Boo for the Boob Tube

Before you can ask, let me tell you:  No, the boy does not want to watch TV.

Yesterday, I took on a new housecleaning client.  I was pretty excited because not only was Mr. Man okay with me bringing the boy, but there would be a toddler friend for him to play with.  That means not only a new playmate for J, but also no baby proofing necessary.  Neat.

Within five minutes of me arriving, the roommate began to repeatedly ask me if I would like her to turn on some cartoons for J. She kept making comments  about it (in her fake french accent mixed with baby talk, which is a whole ‘nother rant) and offering to put in a movie for him.  I was like, “He’s not even one.  He doesn’t watch TV.”

It wasn’t until the two year old came home that I began to understand why the roommate was so determined that J would need to watch TV.  As soon as the girl walked in the house, the TVs came on.  That’s right, plural.  The TV in the livingroom was turned on to Dora, the kitchen TV was something Nickelodeon, and in her bedroom was a constant stream of Disney movies. 

Let me repeat.  The TV in her bedroom.  

Is it just me, or is it just a  little ridiculous that a two year old has a TV (and DVD player) in her room?  Even more ridiculous is the four hours she spent in there, laying on the floor with her bottle, watching that TV.  Her bookshelves in her room are stacked high with movies, not books.  During lunch, her high chair was moved to sit in front of the livingroom TV.  I don’t think there was a moment that little girl wasn’t plugged in.

Now, I admit, I am pretty anti-TV in general, and always have been.  I don’t even understand adults that have a TV in every room, so I guess the kid/TV thing is a little beyond me.  Growing up, I remember watching a couple of shows (Garfield and the Smurfs, namely), but overall I chose to play outside or in my room over watching television.  As an adult, I find myself irritated by most of what’s on TV–and don’t even get me started on commercials.  I do enjoy vegging out once in a while and I love watching movies, but overall, I would just rather it stay off.

But when it comes to kids–especially my kid–I’m more than just a little anti-TV, I’m downright adamant.  There’s too much information out there on the negative impact TV watching has on kids, especially for kids under three.  It has been linked not only to increased aggression and obesity, but also to problems with attention and memory.  According an article I read, a study done by the University of Washington showed that three year olds who watched two hours of television a day had a 20%  increase in attention problems later on, and that chance goes up 10% for every hour watched.  That’s a pretty big deal, especially when you think about the increase in the number of children being diagnosed with ADD, learning disabilities, and behavior problems.  There’s even some question as to whether watching television has a negative impact on toddler’s  language and speech development.  It’s no wonder the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly discourages any TV viewing for children under two.

“But it’s educational.”  While I have to agree that somehow, watching Sesame Street or Dora the Explorer has got to be better than a kid watching something like Power Rangers (is that even a show?  What is on these days?) or adult-themed shows, I think the basic point is that there’s so much more a toddler can be doing with their time.  What happened to playing blocks, going to the park, reading books?  They learn by interacting with their world (and the people in it), and I don’t think they can do that while glued to a TV show.  Even just having it on “for background noise” not only provides them with way too much of the wrong kind of stimulation, it also teaches them that they must some sort of noise going on all the time.  (And this bags the question of whether or not children under three are even capable of learning from what they watch on TV.  While educational programs have shown some benefit for preschool aged children, there seems to be a general consensus that children under three do not learn from TV.)

Before you get mad at me, I am not saying that if you let your kids watch TV, you’re a horrible parent.  I understand that sometimes, zoning out to a TV show is the perfect way to unwind.  Sometimes popping in a movie not only brings you a few minutes of much-needed peace, but it can be a family event that brings you closer  as well.  I am just saying that people need to be smart about their kid’s TV habits, and be  aware of the impact it can have on their development.  Balance TV time with other activities.

And for Pete’s sake, keep the TV out of their bedroom.


3 Responses to “Boo for the Boob Tube”

  1. 1 Katie September 11, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Lovely writing here girl! I had no idea you were so good with words!

    I am pro tv myself. but this is strictly for me and my family. My sugarhead watches, really, a lot of tv. Almost all of it is educational, but grammy did expose her to Spongebob. I watch almost all of it with her, and interact with her about what’s going on, so that it isn’t just her getting her brain sucked out while I do other things all day. She self regulates pretty well, and when she stops watching to play or wants to go outside, we turn it off. Also, we have tivo, which means she watches pre-recorded shows and we fast forward through all that pesky gratuitous cross-marketing. It’s good.

    That said, a two-year-old who is surrounded by video media, all with different shows on, is a recipe for add and obesity, I totally agree on that point. That is using television as childcare, and NOT OK!

  2. 2 pinklilybit September 11, 2009 at 7:39 pm

    I am in agreement with katie, its all about what you watch, and how you watch it. You know, I am 100% pro TV because 1) when it was just me and her and she couldn’t talk, i needed SOMETHING to cut the silence and you can only read “Everybody Poops” so many times and 2) My kiddo was speaking some french and spanish and sign at the age of 1.5 because of baby Einstein, she is still one of the smartest kids in her preschool, despite my TV saturation. and 3) it shuts her up for 5 minutes so i can use the bathroom in peace.

    I agree with you too poodle, too many TV’s, too much saturation, not enough time outside or holding a conversation can be detrimental to a kid, and letting them watch adult programming (as I had to learn after Lily started repeating stuff from Family Guy at school) is never a good idea. But I also know that at J’s age she watched Sesame Street and Dora and Wonderpets almost everyday and becuase she has parents that interact with her (well…parent) and give her other things to do, she is imaginative and smart and relatively well adjusted despite my best efforts to screw her up (see my blog for examples) I’m not being defensive, just giving my point of view, when we have the camper van, we’ll get a portable DVD player (a GOD SEND on long car trips) and carefully select and monitor what, and how long, they watch. I love that you are blogging!

  3. 3 mamajade September 11, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    I appreciate the feedback! Like I said, I understand that part of the reason why I am so completely against TV for J (as much as possible) is because I personally don’t enjoy it all that much.

    I also agree with Katie… I think that *interaction* is the key. If you’re watching a show with your wee one and discussing it with them and whatnot, then it becomes more of a learning experience. It will increase vocabulary, help with social skills, etc etc. (Actually, in several of the articles I read about how children under two do not learn from TV, the one of the main reasons the researchers are thinking is because children that young need the interaction and feedback from someone in order to learn. It was actually quite fascinating from a psychology standpoint, but I won’t really get into that.) And for older kids, I have always had the attitude that if you *talk* to your kid about what they are seeing/hearing/reading, those experiences become much more valuable (and it gives you a chance to work through some of the negative influences). I think the trouble comes from the TV=babysitter attitude.

    And at the same time, I realize that we cannot be *constantly* interacting with our children, babbling through everything they watch and do. I don’t even think that’s healthy. Kids also need to learn how to have their own time to play/think/relax.

    But forgive me for still grumbling about TV. Seriously, when did I become one of those people shaking their heads and going, “Kids these days.”

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