably none until they're at least 3. Having said that I clearly don't know what it's like for new parents who need a break so maybe I'll be saying otherwise later on.

If you are letting your kid watch TV, I would be very careful about the shows I let them watch. I used to edit a preschooler TV program and the emphasis was on relatively fast cutting and squeaky voices, loud sound and overly bright colours. I've read a few articles about how watching this sort of TV means you are less likely to absorb information as you are to be distracted and hypnotised for the duration of the program. Wish I could remember the links to some of them. Anyway, I would be very wary of giving a TV producer the job of teaching and socialising your kid, as Theora55 says. More often that not education is less important than the marketing potential. I mean I love Yo Gabba Gabba as much as the next guy but the excess of colour and whizz poppery is just too much.
posted by mooza at 2:41 PM on February 23, 2010


I marked a few "best answers" but, really, everyone's replies are exactly what I wanted to read. Great thread, and thanks!
posted by zardoz at 10:05 PM on February 23, 2010


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