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Why I Love TV, But Not For My Baby

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Angela Chee: We've heard the warnings before, "TV is bad for babies." For the last decade, the American Academy of Pediatrics has advised against any TV for children under 3, some even warn that TV exposure has been associated with attention problems, obesity and sleep problems.

woman watching tv

Who wants that for our children? So when I heard that, off with the TV. Which was hard, because I love TV.

I work in television. Before I had a baby, it was my daily companion, on every morning even if it was just in the background. Even as a child, I couldn't wait for Saturday morning cartoons. But now as a mom, the rule in my house is no TV if the baby is around. Hypocritical, I know.

This is hard to pull off. Sometimes I just turn it on for a few minutes and my baby is drawn to it like a magnet ... he's riveted by the flashing screen. Then the guilt sets in. So for his own good, I turn it off -- reluctantly.

And what about all those "educational" videos? I have some in my closet that I'm tempted to open. Do they work? Some moms swear by them. In our quest to make our babies smarter are we being brainwashed by marketing? The answer may be yes.

According to a new study published in this month's journal Pediatrics you are probably wasting your money, but the good news -- TV may not be "that" bad. Harvard researchers studied 872 children on a regular basis from birth up to age 3. The study shows that the children who watched educational TV were no more adept in vocabulary or visual and motor ability tests than those who had not.

So the bottom line, the study showed these videos may not make our babies smarter, but a little TV is also not detrimental.

So I know, it's not an excuse to use the magical flashing box as a babysitter, but maybe I'll start to lighten up a bit.

next: Does Anesthesia Lead to Learning Disabilities?
9 comments so far | Post a comment now
Theresa March 24, 2009, 3:27 PM

I don’t think that you’re a hypocrite. My hub works in the video game industry, but we have strict rules about those. I will say this though—by choosing the right shows and using TV/Video in moderation, you can help your kid’s advancement. HOWEVER, this has to be done in tandem with your own teaching and nurturing. So go ahead—lighten up a little. Just don’t let your TV become the neglect-o-matic.

Kristen March 24, 2009, 3:36 PM

I think it’s great that you have made this choice for your child. We made the same choice when our daughter was born and have never looked backed. We have even taken it a step further now and we got rid of our cable and now my husband and I are so productive and we do so much more as a family. We do have a netflix account and we get something 1 day a week and wow do my kids LOVE that day and they LEARN something from it.

Bethe March 24, 2009, 4:49 PM

This is a really important issue. According to the Keiser Family Foundation, American children are spending 6.4 hours a day in front of electronic screens. It’s better to nip the habit in the bud before it starts…

- Bethe

Robert Kesten March 24, 2009, 5:19 PM

Before you ease up too much look at the December study from the National Institutes of Health 28 year overview of screen-times impact. As much as you might like TV, I am certain that you can find other things to do with that wonderful son of yours that will be better for both of you. In fact, if you put the TV in a more out of the way space, you won’t miss it so much either.

ame i. March 24, 2009, 5:49 PM

I watched tv when my daughters were infants. They were too busy nursing to notice. I admit the fact that neither really had the opportunity to watch tv or videos until they were 2 or so (and then, only rarely) was because I didn’t want to watch Barney or the Teletubbies.
At 9 and 11, they don’t watch tv during the week but enjoy a video or two on the weekends.
As far as video games, they each got a handheld a couple of years ago for longer car trips. They are still in the car.
We did buy a Wii last Christmas, but they only play on weekends.
I “catch” them reading often. We still read together in the evenings and they enjoy listening to audio books to help them fall asleep.

Robert Kesten March 24, 2009, 6:06 PM

Don’t forget to join us for TURNOFF WEEK, a great way to celebrate the things that are important in your life…the people you love.

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Ju March 24, 2009, 7:04 PM

I grew up with a TV in my room, my own cable box and such and didn’t grow up to be a veg-head zombie. I’m intelligent, have a good job, take college courses (I’m 8 away from a BS in Computer Science), a wonderful husband and a bright sparkle of a daughter.
I learned how to speak English by watching Looney Tunes and Disney, they kept my attention where lessons wouldn’t have interested me at 5yrs old. My daughter goes to a Korean daycare so to balance out the constant Korean, we had Disney on for the English. Now, she’s well balanced at 2.5 and interrupts my homework for some Mommy and Me time when one of her fave shows has finished. We read books, draw, sing, play and bond.
There have been alot of times she would only get interested when the music would play, then go to her room and play with one of her edutainment toys. It’s also been helpful with her memory, she’ll see a commercial for a show once, then sees it a second time the next day and will know what the show is called. I’m lucky if I remember what color underwear I’m wearing.
TV/DVDs can be a great tool as long as you balance it with interacting with your child. Playhouse Disney shows for the most part (at least in Asia) are interactive and we’ll play with the characters. She knows her ABC’s, counts to 20 (to 10 in Korean), sings … maybe my daughter is just one of the lucky ones.

Rachel March 24, 2009, 10:45 PM

Good lord. TV is not the devil. Everything in moderation people. You don’t need to have the TV off 24/7 in order for your child to grow up and be okay. So ridiculous.

ls March 25, 2009, 10:47 AM

Why is it hypocritical? Your young child is not a mini-adult; many things you choose to do are not appropriate or OK for him. Coffee, wine, staying up late…and so on. It is perfectly OK to be the grown-up and have your child wait until he is older.

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