Sesame Street is turning 40--and still NOT for the very young
“Mommy, who is that talking to Elmo?”
“That’s Sarah Jessica Parker, honey, you know, from Sex and the... Oh, right. You are 3. You don’t care who she is.”
That’s what I thought when I read that “Sesame Street” is celebrating its 40th--yes, 40th--anniversary Tuesday.
The show first aired Nov. 10, 1969, on public television with an episode about Big Bird’s decision to move away from Sesame Street, and was in many ways revolutionary for television, presenting a racially mixed harmonious neighborhood and designed to help underprivileged kids with basic literacy.
It evolved over the years and began showcasing famous guest stars, some of whom are returning for this celebratory season, Parker included.
I’m guessing most kids won’t have any idea who she is--unless that is, they remember enjoying her guest appearance on the DVD “Sesame Beginnings-Moving Together,” one in a series of videos for babies and toddlers. (“Laugh along with Baby Big Bird when he falls over his big feet as he learns to take ‘baby steps.’ Run around like you have ants in your pants just like Baby Cookie Monster!” says the description of the product on Amazon.com.)
My real problem isn’t Sarah Jessica Parker. It’s the audience, or rather, the youngest of the audience, the kids who are 2 and younger, who are put in front of a television screen by parents who somehow think they are giving their kids a good educational experience by watching the much honored Sesame Street.
The issue here is not whether the fast pace of Sesame Street contributes to a lack of focus in young kids, an inability to stick with a narrative longer than about seven seconds, a need for instant gratification. (I have suspicions but don’t know.)
It is more basic: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids younger than two should not watch television. Period. Not even super adorable Elmo (to whose charms I am not immune; I love it when he tap dances.)
Here’s the academy’s official recommendation:
“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. “
When the “Sesame Beginnings” series was released, targeting babies and toddlers, in 2006, some of the best known pediatricians in the country blasted the enterprise, a Post story reported. They included the famous T. Berry Brazelton, who said then that “I absolutely support” the academy’s recommendation, adding that allowing youngsters near a media screen was “too expensive for them physically as well as psychologically."
But parents had been putting kids younger than 2 in front of the TV set to watch Sesame Street for years already.
As the award-winning show enters its fifth decade, let’s remember who it is for and who it is not for.
| November 6, 2009; 10:29 PM ET
Categories: Early Childhood | Tags: Sesame Street, early childhood development
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