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Television for Geniuses or Dummies?

Baby Einstein, Brainy Baby, Baby TV, BabyFirst TV, Sesame Beginnings. The shows aim to make parents of the under-2 set think that their children will learn, be geniuses even, by watching. Yet, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children younger than 2 (and has for eight years).

Parents don't seem to agree based on the fact that these shows keep proliferating, reports The Post's Annys Shin. According to Kaiser Family Foundation's 2006 report on media in young children's lives, 43 percent of children younger than 2 watch television daily and an additional 17 percent watch TV several times per week. That number jumps to 66 percent when looking at children ages 6 months to 6 years who watch TV daily.

Clearly, millions of parents don't believe that television harms their children. It's an easy babysitter for a parent in need of a shower or time to cook a meal. It ends a tantrum in seconds. Plus, research has shown that Sesame Street even benefits children over the age of 2 who watch it regularly.

So, where's the disconnect? How much is the TV on in your house and why?

Today's Talker: Teens Can Multitask, But at What Cost? ... My Boys Like Toy Guns. What's Wrong With That?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  February 26, 2007; 6:45 AM ET  | Category:  Babies , Preschoolers
Previous: The Debate: Homework | Next: Living with Autism


I am the first to admit my kid watches too much TV. She did not watch till age 1. Then we got some promotional VHS tapes with her Fisher Price Little People sets. She started watching those first. They are short 25 minute tapes broken down into 5-5 minute shows. They are gentle and sweet. By age 2 she was a veteran TV goer. We own countless DVDs and VHS tapes. She only watches sprout network and Baby First TV. We just recently got Baby First TV. Now at three, she actually picks up a lot from TV. She recites colors, numbers, and acts out whole scenes on TV. To be honest, I would love to have a no TV household but that ain't going to happen. DD is already in developmentally delayed preschool but I have to say it isn't from watching TV. If anything, now at three, TV encourages language. I would say if you are going to turn on TV, then at least monitor how much and what they watch. Thank God for a no TV day care and preschool. But my brother's kids watched so much TV it was mind boggeling. Now his oldest is in an honors program at ODU and his younger sister is on tons of AP classes. It clearly doesn't hurt them.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 26, 2007 7:17 AM | Report abuse

I think it's much less clear-cut than people want to think -- either your child is a TV watching schlub or he's Einstein. I know that my kids actually have no time to watch TV now that they're in elementary school and they have homework and music lessons and sports and the chores I make them do. At this point, they probably get cartoons once a week for about an hour and maybe an hour of America's funniest video's on Sunday night. that's it.
They watched more when they were toddlers, mostly when the weather was bad, I was pregnant and exhausted, their dad was deployed and we had no family nearby.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't think early TV watching is habit forming and addictive. It won't ruin them for life. I actually worry MUCH more about the sex/violence/nudity, etc. that older kids (elementary school aged) are being exposed to if they get lots of unsupervised TV viewing -- and not about what's going to happen if a preschooler gets an extra hour of Barney.

Posted by: Armchair mom | February 26, 2007 7:30 AM | Report abuse

I used to watch tons of t.v. as a kid, and I also did as an adult until my daughter was born 2.5 years ago. I'd like for her to watch less than I do, but I don't feel like it's detrimental for her to watch it sometimes.

She started watching when she was a year old. We accidentally discovered a show that she really enjoyed (Between the Lions, on PBS) and for a long time we were in a routine where she'd watch it at most once a day (30 mins) and sometimes not every day.

Lately she's gotten interested in some other shows also (namely Sesame Street and the old Muppet Show episodes on DVD).

I just don't have a problem with letting her watch t.v. an hour a day when she clearly enjoys it so much and is learning from it. And she does learn - she learns the stories from Lions, and the songs from all these shows, and she loves talking about them.

I think what's really important to remember when talking about t.v. for such little kids is that the parent needs to make the choices for them, and needs to make good choices. There's a lot of crap on t.v. but I think shows have positive messages and a learning component are fine, particularly when you sit and watch them with your child. (We love Muppet Show but I try not to do too much since it can be a bit confusing to her - much of it is really geared to older kids and adults - but we watch it together and with limits. I think the other shows - Lions and Sesame Street - are really better for this age group.)

I also think it's important for the parents to be in control of when kids watch and not just leave the t.v. on or watch whatever comes on. We put the shows we like on video tape so we can watch them when it's convenient for us, and also when it's appropriate. We don't watch a show just because it's on - we watch a show as a reward for getting through a long day and if we're behaving.

Posted by: Vienna Mom | February 26, 2007 7:37 AM | Report abuse

My older son started watching Baby Einstein videos before he turned 1. He 'graduated' to 'wiggles videos' by age two, as well as the teletubbies... He loved them. Only for an hour maybe two a day it was his time to zone after an active day. Honestly, all was right with the world.

Then we moved to a house that had Cable TV. It was at this point we noticed a serious problem, in that he began to CRAVE things he saw advertised on the shows. He also began to NEED to watch TV in ways he'd never had watching only PBS/videos of shows we had complete control over (although he still never watches more than two hours a day).

As for his development? Given he taught himself the rudiments of division last summer, and is currently being tutored (as a kindergardener) at a third grade level in math I don't think it affected his ability to think at all...

In summary: I don't think the medium is evil, and carefully selected and video tapes gave (our son, at least) some chance to zone in a way that would have been difficult other wise... But I'm convinced that commercial TV, however is the devil.

Posted by: patrick | February 26, 2007 8:00 AM | Report abuse

I don't think tv is as bad as the pundits say. My kid sings some of the catchy songs from various shows: eg the handwashing song from Barney. Learning fun songs is a great side benefit of tv. Yesterday he got addicted to Ernie's D song from the old (1970s) Sesame Street: you know the one that goes D D D D D Doggie, D D Dangerous Draaaagon, etc. That's a great song!!!!
And what about Bert's awesome W song. It's an area where I can connect wiht my toddler, because I loved those songs and still do.

Posted by: m | February 26, 2007 8:03 AM | Report abuse

We got rid of the TV over a decade ago. Without TV, my three girls have enough time to play with friends, read extra books for fun, practice their instrument, get their homework done, and also participate in other activities (sports, school clubs, etc.)

Posted by: VA Mom | February 26, 2007 8:16 AM | Report abuse

I'm not much of a tv watcher, in fact lived without one for 10 years as an adult, including the first 3 years I had my older daughter. We inherited a tv, and I bought a dvd/vcr combo, but its all in the basement so we don't get any channels. My 8 year old likes to watch TV, and will sit for the entire three hours of Sound of Music if there's nothing else to do. My 5 year old likes tv also, but she quickly begins playing downstairs, and doesn't give her full attention to the TV. But both enjoy many other creative pursuits, and I usually encourage them to get involved with other activities, rather than let them disappear into the basement to watch tv. I save sending them down into the basement to watch tv for when I need a little peace and quiet!

Posted by: single mother by choice | February 26, 2007 8:17 AM | Report abuse

Help! My 4 year old is out of control.

Yesterday I noticed he was giggling over the television program he was watching. Kinda cute to hear a little kid laughing, except it was the cartoon Tom & Jerry he was watching.

After the show was over, he threw a beany baby at his older brother. Then the little one took off, squealing with delight, running in a circle through the kitchen, living room, and dining room as his older brother chased him around the house.

When he gets caught, he gets clobbered. Thats part of the fun. The little one will cry a little bit, and the older one will tell him not to do it again or he will suffer the same fate.

There is a moment of peace.

Then it starts all over again. And again, and again and again. Just like Tom & Jerry.

When I took them outside to build a snowman, I kept getting pegged by snowballs. I'm such an easy target, but when I start packing a snowball, I noticed the boys get awefully quiet. If I can get them to giggle or make a noise then "Bap"! Daddy scores!

I'm glad there is a television show that motivates my boys to be active.

Posted by: Father of 4 | February 26, 2007 8:17 AM | Report abuse

I'm not against t.v. but now that my kids are older, I'm better at this mom thing and they have more activities they watch almost no t.v. I have found that at 4 and 6, the less they watch the better they behave and vice versa. I also have more concern now that they are older and the content is switching from sharing and singing to more violence (boys) and appearance and boys (girls). They really don't seem to miss it much.

Posted by: moxiemom | February 26, 2007 8:20 AM | Report abuse

There's so much out there about how TV is bad for kids, but what about adults? I don't know about the children, but I believe that TV is bad for you, the grown-up. I know people say it's a stress reducer, but there are plenty of studies that show people are less frantic when they stop "relaxing" with television. There are better things that do actually re-focus your brain: I once knew a woman who colored (in coloring books) when she came home from her very hard job (nurse's aid). Read a book (or the newspaper) or try just sitting on the couch without the tv on, you'll be amazed how much faster you'll recharge. It's especially bad if you watch the evening news which just makes people more paranoid about their neighborhoods without giving you much useful information. Just watch the weather channel and scan the newspaper, you'll be fine without knowing who was shot yesterday. I'd say turn the tv off for your own sake.

Posted by: running | February 26, 2007 8:21 AM | Report abuse

Fo4 - I'd always rather my kids watch the old school Tom and Jerry, Flintstones, Bugs Bunny stuff than that innane garbage on the cartoon network. My kids also adore Pee Wee's Playhouse - bonus, its entertaining for me too!

Posted by: moxiemom | February 26, 2007 8:23 AM | Report abuse

We let our kids watch maybe two, half-hour no commercial shows a day. There are exceptions, and some times they're allowed to watch a movie or longer show (like Sesame Street). I just don't think it's that big of a deal. Both started watching when they were around one year old. I absolutely limit their commercial watching, and the TV is almost never on when they're awake unless they're watching it or we're checking the weather. It's a house rule. We have TIVO so we can record programs that they can watch whenever and we're not tied to a schedule. Interestingly, I feel that my husband and I watch LESS television as the kids get older. Right now, it's pretty much the Daily Show and the Office and the odd movie here and there.

Also, we will never, ever allow our children to have a TV in their rooms. It just ain't gonna happen.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | February 26, 2007 8:45 AM | Report abuse

I do believe TV is bad for younger kids; their brains are wired to learn by manipulating physical objects and I think that the two-dimensional, quick changing pace of (much) television may impact on their development, especially if it takes the place of other kinds of play.

Having said that though, over the winter I have been watching a half hour to an hour of dvds (Signing Time, and occasionally Mr. Rogers or Sesame Street) with my son (18 mo) most weekdays. And he does love them, which is a little scary. :) We don't have broadcast television - we live where air reception is poor and we don't have cable.

I decided that, like junk food, media is present in our lives and it's just as well to have a little bit of balance about it rather than trying to control it completely (and making it forbidden fruit). While that relates more to a slightly older child than my son I'm ok with the balance we have right now - a bit of tv during the witching hour.

Posted by: Shandra | February 26, 2007 8:51 AM | Report abuse

Moxiemom, my favorite TV show is American Idol. In fact, it's the only show I watch. I'm very pleased that a TV show that encourages people to sing, draws talent from the common person, and is family friendly is also the hottest show in the United States.

I especially appreciate me being able to announce, "Let's do the dishes, straiten up the living room, brush / floss teeth... and then we'll watch American Idol!" POOF, everything gets done like I had wishes handed to me from a genie.

Posted by: Father of 4 | February 26, 2007 8:59 AM | Report abuse

The weird thing for me is how different my kids' interests are. I was very anti-TV before I had my daughter, but then she ended up being so mommymommymommy all the time that I would have LOVED for her to watch just one cartoon so I could shower in peace. But she was just never interested -- at 2 1/2, I got her up to 15 mins. of Elmo; at 4, a half-hr of Dora. The real world and real people are just too exciting to her.

My son was completely the opposite. Again, no TV at home, but my sister-in-law introduced him to Baby Mozart, and the boy was transfixed. Then it was Laurie Berkner. Then Elmo. He loves standing, enraptured, watching a flickering screen more than anything else.

Him, I worry about turning into a total couch potato. My daughter, not so much.

But I also think I need to handle it in moderation. My mom had very strict limits on my TV watching, so I always felt kind of out of it and excluded at school when everyone else would be talking about Captain Chesapeake or (later) General Hospital. So when I got out on my own, I went to the other extreme, and spent way too much time just clicking through the channels, to the exclusion of almost all other interests and hobbies. Good thing I met my husband -- he helped me get up out of that rut. Because boy, does that make for a boring person and life. To this day, I still feel stressed unless I can get an hour of TV at night -- but at least with my Replay, I can make it something I'm actually interested in.

Posted by: Laura | February 26, 2007 9:08 AM | Report abuse

We have never had a problem with TV watching - neither of my kids became TV hounds even though we never restricted it. They would much rather be outside (all weather kids) and playing with a friend. Now that they are school they probably watch an hour or so each evening. My son might watch a show in the morning before kindergarten - it all depends.

We never got into Baby Einstein. Watched Wiggles a bit. Seems like good old Sponge Bob is on 24/7 so my kids catch that and Drake and Josh after dinner. Oh - and bad mother that I am - I let them watch the beginning of American Idol.

I don't know too many kids that are addicted to TV. One family comes to mind - each kid had a TV in their bedroom - they had 8 TV's total and they were never off. The kids slept with them on and their house looked like it was putting on a light show through the windows late at night.

Lastly, watch out when your kids get older if you ban TV. My cousin didn't have cable growing up - 1 tv in the house. Her TV watching was totally restricted and when she got old enough to spend the night at other kids houses all she wanted to do was watch TV. She is 25 and a certified TV addict now. Moderation might have helped her curb her TV appetite.

Posted by: cmac | February 26, 2007 9:20 AM | Report abuse

My oldest son started watching Sesame Street when he was 1 (never showed much interest in the TV prior to that age). I honestly think that the show helped him with his ABCs and with his counting. Before he was 18 months, he knew the alphabet and could count to 20. Yeah, we read to him and played counting games with him, too, but I think the songs and music from Sesame Street really brought it home for him.

Thank goodness for DVR. We would record Sesame Street every day so that there'd always be an episode on when WE wanted to watch. I don't think he watched anything else until he was nearly 2 (popped in some admittedly less educational Muppet Show videos, but we liked the songs). Now he's into Dora and Diego.

And even though he's 3 and a half now, we still watch TV with him. I don't like leaving him alone to watch because I don't want TV to be a totally passive thing for him. That's one of the reasons I will never (yes, I know people roll their eyes when parents of little kids say "never," but I mean it!) let him have a TV in his own room. I always freak out a little bit when I read statistics that say something like one-quarter of 2-to-5-year-olds have a TV in their bedrooms.

TV was a shared family experience in my household(s) growing up, and I want that for my kids, too.

Posted by: yet another lawyer | February 26, 2007 9:21 AM | Report abuse

I'm not convinced TV is detrimental -- a lot of the PBS programs especially are instructive. My son is 18 months, and he isn't interested in TV yet. I have an Elmo ABC video I've put in from time to time when he's sick, and he pays no attention to it. He's much more interested in turning the TV on and off! We rarely have the TV on when he's up, so that might be why he doesn't show much interest. My greater concern about programming that targets such young babies is that the habit of sitting rather than playing and being active could contribute to the obesity epidemic. Perhaps not, but it can't help to encourage inactivity.

Posted by: writing mommy | February 26, 2007 9:42 AM | Report abuse

I grew up watching plenty of TV, playing video games, never going outside, seeing violent movies, and doing all those things that the overprotective PC crowd says is "bad for you."

I also had parents that taught me right from wrong, encouraged creativity, demanded academic excellence (college was never an option, it was a requirement) and would review what I watched and discussed sensitive topics with me in a logical manner.

The worst things about TV are parents not paying attention to what their kids watch, and all the commercials aimed at children. I don't know if I would want my (hypothetical) children watching TV today, b/c the children shows seem to be more insipid and the advertising is out of control.

Give me old school Reading Rainbow anyday...

Posted by: Xrys | February 26, 2007 9:57 AM | Report abuse

I grew up in a household with restricted TV access. My dad had RULES!!! We did sneak to the neighbors' houses during elementary school years to watch cartoons, but we mainly played outside. Before our daughter was born, we gave away our TV. We keep a 2" handheld TV for when my husband really needs it and we watch movies on the computer. We don't miss it much. Maybe when my daughter gets older we will want to put her in front of videos to buy some peace, but so far it's more fun to play with her and she is learning to entertain herself for longer periods (she's 11 months old).

My husband and I are biologists (he's a neurobiologist) and the latest papers on flat image-watching and its effect on a baby or toddler's neurodevelopment are pretty alarming. Of course there is no 1:1 correlation, but why increase risk of ADHD? There was also an interesting, but less scientifically rigorous study that found a correlation between increased TV watching and higher rates of autism. For me, never a giant fan of TV anyway, it was an easy thing to give up.

Posted by: MaryB | February 26, 2007 10:05 AM | Report abuse

If you read the AAP report on TV - the question is not about value of what is being shown or whether the children will become couch potatoes, it is about the learning process of young brains, They recommend no TV under the age of 2 because their neurons are not capable of processing the information they see at such quick speeds. There is a noted link between tv watching under the age of 2 and ADD/ADHD disorders. Because I come from a family with a proclivity towards these disorders genetically, my husband and I have decided that we will not allow our daughter to watch TV until after the age of 2. Just seems safer, given what we know and have experienced. I'm ADD and anything I can do to limit her chances to go through the same experiences I went through, I will do. Sure, will she be behind others at age 2 when it comes to knowing all the hot songs and cool shows? Yes. Does it matter? No. Will I be playing music for her, singing to her, reading to her, playing with her in the meantime? Yes. Do I think she won't have language or math capabilities because she didn't watch TV for the first 24 months of her life? No. I think she'll be just fine. Most of us grew up without a TV on during the day or 24-7 and most of us are just fine. Do we get a lot of heat from family and friends about not letting her watch TV (she's 5 mos old)? Yes. But, personally, I'd rather listen to the recommendations of a bunch of doctors than a bunch of marketing executives when it comes to my child's long term mental health and educational abilities. And we're going to stick to our guns no matter how much we get laughed at for the decision.

Posted by: momo1 | February 26, 2007 10:07 AM | Report abuse

I am a stay at home Mom with two young children and I am an advocate of PBSKids TV and Baby Einstein. My children have never seen the news or any other adult programming but they are growing up with Baby Einstein - not to make them genuises but because it is so well done and they enjoy it. My children also play inside and out, love books,take local trips, do art, etc. If I am sick and having them watch a good dose of TV would help they lose interest after just a few shows.

I have come across a few parents who do not allow their chidren to watch TV or just an hour and in one conversation the Mom was so exhausted trying to keep her child entertained - a few hours of TV may have done a lot better for her own mental health.

We are also sticking with our 27 inch TV because we do not want a huge screen donning our walls - symbolizing how important TV must be to us on or off.

I read an article (I think from the Post) about 2 years ago that explored the reports that watching TV for kids is bad and the conclusion is that those reports focused on adult programming. It did not consider the strong advantage of todays children programming. And I clearly see that my children are learning from the TV and take advantage of some of the story lines to create their own creative play when the TV is not on.

I would love to see a study into how todays "educational" childrens programming actually effects children.

Posted by: Nmbaker | February 26, 2007 10:12 AM | Report abuse

MaryB, I wonder if you think you're being too restrictive? Lord knows I've been tempted to give away our TV or throw it out the window, but do you ever plan on having a tv? We had neighbors who didn't have a TV and I swear it was detrimental to them. That's all they wanted to do when they came to my house. One of the boys is in jail now and the other two have had a tough time with life. Not that not having tv growing up was to blame, but their parents (who were very educated folks) had this irrational fear of tv.

Posted by: NCMom | February 26, 2007 10:13 AM | Report abuse

No t.v. before 2, Eat 5 fruits and vegetables a day, no more than 20% unsaturated fats, exercise 30 minutes every day, take your calcium.... yadda, yadda, yadda. How many of us do all the stuff we are "supposed" to? Not many. I think we keep the information in mind and do the very best we can on any given day. I think a lot of people think that we can control our children's destiny if we make all the right choices (no brownies, manicures of haircoloring during pregnancy). It gives us the illusion of control in an out of control world. A lot of what children turn out to be good or bad is just dumb luck. Do the best you can and love 'em.

Posted by: moxiemom | February 26, 2007 10:19 AM | Report abuse


What's wrong with a manicure during pregnancy? My wife and I are trying to start a family, and that's a new "don't do this if you are pregnant" admonition that I've not seen before.

Posted by: John | February 26, 2007 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Hi NCMom - we'll I'm pretty skeptical that the lack of TV drove someone to a life of crime!

At this point I'm not sure if we'll get a TV again. Life has improved a whole lot since we punted the thing. My husband used to come home after a stressful day and veg in front of it. I grant you that he'll spend some of that time surfing the web now, but he spends more time with us and says he is happier.

I plan to let our daughter watch movies and shows on DVD when she is older. I have many children's favorites in my collection that I hope we will enjoy together.

Posted by: MaryB | February 26, 2007 10:22 AM | Report abuse

What's wrong with a manicure during pregnancy? My wife and I are trying to start a family, and that's a new "don't do this if you are pregnant" admonition that I've not seen before.

Posted by: John | February 26, 2007 10:21 AM

Not entirely sure John. I was really just mocking the "what to expect" book. I'm sure that there is someone out there who could argue that the fumes from the polish or remover could damage the fetus. I wanted to make a point about how out of control the whole thing is. Good luck with your pregnancy!

Posted by: moxiemom | February 26, 2007 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Our 6-year-old watches maybe 1 or 2 videos a month, and I can't remember the last time she watched a TV show. Between school, classes/activities, drawing, reading, family time, meals, sleeping, and playing with her friends, how would there be time for perfecting those invaluable sitting-and-viewing skills? The baby, almost 1, watches no TV. I'm sure he has no idea what a TV is.
I can't imagine that it would be terribly harmful to him, but I also can't imagine it being beneficial, when he could instead spend the time discovering new things in real life.

Posted by: dc | February 26, 2007 10:25 AM | Report abuse


That's the only thing I could come up with too (nail polish/remover), but I wasn't sure. I've looked through that book (What to Expect when Expecting) and had to put it down; way too many horror stories and "don't do this or you'll have a four headed baby" cautions in it for me. No one's pregnant yet, we're still trying, while at the same time staying optimistic that we'll get it right one of these months. Hopefully soon!

Posted by: John | February 26, 2007 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I grew up with my mom encouraging reading- ANYTHING- so I wound up loving sci-fi and fantasy, but as bad a rep as those have, it is better than growing up hating books, as many kids do- and they helped teach a sense of honor and doing the right thing, no matter what. She always took the time to teach me things, and encouraged me to watch Reading Rainbow, Mr. Wizard's World, and even cartoons like GI Joe, Transformers, Voltron, and He-Man. Why those cartoons? Well, they too encouraged doing good and trying to do the right thing no matter what odds. Not so bad. As people said- the stuff on the TV now is too PC and most certainly inane, and in treating kids like vegetables they often miss the chance to teach things a kid really IS ready to learn at a young age. Those who sought to dumb down TV to be safely educational have taken away far too much. There is no substitute to good parenting and teaching your kid they should always do the right thing, no matter what, and to look for it in TV today will just hurry the downfall of society.

Posted by: Chris | February 26, 2007 10:44 AM | Report abuse

My 1 1/2 year old watches the Baby Einsteins and the Classical Babys. The Baby Einsteins are getting worse as the series ages, fewer puppets and more animation. Snap up the Classical Babys before they go out of print - they're wonderful! Both are better than commercial TV, which is larded with ads.

Posted by: Tomcat | February 26, 2007 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I don't do "baby" tv. I have heard a lot of people rave about Baby Einstein, but I don't know what they see in them. The one I have is a bunch of puppets and baby toys moving around in time to music. Why is that so impressive?

I don't feel good about setting my baby up in front of the tv, but I don't mind letting an 18m+ toddler watch an age appropriate show-- bonus points for fun, not-annoying music.

We have tivo, so my kids rarely see commercials, but they have learned a TON from The Magic School Bus, Between the Lions, Cyberchase, Mythbusters, How it's Made, and some pre-screened shows from the history channel (not all in one day, of course!).

All things considered, I'd rather my kids watch Loony Toons than the stuff on the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon which have ten thousand related products, most of them over-priced and low quality. "Little Bear" seems to be the exception.

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | February 26, 2007 11:32 AM | Report abuse

"Baby Einstein, Brainy Baby, Baby TV, BabyFirst TV, Sesame Beginnings".

Come on people, these companies are just for the money with the excuse of providing "educational" services, they don't really care about your kids' well being. They are priming future generations to be the next cash cow for the TV industry. How about real parenting instead of cutting corners?

Posted by: Karl | February 26, 2007 11:44 AM | Report abuse

I'm disappointed at the lack of quality family t.v., that is, shows that the whole family can enjoy like Wonder Years, or Wild Kingdom, Happy Days - maybe I'm just old and nostalgic, but it seems that since its all about marketing everything is so stratified by age that beyond American Idol there isn't anything for the family. Sure I can watch Cheetah Girls with my daughter, but its completely written at the level of a 9 year old that there is nothing in it for me while the Wonder Years really had something for everyone. Am I missing something, just looking at the past through rose colored glasses? Is there stuff for families besides AI?

Posted by: moxiemom | February 26, 2007 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Animal Planet and NattyGeo offer a ton of family-appropriate and interesting shows. Modern Marvels on the History Channel has been the source of many good discussions at our house. Austin City Limits and Jeopardy are always fun. We watch Extreme Makeover - House edition - for a sense of perspective on how blessed we are. I think there's a lot on tv that's valuable and suitable for family-gathering viewing. If you have a DVR, you can always have a store-house of options, and at a time that's right for your family.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 26, 2007 11:50 AM | Report abuse

If you have a DVR, you can always have a store-house of options, and at a time that's right for your family.

Posted by: | February 26, 2007 11:50 AM

Thanks, we LOVE Modern Marvels, but sometimes we are just looking for something lighter like a family sitcom. Don't like Extreme Makeover for the consumerism it perpetuates and the idea that everything can be fixed with "stuff" (don't want the kids asking for the fridge with the t.v. in it) haha! Meercat Manor was too upsetting for me!!! I couldn't deal with the clifhangers, they anthropomorphized those little rodents to the hilt - I had to stop watching when Shakespeare got bitten and was wandering the desert on one leg!

Posted by: moxiemom | February 26, 2007 11:58 AM | Report abuse

At age 2 my son was obsessed, I MEAN OBSESSED with dolphins and whales. There is no way to fully appreciate whales in a book. There is almost no way to ever see whales in-person in the DC area (luckily we got on a good boat trip in Jersey). No, every night it was another episode of the BBC's "Blue Planet" series or edited clips of Free Willy or Flipper. No one has convinced me that they can accurately teach their kids about whale behavior from a static book. Kids need TV for certain things and I don't plan to handicap my kids.

Posted by: Bethesdan | February 26, 2007 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Moxiemom: Have you considered buying older series on DVD? I purchased season 1-6 of Road to Avonlea online. Each season was about $50. I also collected old VHS tapes of the baby sitters club. DD is only allowed to watch certain shows that I have approved. Personally, I was very disappointed in the Disney Channel. I expected better programming from a company devoted to family values. DD won't be allowed to watch those channels till she is in late elementary school. Not like the 4-6 year olds that watch that's so raven.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 26, 2007 12:08 PM | Report abuse

DD did not like Baby Einstein at all. She prefers stories with real people. But if your concerned about visual speed, then those baby shows are better. I would also argue so is the claymation LP videos. They don't move quite as quick. Now at 3, DD does like baby first TV. Or at least some of the stuff. But she likes it more like sesame street. She learns new words, numbers and colors. She really doesn't like Sesame Street. Maybe late three. But she is developmentally delayed. So her interests may not mirror a typical three year old.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 26, 2007 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I grew up without cable tv. We had two tvs in our house, one in the family room and one in my parent's room. My parents eventually divorced, and I remember always feeling uncomfortable with having two separate tvs in the house. I didn't like the family being separated for the evening. I'm not blaming my parents' divorce on the tv issue though.

I have an 18-month-old son. He doesn't watch tv (I say that with qualifiers). DH watches TV to relax a lot. Mostly news, the history channel, etc. I did have to put my foot down repeatedly when he started watching cop shows or forensic type shows when my son was around (he finally got that through his head -- that it wasn't appropriate!).

I would prefer that DH not watch any tv when our son is around, but that's not something he agrees with. So we just try to keep it "family friendly" or talking heads news, and if my son stares too long at the tv, I try to divert his attention. If he sits on his dad's lap, he may watch it for a while. It makes me uncomfortable. I still think he's too young, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, with their 2-year limit, should be respected more than it is (in our house too!).

Posted by: Rebecca | February 26, 2007 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Our 23-month old has been watching sesame street (and occasionally some other PBS shows like Clifford) since she was around 18 months. I used to be firmly in the "no tv till 2" group, but the constant screaming and crying every time I had to stop entertaining her was setting me over the edge. And I'm *so* glad for tv on the days when we're snowed in and can't leave the house! The early toddler years can be difficult, since the kids aren't old enough to keep themselves entertained for very long periods. On days when we have a lot of outside activities planned, the tv stays off.

Posted by: Reston | February 26, 2007 12:46 PM | Report abuse

For the folks with no television in the house, just keep in mind you might have trouble finding a baby sitter. I sat for a family without a t.v. exactly once. No way was I sitting in a dark house for 5 hours with no television!

Posted by: moxiemom | February 26, 2007 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Our toddler watches TV. Some would say he watches too much, but then again, he's bright, happy, active, loves to play with trains and our dog, loves to swim. Not exactly what you'd call a couch potato. Also, he's learned to snap (sort of) along with Mr. Rogers, he's learned classical music with Baby Einstein, he dances to songs on Thomas videos (not to mention Stevie Wonder performances), he loves Sesame Street, and he asks for hugs during a sad scene in the Lilo & Stitch movie. I can't say I dislike the effect TV has had on my boy.

Posted by: 23112 | February 26, 2007 12:56 PM | Report abuse

My daughter, 4, has not watched any network or cable TV at all. Occasionally, we will watch a video. She likes Bugs Bunny (I have the old cartoons on DVD). We may watch a video from the library from time to time (Elmo, Baby Einstein), and these are fine, but watching TV just doesn't compare to the fun she has playing with her toys and stuffed animals and making up stories. She has also been taking piano lessons since she turned 3 and loves to read her music books. So it's not that TV is necessarily so bad--there are just other things that are a whole lot better.

Posted by: Tim | February 26, 2007 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Moxie - good point on the babysitting with no TV!

Posted by: CMAC | February 26, 2007 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Oh, so that's what happened to little Shakespeare! Meerkat Manor is one of my favorite shows (I watch this with the kids, can't wait for next season), along with other Animal Plant shows. This is my son's favorite channel. Unfortunately, he's also getting into Cartoon Network (and Boomerang) and likes Playhouse Disney. My toddler girl likes Noggin and PBS Kids Sprout (we have satellite).

I keep their selection pared down, and my son is good about asking for a channel change when he finds something scary (mostly that's going to be on Animal Planet). The key for me is to keep the viewing of aggression to a minimum. I prefer for them to watch DVDs which I have selected.

Posted by: theoriginalmomof2 | February 26, 2007 1:08 PM | Report abuse

My 2 year old started watching a little tv at 18 months. It was not an everyday thing, more like once every week or two, she really did not seem to like it before that. First she liked a little bit of Elmo's World (she did not like the rest of Sesame Street), but she would pay attention for a few minutes and then play with other toys for most of the show (but get upset if it was turned off early). At about 22 months, we let her watch Blues Clues after I read about how it was designed to engage children, since then we have added Dora and The Backyardigans and she now loves tv. She gets to watch 1 show 3-4 times a week (she would watch for an hour or more everyday if it was up to her), she generally chooses the Backyardigans, but occasionally will choose one of the others, and she now likes the entire Sesame Street program. We also sing along with the music from her shows in the car every day. She is definitely not developmentally delayed because of it. I will say, however, that we do not let her watch more than 1 show at a time because too much does affect her temperment, and not in a good way.

Posted by: Jane | February 26, 2007 1:10 PM | Report abuse

A lot of the parents seem to be missing the original question, which focused on TV for kids under 2, not older kids.

We're the parents of 2 boys, one 2 1/2 and the other 6 mos. We made a concious decision to delay TV watching until 2 based on the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation.

We're not Luddites--we have a TV, and both boys were certainly exposed to some incidental football on Sundays. But we are very picky about what our older is allowed to watch: it's pretty much Blue's Clues (only the old ones with Steve, not the newer puerile ones with Joe) and the new "Upside Down Show", both of which air on Noggin. We would probably do some PBS if it were available to us, which it isn't due to weird local broadcast conditions.

But I would second an earlier comment about DVRs such as TiVo (we use an earlier ReplayTV which has fully automatic commercial skipping). Buying one of these is probably the best thing that any parent of a TV-watching kid can do, because it means that you are in control of what they watch and don't have to make compromises.

As far as those arguing for TV under 2: perhaps parents should think about the fact that kids under 2 still have major neural development going on. What you expose your kids to during this time is going to affect the way they see the world for the rest of their life. Maybe not all the effects are bad (e.g. better language skills), but isn't it better to be safe than sorry?

Also, particularly with 18 month and up set, I'm surprised that parents would ever choose an activity that keeps their kids passive. The best way to control the unbelievable amounts of energy that toddlers have is to let them run it off. You might buy yourself an hour of peace now, but you'll pay for it at bedtime, when they bounce around refusing to sleep.

That said, every parent has to make the choices that are best for their child. Sometimes compromises are necessary for the greater good. Our older one now watches TV every night because it was part of the reward structure we created to encourage him to accept the nebulizer he needs to treat his asthma.

Posted by: MarkGo | February 26, 2007 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Mark and momo1 hit the nail on the head. It is not about content or what the child is learning or not from watching TV before age 2; it is about nerological development. There are several studies showing a direct correlation between hours of TV and ADHD risk, and a more recent study is suggesting a possible link between early TV watching and autism.

note -- I'm not saying that TV "causes" either of these problems, so don't write back about how your baby started watching in utero and is now in a PhD program at Harvard. The studies suggest that children with a preexisting vulnerability can have that vulnerability triggered by watching flat screen electronics -- not that every child will have that result, or even that most will. But why take the risk? I guarantee that your child will pick up the content s/he needs for social interaction from other sources.

And, btw, I have never had a babysitter complain about lack of TV at my house or turn me down because of it.

Posted by: TV can wait | February 26, 2007 1:28 PM | Report abuse

"But why take the risk?"

Have we gotten to the point that t.v. watching is a risk? Who knew it was so "risky" to let my 18 month old watch JJ the Jet Plane. Children riding in cars are often killed. In fact it is the leading cause of death amongst children. We can't mitigate evey single threat that our children might face - we just can't.

T.V. is like many things in our lives. It can both enrich and entertain and it can diminish and damage. Moderation is the key to everything. Even too many tomatoes will give you a stomach ache.

Posted by: moxiemom | February 26, 2007 1:50 PM | Report abuse

moxiemom to the rescue yet again with a sensible view of parenting.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 26, 2007 1:55 PM | Report abuse

Swimming in a pool is a risk. Flying in a plane or riding in a car is a risk. Engaging a PMS-ing hippo is a risk. Using your blow dryer while you're in the bathtub is a risk. Watching a bit TV is not a risk. Let's be reasonable, here.

Posted by: Duh | February 26, 2007 1:56 PM | Report abuse

moxiemom to the rescue yet again with a sensible view of parenting.

Posted by: | February 26, 2007 01:55 PM

I don't know who you are, but I sure like the way you think! wink, wink.

Posted by: moxiemom | February 26, 2007 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Moxiemom: What shows does your daughter watch? I have heard there is great TV programs for the 0-4 year old crowd. And then some good programs for Middle to HS. But not very good in the middle. I really want to by pass toon Disney and Disney Channel shows. It seems like the characters on those shows are always brats.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 26, 2007 2:05 PM | Report abuse

foamgnome - she really likes Angelina Ballerina, Backyardigans, Little Bear (who is really sweet and gentle) and Wonder Pets. Most of them we watch On Demand so I think they are PBS or Noggin. Wonder Pets is really funny and fun. We also like some of the stuff on HBO Family like Archibald, Pingu and Fireman Sam. Pingu is fun because it has no language and it all interpreting visual clues. Good luck!

Posted by: moxiemom | February 26, 2007 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Did anyone read Jonathan Turley's Opinion piece today about playing with guns? People keep talking about "research" and I was pleasantly reminded (via Turley's research )that gun play does not lead to a life of crime.

I have to agree that watching TV is not a risk. I'd love to see more research besides the AAP. It just seems like today's parenting is full of over-reactions, Hurley gets into that in his peice as well. Same goes for sugar and candy - we know kids that aren't allowed to have a peice of candy - that is silly!

Posted by: CMAC | February 26, 2007 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Moxiemom. My DD likes Strawberry shortcake, Madeline, Fisher Price Little People, Dora, Veggie Tales, and Angelina Ballerina. We watch sprout and BAby first TV but we own a ton of DVDs too.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 26, 2007 2:28 PM | Report abuse

The AAP is primarily concerned with encouraging parents to get kids moving and getting more exercise. This agenda is not always transparent to parents.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 26, 2007 2:35 PM | Report abuse

As always it's not the thing itself which is the problem- it's using it appropriately in the right context and teaching kids character and values so they will make good choices for themselves.

Under 2? Since I'm not sure about studies, I'll just say that I don't think an hour or so a day is really going to change much either which way.

It's when they get older that it because a much bigger issue of "what kind?" and "how often?" I think, as usual, the idea of "all or nothing" is definitely a disservice to kids (basically it's like saying they either should be taught NO religion, or they must practice and believe in ALL of them).

TV, even fluffy pointless junk TV, can still be good if used well.

Posted by: Liz D | February 26, 2007 2:39 PM | Report abuse

My babysitter is a college student - she studies while she babysits and is fine with the no TV situation. We show her the DVD collection and computer every time and she never takes us up on it.

Posted by: MaryB | February 26, 2007 2:41 PM | Report abuse

The TV can injure or even kill your child:

The U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission ( CPSC) estimates that in 2005 at least 3,000 children younger than 5 were treated in U. S. hospitals emergency
rooms because of injuries associated with TV tip- overs. In addition, from 2000
through 2005, CPSC received reports of36 TV tip- over and 65 furniture tip- over
deaths. More than 80 percent of all these deaths involved young children.

Posted by: Father of 4 | February 26, 2007 2:42 PM | Report abuse

Maybe, just maybe, children are hazardous to televisions? You can fix the kid with a $20 copay (less if they are admitted) but the flat screen........that's gonna cost you!

Posted by: moxiemom | February 26, 2007 3:03 PM | Report abuse

All I know is that when my kids watch TV, their bodies and brains shut down. It's is as if they are in a trance, and you can't snap them out of it short of shutting the thing off. It scares me. Given how much brain development happens in those first 5 years, I don't know why anyone would want their kid to spend any significant time in this trance.

Also, I look at some of my kids friends who watch a lot of TV. They tend to watch / observe what's going on rather than actively participate.

Posted by: Liz | February 26, 2007 3:28 PM | Report abuse

If your children are not ignorant before watching TV, they surely will be ignorant after hours of ignorance on the Boob Tube sets in. My kids TV time was controlled and they did not have a TV in their bedrooms. Computers and TV in public places well before the internet. Interaction between parent and child is esential for a child's balanced growth and development. I take responsinbility for my children's failures and successes until they are adults.

Posted by: Patrick | February 26, 2007 3:42 PM | Report abuse

"I take responsinbility for my children's failures and successes until they are adults."

What a joke!

Posted by: Anonymous | February 26, 2007 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Hey, Patrick, come here often?

Posted by: Newbie Alert | February 26, 2007 4:08 PM | Report abuse

if you think keeping your kid from watching TV makes you a good parent, then so be it. It really has nothing to do with development. these shows and videos can really assist development. We still read lots of books together, but my 2 year old also loves to talk along with the videos.

Posted by: anonymous | February 26, 2007 4:34 PM | Report abuse

"I take responsinbility for my children's failures and successes until they are adults."

What a joke!

Posted by: | February 26, 2007 04:05 PM

Hey, at least the guy wants to take responsiblity. So many parents act like they aren't responsible for their kids. If someone teenager is going to crash into my car or break my mailbox, I sure hope its Patrick's kid as opposed to some of these other bozos who let their kids get away with everything. At least Patrick's kid might actually have to apologize and pay me for the damage.

Posted by: moxiemom | February 26, 2007 4:41 PM | Report abuse

5 Children - and no TV - never had one. Children happy and thriving - mommy not annoyed by TV shows. Children who are reading or even looking at books are MUCH quieter than the TV shows.

Side benefits - extremely long attention spans (per school reports and testing), extremely advanced reading levels.

Children form habits at very young ages - if you start them on TV, they will be stuck on outside stimuli forever.

Posted by: Amelia | February 26, 2007 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Momo1 says: *If you read the AAP report on TV - the question is not about value of what is being shown or whether the children will become couch potatoes, it is about the learning process of young brains, They recommend no TV under the age of 2 because their neurons are not capable of processing the information they see at such quick speeds.* I wonder where that leaves me. My nine-month-old boy watches no TV except Teletubbies, the British show, recorded once a day. It last 25 minutes with no ads. The thing is, the scenes are incredibly slow and repetitive. I seem to remember that the show was designed by child psychologists. I realise its aimed at kids slightly older than mine, but can it be so bad? Even Sesame Street has an adult pace and tempo, but Teletubbies seems qualititavely different. Did the AAP make no distinction between kids' and adults' shows? I find the TV convenient, but far from essential, and Id drop it like a hot potato if I really thought it were doing harm.

Posted by: OD | February 26, 2007 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Manicures during pregnancy - most nail polish brands in the US contain phthalates - chemicals banned in Europe because studies link them to birth defects in baby boys. Some brands are starting to phase phathalates out but that is only just beginning and the most popular nail salon brands still contain phthalates. Not to mention toulene, formaldehyde, etc.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 27, 2007 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Like MaryB, VAMom and some others, we ditched the TV before our first child was born. The total negatives outweighed the total positives. I don't think our daughters are missing anything significant by not watching TV.

Posted by: Robert in Austin | February 28, 2007 10:26 AM | Report abuse

The AAP likes to make these kind of recommendations based on no hard scientific data, but just hunches and opinions. A couple of observational papers can't tell the difference between cause and effect or mere meaningless correlations. The fact is that we live in a different era than say 50 years ago. Everybody, specially kids, are these days exposed to TV, computers and a wealth of information. Who's to say that in the end learning from TV or computers is not going to be better than books, for example. The fact that I grew up with more books than TV and no computer doesn't mean anything. It's just another example of "the old ways are better".

Posted by: ogs | February 28, 2007 12:11 PM | Report abuse

ogs - actually many of the recommendations are based on neurolgical studies with actual data, just like in science.

"It's new, so it must be better" is just as silly as "the old ways are better."

Posted by: Robert in Austin | February 28, 2007 4:23 PM | Report abuse

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