No TV ever?
January 5, 2006 2:19 AM   Subscribe

Should a baby ever watch videos or television?

I've been reading that the images shown on regular TV are hypnotic for a baby, but that all of the quick cuts are too much for her baby brain to process, leading to the development of a short attention span. Sound reasonable. But I've also been reading that "educational" videos like Baby Einstein, should also be avoided. In general, I agree that baby's should experience life directly not through a screen, but just how disciplined do I need to be with the tv? Sometimes when I'm playing with her I turn the news on behind her and she starts twisting around to catch a glimpse at the screen (she's 3.5 months). At this point my wife always switches off the box. Anyway Naima (my daughter) still prefers balloons. What do parents think on this issue? And what do other people do to stimulate children at this age (3.5m - 1 yr)? Any opinions about raising babies in general are welcome.

If you don't like babies, or think having children is "selfish" please don't comment
posted by sic to Education (49 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
We have two kids and four TVs. One or more of the TVs is on at a given time; always has been, always will be.

I think your wife is overreacting by turning off the TV if your daughter notices it. At this point, she's too young to know what she's seeing; she's reacting to sounds, or colors, or movement. At some point, you may want to start filtering your viewing for content, but not now.

I'm not an an advocate of strapping the baby in a bouncy seat and leaving her in front of the TV for hours at a time. But if having the TV on distracts her for a short time (say, while you're trying to take a shower), that's not a bad thing.

These are the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Pediatricians should recommend the following guidelines for parents:

* Limit children's total media time (with entertainment media) to no more than 1 to 2 hours of quality programming per day.
* Remove television sets from children's bedrooms.
* Discourage television viewing for children younger than 2 years, and encourage more interactive activities that will promote proper brain development, such as talking, playing, singing, and reading together.
* Monitor the shows children and adolescents are viewing. Most programs should be informational, educational, and nonviolent.
* View television programs along with children, and discuss the content. Two recent surveys involving a total of nearly 1500 parents found that less than half of parents reported always watching television with their children.5,47
* Use controversial programming as a stepping-off point to initiate discussions about family values, violence, sex and sexuality, and drugs.
* Use the videocassette recorder wisely to show or record high-quality, educational programming for children.
* Support efforts to establish comprehensive media-education programs in schools.
* Encourage alternative entertainment for children, including reading, athletics, hobbies, and creative play.

posted by SashaPT at 3:14 AM on January 5, 2006


Is Naima wearing a wig in that picture? Sure looks like it!

To stay on topic... I grew up on TV, and don't have a short atten... ooh, shiny!
posted by antifuse at 3:40 AM on January 5, 2006


Some people say it doesn't make one damned bit of difference. One of the "Dangerous Ideas" recently being discussed is "The idea of zero parental influence":
Is it dangerous to claim that parents have no power at all (other than genetic) to shape their child's personality, intelligence, or the way he or she behaves outside the family home? More to the point, is this claim false? Was I wrong when I proposed that parents' power to do these things by environmental means is zero, nada, zilch? [...]

And what has all this sacrifice and effort on the part of parents bought them? Zilch. There are no indications that children today are happier, more self-confident, less aggressive, or in better mental health than they were sixty years ago, when I was a child — when homes were run by and for adults, when physical punishment was used routinely, when fathers were generally unavailable, when praise was a rare and precious commodity, and when explicit expressions of parental love were reserved for the deathbed. [...]
posted by pracowity at 4:32 AM on January 5, 2006


Read to your baby.
Talk to your baby.
Cuddle him/her.

They're fascinated with life, and movement, and genuinely enjoy the closeness that can only be experienced between a baby and parent.

There's plenty of time for videos later. This event actually happened as I depicted it ... I couldn't believe it...
posted by jpburns at 4:42 AM on January 5, 2006


If you go for TV, get as much public broadcasting as you can. In fact, if possible, avoid advertising altogether. That's a good start.
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 4:44 AM on January 5, 2006


Remember that television came into our daily lives only decades ago. Babies grew up without it for thousands of years. Spare her from its influences as long as you can.
posted by Carol Anne at 4:55 AM on January 5, 2006


Just because TV is new doesn't make it bad. My youngest has spent the last year telling me about what she's seen on Noggin (Nickelodeon's preschool channel on cable). As a baby, she'd watch TV with us (while we were cuddling, playing, and doing all the other baby things). She's well adjusted, and when she first attended preschool, the instructors remarked on how her language skills were particularly advanced.

I can't attribute her advancement solely to TV -- we're very present parents. Being intimately familiar with the programming on Noggin (now), I can tell you that most of her complicated phrasing comes from pure mimicry of things like "Jack's Big Music Show".
posted by thanotopsis at 5:05 AM on January 5, 2006


TV was how I learnt English, amongst other things. In recent years it also became a springboard to a lot of amazing things in my life. (Granted, my case is rather unusual, but it shows that TV isn't all that bad.)

For that age, with supervision she should be fine. It's a good place to learn languages, for one (as long as it's on a good channel). But also add diversity to her activities - don't just let her sit in front of the TV all day long. (says this internetaholic)
posted by divabat at 5:16 AM on January 5, 2006


I don't have any children, but nearly all of my friends do. The majority of my friends with children do not have TV, or have one that is used rarely - only for movies or a PBS show every once in a while. While many of my cousins' children, and a few of my friends' watch TV daily. The difference in the behavior of the kids is amazing. Over the holidays I was really struck by the fact that the kids who lived in TV heavy homes barely interacted with people at all while kids with less exposure were far more ingaging, talking to and playing with the other adults and children in there home.

I don't think that a glimpse of the news is really going to do any harm, but there is little reason for a child to be watching TV regularly - the advice of jpburns is right on the mark.
posted by a22lamia at 5:43 AM on January 5, 2006


It's weird... I've made a living doing graphic design for television; I love it as a medium (quality issues aside...), but only own 1 TV. No TV in our daughter's room, none in ours.

When we watch, we watch together, and a reasonable amount.

(By the way, my daughter is just entering High School, and she's freaky bright... not that TV moderation had anything to do with that...)
posted by jpburns at 6:21 AM on January 5, 2006


I work at a non-profit educational organization with people who think about this kind of thing all the time, and a fair number of my co-workers with young children don't even have a TV in the house, much less allow them to watch TV unsupervised.
posted by Prospero at 6:26 AM on January 5, 2006


Just a clarification question, here: Are the people that disdain the use of TV (except, of course, for all holy PBS) the same people that don't have a car and bicycle to and from the bathroom? Just making sure I'm grousing at the same people each time. I like to be focused.
posted by thanotopsis at 6:28 AM on January 5, 2006


Again... I love television. Hey! I grew up with all the cool shows (the 60s) that they keep making movies of. I think it's swell... in moderation.

The question was about babies, though, and I can't recommend it for them.
posted by jpburns at 6:38 AM on January 5, 2006


TV and beer make baby something something.





We have no TV. We don't make it a big issue, but we love not having it, for us as much as for the sake of our child's development.
posted by Alt F4 at 6:39 AM on January 5, 2006


I think the fact that you are already concerned and struggling with the idea of television exposure says a lot about your caution. TV is something, like crap food, and missed bedtimes, that will be a part of most kids lives and that you will necessarily try to be careful with. I think there are portions of kid society that could watch TV anytime and still not have their attention spans and imaginations compromised, but there is more and more good research connecting TV with ADD, which I think just confirms what any doctor sees in practice.

As far as periodic exposure to your infant daughter, I can't imagine a problem. Our infants did the same thing and it freaked me out. Even more, were the gifts, like "Baby Einstein" that we received. But it's only natural. My only dogmatic bias is no TV in kids rooms. I think that's just tempting disaster. YMMV.
posted by docpops at 6:50 AM on January 5, 2006


Just to clarify - the poster seems to be asking about the effect of the baby seeing the TV inadvertently, not the rationale for allowing her to watch TV unfettered.
posted by docpops at 6:51 AM on January 5, 2006


Nope, I'm completely wrong. JPBurns is right on the mark. To which I'd add, get a baby bjorn-type carrier, and let her hang out in it whenever possible, while you're straightening up the house, carrying out the trash, talking on the phone, etc.
posted by docpops at 6:53 AM on January 5, 2006


There's good stuff on TV, but watching it has a very different effect on the brain from watching, say, a movie in a theater (not to mention actual life)—I've read scientific discussion of this but can't seem to google it up at the moment. Anyway, limit viewing as best you can. Higher levels of television viewing correlate with lowered academic performance, especially reading scores.
posted by languagehat at 6:56 AM on January 5, 2006


If you go for TV, get as much public broadcasting as you can. In fact, if possible, avoid advertising altogether.

Unfortunately, those are contradictory statements. PBS may not call them "commercials" but they still have Ronald McDonald running around with kids for thirty seconds before Sesame Street (to give one example).

Noggin is more commercial-free than PBS and has some excellent shows (and some less-than-excellent ones - definitely preview things first and see what works for you).

I ramble on a bit more about this topic in this thread, which you may find useful.

I avoided the Baby Einstein tapes because they were weird and had low production values.

As for other forms of stimulation, it is never too early to start reading/singing to your kid.
posted by mikepop at 7:02 AM on January 5, 2006


It seems to me like the recommendation that babies watching TV == short attention span is just speculation. I'd be more worried about it in the 2-6 timeframe, personally.

That said, better safe then sorry. Might as well turn off the TV if you don't feel comfortable with it. Not having TV never hurt anyone.
posted by delmoi at 7:12 AM on January 5, 2006


I don't really know how a glimpse of the news would affect a baby, though my instinct is it's not a big deal.

I love TV. I think it's great. I mean I really love to watch TV. And I think there's some great kids shows. I still stop on Sesame Street now and then and find it genuinely entertaining (except for that 20-minute all-Elmo segment--lord, it's long). I watched PBS like crazy as a kid and I really think it helped me learn to read earlier than other kids my age. I also like less intellectual channels.

I think in general, it makes the most sense to expose your kid to TV (and all kinds of media) in an amount that's in some way proportional to how much you use it. If you really like TV, and try not to hardly ever let her watch it, not only is that hypocritical but it also probably won't work. You'll either give up trying to keep her from it, or you'll succeed and she'll grow up thinking TV is some amazing grown-up priviledge she can't wait to get her eyes on. On the other hand, if you just don't watch that much TV--if you're TV's not on that much anyway, she won't be used to it being on and will probably be a more casual watcher just like you. If you feel like she should never watch, and you're willing/able to give it up, too, that's cool. But if you like to watch the news, why shouldn't she? Whatever your TV habits are, just go with it.
posted by lampoil at 7:15 AM on January 5, 2006


I heard the same thing as languagehat, that watching TV is harmful, regardless of what's on. And this is expecially so for younger children under the age of 2. I heard this from a pediatrician. It wasn't his own field of expertise, but I assume he has good sources on it. When he explained about "no TV ever for toddlers" my first question was "but doesn't it depend what they're watching?" and the answer was NO: it's the screen and the flickering images (that even happen when we see the image as not moving)
posted by easternblot at 7:18 AM on January 5, 2006


And then there's Boobah. Seriously, what about the Boobah?

My nine-month-old's watched maybe a dozen shows; they're the only TV she's ever watched. She seems to really love it--she laughs and jumps and giggles throughout the Boobah dances... hasn't quite figured out the Story People... seems to love Look What I Can Do, too.

Fwiw, I don't know if we're doing right or wrong letting her watch these occasionally, but they seem to bring her some amusement over the short-temr. However, as a first-time parent, I must admit that I think it's a little creepy how you don't have to "teach" kids to watch TV.
posted by RockyChrysler at 7:25 AM on January 5, 2006


sometimes when I'm playing with her I turn the news on behind her and she starts twisting around to catch a glimpse at the screen

Well, of course she does. There's a sound behind her that she doesn't normally hear in the house and she wants to find out what that noise is. Also, the pretty flashing lights are making interesting patterns on the wall behind you. Its shiny. Plus, its something you clearly don't want her to see, so it must be more interesting (although she's probably a little young for that).

So much is new to infants, and they need to check out all those new things, and make sense of them, make them part of their world.

Most kids/young adults I know who grew up in houses where TV was "forbidden" or "bad" or "special" can't take their eyes off the damn thing when it is on (say, in a restaurant or at a highway rest area). In a way, they're just like your infant daughter -- they have no experience with these crazy lights and sounds and just become mesmerized. I also tend to believe that most of these kids are actually more susceptible to messages through TV (like ads and the 'hidden' messages of the medium that their parents were so worried about) because they never have the chance to see it and think about it and process it. They have no experience with trying to discriminate the 'good' or 'interesting' from the 'bad' or 'uninteresting'. And make no mistake -- that's a learned skill.

We had friends over this past weekend who brought their kids along (ages 6 and 4). These friends have a TV-free household (which is fine). We were showing the adults a clip of something (fairly innocuous) that we had Tivo'd that came up as part of a discussion, and the kids were playing with toys in another part of our house. Just as soon as the TV came on, those kids both dropped what they were doing and came running ... running into the room to see what was going on. While we showed them the clip (it was a travel segment about a US city they are going to visit shortly that we thought they'd be interested in seeing, their kids quite literally stood immobile in the doorway, watching the TV, completely still and slightly open-mouthed. It was fairly creepy.

However, I know other kids who grew up in homes where moderate and sensible TV viewing was the norm. Where the TV was just an appliance that you used sometimes (and for some purposes) and not others -- just like the blender or the toaster oven ... maybe not something you used every day, or maybe something you used for a few minutes every day. Without exception, those kids have a much healthier relationship with TV. They can glance at it for a few minutes, make sense out of what they're seeing, decide if its interesting or important, and then look away (if its on in public) or turn it off.

So long as your wife continues to switch off the TV as soon as your daughter notices it, she will continue to be fascinated by it. You need to let those lights and sounds become normal for her. Its not, after all, like you're plunking her down in front of Fox News or MTV and leaving her there alone for hours to stare, Clockwork Orange style. Watching a bit of news is a normal part of your life, and so your daughter, too, needs to be able to get used to it being "normal" before she can stop being fascinated by it.

I get that part of your concern is her age. But, if your wife continues to switch off the TV at the moment she feels your daughter "notices" it, then my feeling is, no matter what her age, she is going to continue to be drawn to it when she sees it.

You're clearly good parents. Just keep on living your normal lives,and make your daughter part of every part of that life. Take her with you where you go, let her see every part of your life (the Bjorn thing is a great technique), and (at least for a while) keep her in the room with you while you're making dinner, hanging out, watching TV, reading, talking, laughing, sitting quietly -- doing all the things you normally do in your life and that will be more than enough stimulation for her. Read out loud, and talk to her all the time, and it will all be fine.
posted by anastasiav at 7:29 AM on January 5, 2006


Sometimes when I'm playing with her I turn the news on behind her and she starts twisting around to catch a glimpse at the screen (she's 3.5 months).

I think you are obsessing over this waaaaay too much. I agree that it is best to limit their TV, but background news? The big danger I see is that some parents use television as an electronic baby sitter rather than spend time with their babies.
posted by caddis at 7:32 AM on January 5, 2006


If you don't like babies, or think having children is "selfish" please don't comment

That's the weirdest request in relation to a question I've seen yet.
posted by agregoli at 7:41 AM on January 5, 2006


Agregoli: Then you've never asked a question about raising children anywhere on the Internet. The "anti-breeder" meme is incredibly virulent even in forums where it has no relevance. And don't even mention circumcision . . .

(And also: excellent answer, anastasiav, I totally agree.)

(And also: I know you can't win in AskMe, but thanotopsis wins.)
posted by The Bellman at 8:19 AM on January 5, 2006


My son just turned three. We periodically let him watch PBS, or Noggin, or movies. (Finding Nemo....dear lord, I've seen that movie way more times than I've ever wanted to.) I don't allow him to watch commercial TV at all though. Advertising aimed at kids is evil.

We recently had some of his skills evaluated, and he's testing much, much, much higher on the scale than most kids his age on things like reading, comprehension, numerical and math skills, physical prowess, etc. He tests out at first grade level at just barely 3.

So, my experience would lead me to believe that a few minutes of TV, or even a few hours of a movie, are unlikely to cause a problem.

We were like you guys in the beginning...if I noticed The Boy looking at the TV, I would just turn it off. That made it "forbidden fruit"...and forbidden fruit is always sweeter.

Once we set rules about what he could watch, and when...the TV became like the vacuum cleaner. Fun to pay with, but not anything super exciting. :)

As an aside, is it just me, or is Baby Einstein stuff just crap?
posted by dejah420 at 8:35 AM on January 5, 2006


Thanks for the interesting and thoughtful responses. Although I still am leaning toward heavy restriction (languagehat's link confirms what I've been reading), I do think that anastastiav's comment is dead on. There were extended periods of my life that I lived without a television and whenever I was around one I would be hypnotized, just like Naima. So I think total prohibition would be a mistake.

It may sound a bit weird, but one of my concerns is that if I "overprotect" her from things like television, it may contribute to her having a difficultly relating to her generation as she grows older. Let me explain. If we accept that language and communication are deeply affected by technology and also that we are only able to think within the framework of language, can we expect somebody who has little exposure to the dominant technologies of their generation to be able to communicate easily with their peers? This is an honest question.

Consider how internet, email, mobile phone text messages, etc. etc. is changing the way (especially) young people interact and communicate. Let me be clear about something: I love language and I don't like how it has been cheapened by some of these new technologies (text messages drive me up a wall), but on some level I sometimes think it would be a disservice to shield my child from what is obviously the evolution of language/communication.

Any thoughts?
posted by sic at 8:45 AM on January 5, 2006


agregoli, if you are uninterested in children, why do you read baby-related threads? If you are tempted to derail this awesome thread, I would ask you stop and consider what Askmetafilter is for and what it's not for. I would have emailed you directly, but you don't have an email included in your profile. If you want to answer me, please do so via email. Thanks.
posted by sic at 8:54 AM on January 5, 2006


Television is part of the culture and I don't think it is helpful to a child to over-protect them from a large part of the culture to which all of their peers will be exposed. Everything in moderation though.
posted by caddis at 8:58 AM on January 5, 2006


As an aside, is it just me, or is Baby Einstein stuff just crap?

No, when I first saw it I was truly, completely incredulous at how cheaply produced it was. I literally could not believe people would put their kid in front of it.
posted by docpops at 9:05 AM on January 5, 2006


If you don't like babies, or think having children is "selfish" please don't comment

That is kind of weird. What were you expecting anyway? Do you have guilt over having a child? Do you really think someone would want to bring that issue up in a thread about TV if you hadn't mentioned it? What makes you think agregoli is uninterested in children? Very odd.

posted by caddis at 9:06 AM on January 5, 2006


"When he explained about "no TV ever for toddlers" my first question was "but doesn't it depend what they're watching?" and the answer was NO: it's the screen and the flickering images (that even happen when we see the image as not moving)"

Does anyone have some sources for this? I can't imagine how this could be true, but that is more of a gut feeling.
posted by afu at 9:09 AM on January 5, 2006


Not long before our first child was born we were visiting friends who already had kids, one a little over a year old the other about three. We were happily chatting and the kids were playing in age appropriate ways, with the younger one crawling around, levering itself upright on furniture, stuffing toys in its mouth -- the general, explore your environment, show interest in everything mode that small ones go through. The older one was playing with Duplo or something of the sort.

The parents then mentioned that they had this wonderful video that the kids loved and put it on. It was one of those happy, singing things; not really my cup of tea, but what the hell if the kids like it? Then I noticed the difference in reaction between the two kids: the older one was watching it, but would sometimes sing along with the bits it liked, or turn to his parents and interact with them, look back at his toys and move about. Generally what you would expect, he liked it, he was interested in it, but it was just part of what was going on around him.

It was entirely different for the younger one. As soon as the music started and the pretty colors started flashing on the screen he stopped moving -- he effectively stood rooted to the spot, all other interests and concerns overwhelmed for the fifteen or twenty minutes of the video. His face was blank, his eyes staring -- he looked a bit like he was having his soul sucked out through his eyes in a sort of Speilbergian special effect. When the video was over he went back to being normal.

I have seen similar effects with other kids since, though not as dramatic. What I found strangely disturbing was that very little kids seem to stop being themselves while they watch, the sounds and flickering lights seem to almost hypnotize them. Kids even slightly older seem to process TV much like you would expect; it may be engrossing but it doesn't take over their entire consciousness, and as soon as they reach the first obsession with garbage trucks (or whatever) stage at around two or so, kids seem old enough to handle TV for what it is -- before that they just don't act normally with it.

This is of course anecdote not scientific study, but the effect was striking enough that I went from having no real opinion about showing our babies/infants TV to being strongly opposed. Catching a glimpse of something occasionally in passing isn't going to do any harm, but I wouldn't purposely subject a baby to something that had that weird an effect on it.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 9:11 AM on January 5, 2006


As for the "overprotection" thing, my experience is that you don't need to worry, kids manage just fine even if they don't watch all the same shows, collect the same Pokemon cards, or whatever, as all the other kids. Thoughtful, well read, creative children, may not be in the majority, but they actually have an advantage in most aspects of life, and it doesn't seem to hurt them socially either (unless they only wish to impress the bubble heads).

BUT, even if you do want to expose her to the same things as everybody else, there is huge difference in doing it at six months and six years. I'm all for wide exposure when a kid is old enough to handle it; I see no sense in the "if my kid doesn't start imbibing technology from day one all is lost" world view.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 9:25 AM on January 5, 2006


even if you do want to expose her to the same things as everybody else, there is huge difference in doing it at six months and six years. I'm all for wide exposure when a kid is old enough to handle it; I see no sense in the "if my kid doesn't start imbibing technology from day one all is lost" world view.

I agree, and they also don't need hours of it every day.
posted by caddis at 9:27 AM on January 5, 2006


Good point Quinbus.

caddis, you have mail.
posted by sic at 9:30 AM on January 5, 2006


I have found with my two children that during the first two years, too much TV makes them cranky. When very young, they may even just shut down: close their eyes and bury their head in my arm.

The real key, as with everything else, is moderation. The child needs to be taught how to use TV properly. The news is usually less flashy and noisy, so is probably less of a problem than, say, Saturday morning cartoons, but your child may have a lesser or greater tolerance for such things than mine.
posted by kc0dxh at 9:39 AM on January 5, 2006


My position, unencumbered by experience or knowledge (at least as far as young children are concerned) is that tv should be treated no different than any other 'product' consumed by humans. Much of it should have quality and weight, but some of it should be fun and pointless. When I see friends and acquaintances attempting to make sure everything in Baby's life is Educational and Artistic I am struck by the fact that there's still time in THEIR day for some gossip, a stupid joke, the funnies, pop music and any number of other bits of 'empty brain calories.'
posted by phearlez at 10:00 AM on January 5, 2006


The Bellman: ...The "anti-breeder" meme is incredibly virulent even in forums where it has no relevance. And don't even mention circumcision . . .

Never circumcise your baby with a television set! Even the little portable ones. I'm pretty sure any rabbi will agree.

Small kids and TV is one of those many areas that I firmly suspect is in the "depends on the kid" category. Some friends of mine have a now-five-year-old who grew up with an amount of "screen time" that'd make many parents who take the TV Neurological Menace to heart gibber in horror--and he's a bright, energetic, and all around great kid. (Well, he could be a ravening monster when I've not visited, I suppose. In which case, lots of early television has also made him a great actor.)

On the other hand, another pair of good friends has a three-year old who, when he gets more than a very minimal amount of screen time in a day, becomes pretty much a cranky nightmare to an extent that it made even me admit there's sometimes something to the anti-screen-exposure stance.

So there you go. A rousing definitive answer of "it depends." Glad to be of help!
posted by Drastic at 10:04 AM on January 5, 2006


alt F4: "go crazy homie?"

My tv-watching was heavily restricted as a child. I wasn't allowed to watch anything past 7pm, usually something that was on when my parents were kids, nothing more than 30 minutes, no news, and I couldn't watch the Simpsons because....... Bart said the word "butt". Obviously, by the first line of this comment, you can tell that I have seen at least one episode of the Simpsons since then, but that's because I have a lot to catch up on. See...

I'm smart. No, really - I am. I was in honors classes in school and was always the first one done with my work. You're probably saying, "Gee, thanks for bragging..." but the point is, up until about 5 years ago, I had no knowledge of pop culture. I wasn't allowed to watch anything other than Good Times or All in the Family (not knocking them - Good Times is still one of my favorite shows now), and couldn't watch anything other than Disney movies... and I was in my teens.

There is a huge hole in my knowledge "bank". I'm pretty book smart, but as for street smart, I'm still infantile. So pretty much anything that was going on in the nineties, I missed out on. My friends would talk about what they had seen the night before and that was my cue to tune them out and concentrate on homework.

Whenever "I love the Nineties" comes on, I find I'm glued to the set to find out what all I missed out on.

My professional advice is: don't take the tv away completely, because then your child will have no knowledge of current happenings and pop culture, and will be ridiculed because she's "The Girl that Can't Watch TV". I've heard of a lot of good suggestions here. Limit it to a certain amount of time a day, don't set Naima (i LOVE that name!) in front of it and walk off - sit down with her and watch it. And when she's old enough to understand, start giving her choices. If she's in your hair at some point, never tell her to go watch tv - tell her to go read a book, or go play outside (do they still have that thing called "outside"?).

Oh, and I still can't watch the news - only this time, it's by choice.
posted by damnjezebel at 10:30 AM on January 5, 2006


it may contribute to her having a difficultly relating to her generation as she grows older.

I doubt it. The experiences she and her generation have in common will dwarf minor idiosyncracies like not having watched as much TV. I speak from experience; I grew up abroad, where TV was not a big part of the scene in the '50s and early '60s, and thus missed out on some of the alleged "formative experiences" of my baby-boom cohort. (I did manage to catch the occasional Felix the Cat and later Smothers Brothers show, so I wasn't completely out of the loop.) But the overwhelming shared experiences of Eisenhower-era conformity combined with atom-bomb paranoia, Kennedy assassination, civil rights struggle, Vietnam, &c. forged a bond that is easily recognizable whenever any of us get together and bore the snot of the rest of you (whether we're reminiscing or arguing). In general, you and your household arrangements will probably have less influence on how your child grows up than you'd like to think. But you should do what you can to give her a good start, and to me that means limited (not forbidden) TV as well as good nutrition and education. If she's more literate and less distractible than most of her peers, surely that's not a bad thing.
posted by languagehat at 10:40 AM on January 5, 2006


what do other people do to stimulate children at this age (3.5m - 1 yr)?

A pile of blocks, some stacking cups, and a few cardboard boxes. What else really do you need? Under two years old (at least), it's easy to stimulate kids. Repetition and simplicity does not bore them... it's educational. You need to understand they're learning fundamentals here, and I do mean fundamentals. Things like permanence and the mere existence of spatial relationships. And base motor skills. There's a reason children can hear the exact same story again and again and never tire of it. You don't have to be fanatical about TV exposure (we're not with our son) but there's just so many better things to do with a kid than that.

As for Baby Einstein... ye gads. We have two books. One calls a cow (with udders) "he", and the other has 3 different names for the book (on the front cover, the back cover, and the spine). That should give some indication of their quality.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 11:46 AM on January 5, 2006


Friends and siblings of mine have children; I don't. I believe that sometimes a parent MUST take a daytime rest. A video is an effective way to occupy a child so the parent can recharge, or even go to the bathroom.

How bad can that really be? Of course reading or building with blocks or looking at clouds is better, if the kid's interested. But come on...

Some things are more important than making sure the little one NEVER watches TV.
posted by wryly at 12:14 PM on January 5, 2006


Some things are more important than making sure the little one NEVER watches TV.

Gee, I'm searching and searching to find somebody here who's said the little one should NEVER watch TV. Hmm... well, there's this:
If you feel like she should never watch, and you're willing/able to give it up, too, that's cool.
Doesn't exactly sound like a prohibition, though. Decision: straw man.

On the other hand, nobody else has suggested parking the kid in front of the TV so the parent can have "a daytime rest."
How bad can that really be?
Nobody here knows, but the rest of us are at least interested in the question.
posted by languagehat at 12:51 PM on January 5, 2006


Wow Quinbus, that's a fine bit of causal reductionism there.
As for the "overprotection" thing, my experience is that you don't need to worry, kids manage just fine even if they don't watch all the same shows, collect the same Pokemon cards, or whatever, as all the other kids. Thoughtful, well read, creative children, may not be in the majority, but they actually have an advantage in most aspects of life, and it doesn't seem to hurt them socially either (unless they only wish to impress the bubble heads).
So all children who don't collect Pokemon cards are thoughtful, well read, creative children? And the kids who do watch TV (I guess that would be the bubble heads) are destined for a life of flippin' burgers at McDonalds?

Both my boys have watched TV almost since birth, carefully managed TV, but TV nonetheless. Mainly The Wiggles, Pixar, Dora. I'm trying to keep my 5yr old from getting into Pokeman, I fear that's a losing battle though. The TV is not the end all be all. They watch it sometimes, and yes sometimes I take a shower and let them watch it.

My 5yr old is bright, articulate, and can read and write at a 2nd grade level (he's still in preschool).

The key here isn't TV, it's being an actively involved parent in your child's life. Take control, be the parent, if they watch TV, you decide what they're watching. If they want to watch something you don't want them to, for pete's sake, don't let them.

Go outside every day. Have lots of activities and crafts for your kids. The TV is fine, as is almost everything, in moderation.

As for all this mumbo jumbo about kids becoming drooling zombies while watching TV. I remember them drooling, but I don't think that was TV related.
posted by patrickje at 3:05 PM on January 5, 2006


Wow, damnjezebel! I'm in the exact same boat, except it was the 80's. I've never known anyone with this problem!
posted by starscream at 3:43 PM on January 5, 2006


patrickje, the causal reductionism seems to be mostly supplied by you, I don't think I ever suggested that sensible TV viewing precluded reading above grade level.

Some parents worry that if their children don't do exactly the same things as their peers they will have problems socially, but most such worries are overblown and unnecessary. Not all kids are popular or well adjusted, but I don't think it has much to do with their media consumption.

The "drooling zombie" child really behaved that way, though as far as I know he has grown up fine; your children may well have behaved differently in front of the TV. If you choose not to believe my account, that's up to you.

I'm happy your kids are so wonderful, you should be glad I gave you an opportunity to boast.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 3:57 PM on January 5, 2006


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