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.