Monday, March 2, 2009

Let Them Watch TV

Did you guys see these headlines today? TV May Do No Harm Or Good To Babies: Study

I don't usually talk about controversial stuff on my blog mainly because I don't have really strong opinions on many topics. Call me wishy-washy, but I can generally see issues from different sides. I would be horrible on a jury. I'd be the one holding up a verdict with my, "But I can see the defendant's point. Oh wait, the prosecution has a good point too! Then again, the defendant makes sense...."

Anyway, because I just got back from the Baby Einstein headquarters where I was introduced to a couple new products coming out (I'm going to have a giveaway for some awesome Baby Einstein products on my review blog soon, btw) these headlines caught my attention. This is one topic on which I do have a definite opinion.

Basically this study says nothing. It says that TV viewing (an average of an hour a day was spent viewing TV in this study) from children 2 and under does no harm. Still, headlines surrounding the study make it out to sound bad. Well, guess what! We moms don't need any more guilt. We have enough guilt over every other aspect of parenting. We don't need some researcher telling us that if we dare to put our child in front of a Baby Einstein video or an episode of Sesame Street or Blue's Clues, that we're damaging them for life. What's more detrimental to our child's well-being is if we are focusing 100% on them 24 hours a day. Sometimes mom needs a break! It ticks me off when some researcher tells me that I'm neglecting my child if I opt to put a video on for them while I take a shower or cook dinner or make a phone call.

And Baby Einstein videos seem to take an awful lot of bashing when it comes to this subject. Have you ever seen a Baby Einstein video? The soundtrack is classical music. The visuals are pictures of real-world objects; simple, large, slow-moving, brightly colored objects that your baby sees in your house and while out and about in their world. Yeah, that's crazy! That'll sure damage a kid for life, won't it - exposing them to classical music (because we all know how evil that is) is sure to stunt a child's learning. :::rolling eyes::: Puh-lease. When Julie Clark, a SAHM, started the Baby Einstein company 10 years ago, she called her videos, "Digital Board Books". She wanted to bring the arts and humanities to little children in a way that would be enjoyable on their level. She intended for parents to use these videos to relate to and share with their child. At the end of her videos, she even speaks to parents, telling them to talk to their children about what they're seeing on the TV. She encourages parents to interact with their child while watching the video together.

And really, let's face it, although we may watch these videos (and other children's television shows) with our children sometimes, other times, we just need the little break that comes from putting a video on for our kids while we hop in the shower. As long as you're not ignoring your child while they watch TV nonstop all day long; as long as you're reading to your child regularly; as long as your child gets up and outside for exercise regularly, then I say, put the video on! Let them watch! Let them have a break from you! Take a break from them! It does NOT mean you're a bad parent or a neglectful parent if you let your child watch TV. It does NOT mean that you don't love your kids if you let them watch TV. How are your children going to learn to play by themselves and use their imaginations, if you're next to them every minute of the day? How will they learn that the whole world does not revolve around them every minute of the day? Sometimes mom needs to take care of something other than the kiddos.

Heck, I learned half of what I know from Sesame Street! And if it weren't for TV, I wouldn't talk in Seinfeld and Friends and movie quotes! How boring! Moderation, my friends, moderation. And Baby Einstein? Give me a break! That was the first thing I let my kids watch! I love those videos! There is nothing wrong with them! Exposure to classical music can only do good things, so relax, you crazy non-TV watching fanatics!

OK, I'm off my soapbox. Ooooo, ooooo, ooooo!!!! I almost forgot! Check this out! There's an interview with me on CafeMom! Do you guys go to CafeMom? Check it out! It's a website that really has something for everyone! You'll love it! And you can read my interview HERE.

54 comments:

Anonymous said...

"As long as you're not ignoring your child while they watch TV nonstop all day long; as long as you're reading to your child regularly; as long as your child gets up and outside for exercise regularly, then I say, put the video on! Let them watch!"

I wholeheartedly agree with you! And you're so right, we don't need the guilt!

'cuz I'm the mommy, that's why! said...

Thanks Dawn! I too think that age-appropriate TV in moderation is fine for kids. My 2 year old is learning to count with Moose on Noggin. The PhDs working on these shows have a lot more ideas for capturing the attention of young minds than this overworked and sleep-deprived mommy. We watch together sometimes, and sometimes he watches alone. Thing is, I've noticed that he really is learning things and interacting with the programs, and let's face it, he can only put up with my crazy self for so long before he's going to melt down.
Ooh, my own soapbox...

Cindy said...

Dutch headline this morning: watching tv and playing videogames causes astma. My husband believed every word, so now we're back on the tv-discussion...ooooh, I'm getting so tired of these 'news' items. Newspaper on monday: Broccoli cures cancer. Newspaper on tuesday: too much broccoli causes cancer... That's when I gave up reading about health research news! LOL

amy said...

Dawn, that link takes me to the TV article... I love cafemom, but be careful it is highly addicting... looking foward to reading your interview! :)

Bethles said...

I think one of the main issues regarding children and TV watching is specifically for children under the age of two, as you mention. Also, I know many parents with very young infants or toddlers who plop them in front of a TV for hours a day and allow them to turn into zombies. There needs to be a balance! Obviously a few minutes of TV aren't going to ruin a child forever, but hours-on-end marathons are not going to help in the brain cell category.

Beth said...

Dawn! Way to go an have an opinion! You're good at it!

Oh, and also, that last link, possibly due to the late night hours you're keeping, doesn't really lead to the place you said it led to.

Would love to see that interview.

=)

Sila Lumenn said...

I agree with you. My daughter grew up on Teletubbies, Barney and Blues Clues and it hasn't caused any harm. In fact, I think it helped her develop her own inner genius as she is currently enrolled in the GT program at her school.

I love CafeMom! I probably belong to every recipe group they have. They've really expanded our menu. There seems to be some problem with your link, though. It's directing me to the Reuters story about the TV study.

Diana said...

Amen sistah! Thank you for this. I get double guilt whacked since I work full time and have two children. I believe that there is nothing wrong with putting a video on for the kiddos so I can get a shower. Otherwise they would be in the shower with me! Anyway, moderation is the key, as always isn't it?

Anonymous said...

I'm sure someone has commented on this by now, but the link to the interview is actually a link to the TV watching article.
Ditto to what you said about lwtting the kids watch tv :)

SeriousCat said...

Sesame Street, Playschool and various other shows like Thomas The Tank Engine were a godsend when my kids were little some almost 20 years ago, yes I used to watch the shows with them, but I knew that if I put Thomas or Teddy Ruxpin in the VCR I'd have time to do washing, cook meals, iron, clean up, have a shower, or heaven forbid, READ A BOOK. It's all about moderation, and I totally agree that Mothers of all types don't need any more guilt.

Esther (UK) said...

I totally agree, Dawn. I had three boys in less than two years and in our house there was two volumes: very high frequency, when they were running, playing and calling at the tops of their voices. Then there was the gentle sound of the TV backed up by silence. I didn't have it on all day, I monitored what they watched very closely, and here's what I managed to get done while they learnt lots of new information from the box: cooking, cleaning, bedroom tidying, laundry, paperwork, changing grotty beds...the list could go on and I'm pretty sure that my kids would have run a higher risk of being damaged in a household where all those jobs weren't taking place!

Now they are older (7 + 5) they don't need to be watched all the time so they watch a lot less TV and play a lot more.

Oh, and I can't get the link to your interview - it takes me to the Routers article instead (sorry if everybody has said that already!)

Nicole said...

Not only were the Baby Einstein videos wonderful for my kids when they were little (20 whole minutes to get something done!), but then if they were crying in the car all I had to do was pop in the CD and they were instantly content hearing the music. Loved it.

Anonymous said...

I agree! Of course, my 1 year old is watching "Little Einsteins" as we speak so that I can get a little caffeine in my system and face the day.

I always say that the researchers who make these recommendations clearly have not spent day after day as a stay-at-home parent. Because, who can keep up the level of attention they seem to demand for 16 hours a day, 7 days a week?
My kids and I would both be crazy!

Summer said...

i love this. i'm on my third kid (all at home with me everyday) and tried so hard with the first one to not have the tv on at all, and i still feel the guilt. but you're so right... i NEED a shower (for everyone else, if not me) and i NEED to make dinner and if they happen to learn how to count to ten, well, no harm done. :o)

Ilene Woods said...

If it were not for cartoons I would NEVER get a shower! Can anyone trust a 2 and 4 year old to play nice while they are in the shower? NO! There must be a distraction. And dinner would never be done on time or taste very good. Let others judge. They are usually people without kids (or friends).

Raechel said...

Oh man, it is SO REFRESHING to read this. I get so tired of the "you're mentally killing your child." I grew up watching and rewatching and rewatching the Little Mermaid and Peter Pan. As soon as I woke up the movies were put on and I probably watched them until bedtime.

Here? We keep the TV on a kid-friendly show all day. My daughter might spend five minutes watching TV every now and then but typically it just is good background music while she plays. And you know what? If she decides to curl up on the couch or in my lap for an hour and zone out to the Backyardigans, more power to her.

labdogs42 said...

I'm with you on this one for sure! I have never understood the "no tv" mantra anyway. My DS is now 4 and he has learned SO much from V and videos, it is amazing! I know more Spanish now than I ever did thanks to Handy Manny, Dora, and Diego! Now we're learning all kinds of fun things about science from Sid the Science kid. Anything that expands my child's horizons and makes him ask educated questions is fine with me! Glad to hear I'm not the only mommy out there who admits to letting the kiddos watch tv!!

Christy said...

Here, here! Preach it sister!

Wynter said...

Thank you Dawn! I love Baby Einstein video and introduced my son to them when he was about six months old (he's going to be 5 in a couple of weeks, I think I'm having an anxiety attack!) and he still enjoys them once in a while. I wasn't just carelessly plopping him in front of whatever was on, I carefully chose Baby Einstein because they were soothing, engaging, and educational. As a result, he recognizes great pieces of classical music, knew his planets and shapes by age 2, knows some basic sign language, and so much more. Without them, I never would've gotten that shower or ever had just 5 minutes to myself. Sorry I'm ranting in my comment, but I totally agree!

Ginny Williams said...

the link for your interview takes you to the article about TV watching for kids :)

Jayne V. said...

I love Baby Einstein and so do my kids! Every now and then, even at 4 and 7, they still like to watch the videos and listen to the music. Thank you for taking a stand, Dawn!

Funky Kim said...

My friends and I refer to Baby Einstein videos as crack for babies. Seriously. The second that caterpillar shows up, all attention is on the screen. And its guaranteed to keep the child's attention for about 20 minutes. And that's 20 UNINTERRUPTED minutes of internet surfing or a shower or even just laying on the couch, recovering from being a parent!

Good stuff, this crack!

ImakehairROCK4u2 said...

My Human Growth and Development teacher told our class some crap about kids who watch Baby Einstein talking later than other kids. My kids watched them, and they won't shut up!

Reagan said...

And, they like it! It makes them happy- and that's a good thing.

Tammy said...

When my twins were younger Baby Einstein was a life saver! They loved them. And today at 5yrs old they will still watch with their younger brothers!

Kirsten said...

I love t.v. and my kids love t.v. 24 hours a day, of course not. 6? (maybe if it's snowing out! LOL)Lets face it, everyone needs some down time every day to just sit and be a couch potato. I myself have mastered the art of couch potato-ness and I'm sure my children will do the same! :-)

PamS said...

My boys loved the Baby Einstein videos and learned various words AND sign language before they were two. Yes, you should monitor how much time they watch TV, etc., but having them watch something educational so I can get dinner ready is not a bad thing! The fact that they are learning at a time when I'm busy is a great plus to me. And I have to laugh at FunkyKim's comment above - it always amazed me how mesmerized my babies were the minute the videos started - definitely crack for babies (a good kind :-)

Kristin & Co. said...

It's the same argument as eggs - one week they are good for you and the next week, they will kill you in no time flat. It's all about moderation people. Don't we have other things we should be studying, like, oh, I don't know, how to feed the homeless or educate our school teachers?

Lorna said...

Before I had kids I insisted I would never let my kids watch Barney, but when my first child was about 9 months old I learned quite by accident that she was facinated with that purple dinosaur. One day when I dropped her off at daycare they had a barney video on. Instead of the usual meltdown I normally endured trying to leave her, she walked right over, sat down and completely ignored my departure. After that I found that I could put her in the exersaucer with a barney tape and take a shower. It was a defining moment in my parenting career. One 30 min video = a real shower. Not one of those 2 minute try to get the stink off, but a real shower where you could shave your legs even. Each of my 3 had that one show they loved, and that 30 minutes I'm sure is the reason I'm sitting here now typing this and not locked up in a padded room somewhere.

Janis said...

You really hit the nail on the head. Where is the research the says how detrimental our "child centered" culture is? My mom didn't engage me intellectually all of my waking hours. Moderation IS the key to everything (except chocolate).

RADS said...

My daughter watched TV as a child and because of where the TV was we always had subtitles on. I also read to her every night at bedtime. I think the 1-2 punch acturally helped her learn to read. She was reading at a 5th grade level at the start of 1st grade! She is now in a G&T school and still loves to read and watch TV. If she's reading or watching TV then I know she's not out getting into mischief or worse with her friends and the kids in the neighborhood.

Adrienne said...

I COMPLETELY agree with you! My baby is only 4 months old, but he's been attracted to the light from the TV from day 1. I don't just leave him in front of the TV (well...for longer than 10 minutes anyway). I'll have to pick up one of those Baby Einstein videos. I figure, whatever keeps him from screaming is good enough for me.

Shannon said...

I'm with you too!

Brenda said...

I think watching tv is bad for babies. But then it might be good for them. It might stunt their development, but it might be helpful. Guess the jury .....is OUT! JK!!!! Good review!

Mamalemma said...

I agree with you Dawn -- and all the other posts (32 at this writing). TV is not bad in moderation. I add my voice to the fray to mention a show I found particularly instructive and fun when my daughter was young: "Between the Lions," on PBS. I don't know if it is still running, but it was a brilliant show that taught the basics of reading in a terrific way -- and we still use some of those methods with our son to remind him of grammar rules. Both of my kids were exceptionally accomplished readers BEFORE Kindergarten, and I believe "Between the Lions" and "Sesame Street" can claim some credit. "Between the Lions" references we still use include: "When two vowels go walkin', the first one does the talkin'" -- which means that in a word like "beach," it is the "e" that takes over the sound of the word. Another one that is actually used by our elementary school is that sneaky silent "e" that makes the other vowels say their name (the long vowel sound.) In the show, the "Silent E" character was dressed as a detective, who interrogated the other vowels, and made them "say their name."

A quick check reveals "Between the Lions" is still on PBS, hooray! Check it out -- it's a terrific program: http://pbskids.org/lions/

Ted and/or Laura said...

Well shit, how am I supposed to ruin them then? I mean here I was TOTALLY trying to get my kids to be morons and in lots of therapy and lack all creativity and now you tell me that won't do it. ARG. I guess I have to go back to letting them eat paste and play with lawn darts.

Kristi said...

Thanks, Dawn, for saying what I have been saying for years! All of these silly studies do is make moms (or the caregiver) feel more guilty. God Forbid we get a minute to ourselves! Cracks me up too how the same people that say not to let your young ones watch any tv are the same ones that tell you not to pick up your baby when she/he cries. HUH? What kind of mixed messages are they sending us anyway? First it is "devote every hour to your child" then it is "ignore them when they cry." I say, do what works best for you, and if a Baby Einstein episode or Dora gets you a few minutes to relax and take a breather, or clean the kitchen, or whatver, then go for it! Thanks for writing this!

Ryan's Mommy said...

Thank you for saying all that. I couldn't agree more! I started out as that mom that wasn't going to let my child watch TV by himself until he was 2 - then reality hit and he is now only 21 months old and watches it a lot. Yes, probably too much, but he still loves books, he even reads to himself, he can already count to 10 and knows most of his colors. He's incredibly smart and loves the outdoors. But, he's got an addiction to the Imagination Movers - it could be worse! I'm actually getting stuff done around the house now and my husband and I get a little "alone" time more often. He actually tells me about the episodes sometimes and we do talk about it.

As for Baby Einstein - they're great! At my neice's first birthday party this weekend he impressed everyone by naming everything before the videos did - wow, that's real detrimental (sarcasm).

Anyway, I've gone on and on, but I just couldn't agree with you more!

Anonymous said...

You can't produce a kids tv programme these days if it isn't "educational". What happened to the good old days of Scooby Doo and The Smurfs?

Bugger off and do a study on how well children develop when one of their parents isn't home for 16 hours a day because they're too busy studying whether tv is good or bad!!

Abby said...

"Call me wishy-washy, but I can generally see issues from different sides."




Are you sure you don't have a bit of the ADHD as well?? This is so totally CLASSIC woman with ADHD. (And is also the reason why I failed my writing entrance test for college... because I started a persuasive essay saying to take Job A and ended it saying that the person should take Job B. Apparently that puts you on the fast-track for remedial writing class?? OOPS.)

Anthrax said...

I think the impetus for these kinds of studies is a very different kind of parenting than you (or your blog readers) provides. There's a big set of parents whose children - of all ages, under 2s included - spend most of their waking lives watching TV. I don't think any legitimate social scientist has an issue with using Baby Einstein so that you can grab a shower, or make dinner, or to deal with a rainy/snowy day.
Unfortunately, the kind of parent who latches on to these studies is exactly the kind of parent who DOESN'T need the message! They already get the 'moderation' idea, they are worried about their kids getting appropriate stimulation and varied experiences. But with the way the media presents these studies, they start feeling attacked for not being perfect.
As someone who does research related to parenting (although totally not related to TV), I'd just like to apologize and say WE DON'T EXPECT YOU TO BE PERFECT! We don't know what perfect is! We just found an idea interesting and wanted to look into it and see what we could find.

MegBracy said...

My daughter is reading and writing many basic words on her own at 4. I say Go Word World!!!! (on pbs). Also, my husband and I love to watch Word Girl with her - it's hilarious.

Anonymous said...

sorry to be the lonely disenting voice here. My kids don't care for baby Einstein, the other day I got one from the library, pop it in, my 18 mos old looked at it for about 2 minutes and wander away and never came back to sit. Same with my older child when he was little too. I honestly don't think that baby Einstein is that beneficial in terms of speaking and learning. Both of my kids watched kid shows rarely and didn't have language delay, they know shape, colour when they supposed to. If you need to grab a shower or cook dinner, by all mean, pop something in so you can do it (I do that too), but I don't kid myself about the educational aspect of the shows. And no I don't feel guilty about let them watching the shows either.

The Mom said...

My almost 6 year old STILL loves to watch his old (*sob*..old!) Baby Einstein movies! I would let him watch HOURS of Baby Einstein before one episode of SpongeBob. (That's solely my opinion though!)

Has anyone ever told you that you are like the 'modern day' Erma Bombeck? I mean, really!

Anonymous said...

When my three year old twins gave up their nap, we started having quiet time in front of the tv. I tell them they don't have to nap, but they need to sit quietly and watch tv so I can take my rest!

Jennifer in Texas said...

AMEN! My kids know more spanish than I do, thanks to Dora and Diego. And sometimes Momma just needs a break! I try to limit the stupid shows like Spongebob, but Nick Jr., Noggin, Playhouse Disney, etc, they are great!

Michelle said...

We don't watch much tv around here mostly because we don't have time between sleeping and eating and school and playing etc... but when Mister Man saw any tv, his introduction was to Baby Einstein. When he was in the hospital for four days with rotovirus and finally started getting better to the point where he wasn't a total rag doll laying in the bed, having the Baby Einstein DVDs were all that kept him -- and us -- sane.

Can't wait to see the rest of the comments ;)

WhisperingWriter said...

My daughter has learned a lot from TV. She currently watches this creepy show called Yo Gabba Gabba and has learned not to bite her friends. And also, that bugs aren't scary.

Jennifer said...

Here Here! I love seeing how the shows my 3-year-old watches opens her imagination. I'm picky about what she watches, but as long as I'm experiencing it with her (sometimes vicariously as I clean, email, or shower) I think it's great stimulation. She's in a Mr. Rogers phase right now and she just can't get enough of the Make Believe and the How-do-they-do-that videos. Brings back memories. I love it!

Yamato said...

Although we manage to not put our little one in front of the TV so we get a few minutes off per day, he quite often wants to see an episode from his "Shaun the Sheep" DVDs. We limit this to one or two episodes per day, which means max 20 minutes.
There is no educational effect but we also use this time to relax a little during the day.

Made To Organize said...

If it weren't for baby einstein videos and walkers that lock in place, I wouldn't have gotten a shower the entire first year of my first child's life!
~audrey

Sandi said...

have I ever seen a Baby Einstein video? Good Lord, I have the music order from Baby Neptune memorized for life. my youngest son has a "thing" for Baby Neptune(the water one, for you who maybe don't have it all memorized like me). it is forever now known as "his movie". "his movie" has helped during those crying jags from teething that no amount of Tylenol or frozen washcloths can help. "his movie" can bring a smile to his little face whenever I have just bandaged up a skinned knee or chin. I freaking love Baby Einstein!

Anonymous said...

AMEN, sista!!

katetreick said...

You know, I just needed to be reminded of this. Thanks for posting it. I've really tried to prevent my 8 month old son from seeing the TV when my 2-year old is watching Elmo or letter videos, and I think I'm going to chill a little. My 2-year old learned to sign thanks to watching Baby Einstein with her, and now she's two weeks past her second birthday and already knows all of her letters and their sounds thanks to Leapfrog's Letter Factory. Does this make me a bad mommy? I don't think so! Jack may as well have the same advantages that his sister did!

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