Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Watch Out For That TV!

I've been meaning to write about this for awhile.  I once reposted an article on Facebook on this topic and received tons of interesting responses.  I hope this post can stir up the same type of discussion!

So, you all know about The American Academy of Pediatrics most recent recommendations about television watching in toddlers/babies?  If not, check it out here.  Let me give you a summary.  The AAP suggests that toddlers under the age of 2 should not be watching television.  Period.  No Sesame Street, Barney, or Yo Gabba Gabba.  They even suggest that adults turn off the background television.  You know, the news that's on during dinner? Your favorite sitcom that plays in the background while the baby's getting some tummy time? Just keep the tv off, they recommend.

This recommendation is not unfounded.  Research has shown that there is no educational benefit to television for babies.  Even programming that claims to teach babies to talk or some other basic skill is basically worthless.  In fact, it actually may hinder language development because babies need live models (i.e. mommy and daddy talking to them) in order to learn to talk.  The AAP report estimates that for every hour a child under 2 spends in front of a screen, he or she spends about 50 minutes less interacting with a parent, and about 10 percent less time in creative play.  And, you probably know how much I think play is important.  For babies in daycare, who aren't able to interact much with their parents during the week anyway, it seems all the more important to forgo tv time.

Even before hearing this most recent recommendation, my hubby and I decided to limit Jr.'s television intake until the age of three.  My professional experience has convinced me that the fast-moving images associated with many television programs contribute to attention problems.  The constant bombardment of stimuli can create difficulty to sustain attention to less stimulating activities (such as learning to read, write, etc.).  Plus, we knew Jr. would be in daycare and we wanted to be sure to make our time as a family the best "quality time" possible.  When my hubby and I shared our stance during my pregnancy, we received many of those strange "wait and see" looks.  

I totally understand the parents who need to have the tv entertain their toddler while they shower or make an important phone call.   It can be a life-saver, especially for single parents and stay-at-home moms.  And, it probably will have little impact on their child's development when used minimally.  I've even heard from friends that there really are some cute, appropriate, and entertaining shows for young children.  Unfortunately, the children that are probably most negatively impacted by tv watching at such a young age are the economically disadvantaged and families with few resources.  Many of my clients, for instance, in low-income urban schools, report watching hours of television each night, and programming I would never recommend for children (thrillers and highly inappropriate comedies).  I don't want to seem judgmental toward these families.  But, I do worry about the difficulties high amounts of screen time can create.

How are we doing on limiting Jr.'s screen time?  I would say fairly well.  We don't ever sit him in front of children's programming, but we do often have on background television.  I NEED my Good Morning America on during breakfast!   But, honestly, I've been pretty proud of our success in sticking to our goal in this area. 

One confession.  I did let Jr. watch this video today.  He gave Cookie Monster one little giggle and then ran off.  I think it's wonderful!

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