Saturday, March 6, 2010

Kill Your Television...

...Not really. I just wanted to see if anyone remembered that obscure 90s song from Ned's Atomic Dustbin. Lately I've been beating myself up about the amount of "screen time" Penny gets, if only because it was on my long list of things I wasn't going to do, that list I had in my head before I actually gave birth, along with having a binky and swearing and using disposable diapers.

I grew up in a house where we were only allowed to watch Public Television for many years, mostly because that was the only channel we got on our TV. There were the occasional Saturday morning cartoons, but otherwise, Sesame Street and the Electric Company and 3-2-1 Contact were all we watched, until my parents had more children and eventually got cable, and then the rules evolved.

I have more or less applied the same rule to Penny, which isn't too hard, considering we don't currently have cable or satellite. But I borrow DVDs from the library (and purchase the ones we like), hence Penny's obsession with Baby Signing Time. She also enjoys various Baby Einstein discs, Yo Gabba Gabba, the Classical Baby series, and Sesame Street. She watches something every day; and asks to watch it. Part of me says, well, that's all mostly educational stuff, and it doesn't have commercials. But then I read this, from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

It may be tempting to put your infant or toddler in front of the television, especially to watch shows created just for children under age two. But the American Academy of Pediatrics says: Don't do it! These early years are crucial in a child's development. The Academy is concerned about the impact of television programming intended for children younger than age two and how it could affect your child's development. Pediatricians strongly oppose targeted programming, especially when it's used to market toys, games, dolls, unhealthy food and other products to toddlers. Any positive effect of television on infants and toddlers is still open to question, but the benefits of parent-child interactions are proven. Under age two, talking, singing, reading, listening to music or playing are far more important to a child's development than any TV show. For more information on your child's health, visit

And now I kind of feel like crap. The stuff I let Penny watch is still brain candy. But come on, in the real world, sometimes I need a minute. Sometimes it's the only way dinner is going to get made. In the real world, Penny picks up a new sign every time she watches "Baby Time," or sings a new song when she wakes up in the morning.

A friend of mine, a retired teacher with a lovely grandchild of her own, told me the rule she heard was limiting amount of "screen time" toddlers get to 2 hours a day, because the visual input of the TV (or computer) develops a different part of the brain, and kids need auditory input as well, not to mention the social interaction with a warm body instead of a warm screen (which might be what the AAP is getting at with the statement above).

So that's what I'm going to shoot for, because 2 hours actually seems like a lot (I should probably get her source on that). I'm not trying to make anyone else feel like crap. But I am curious to know if any of you had similar TV rules when you were growing up, or if you have applied any "screen time" rules to your own children? Have you been successful?


*mary* said...

I also planned to simply not have television as part of my child's life, but that was vetoed by her dad, unfortunately. It does become a habit because, well, dishes need done, laundry needs folded, and so on.

I have just put down the rule here that she can watch ONE 30 minute show a day. This came about as punishment for THROWING AWAY my iPod Touch! (Yes, she really did.) But I think it is a good idea anyway. She is older than Penny, but I wish i would have done it sooner. Now she remembers that she has blocks, Legos and all sorts of things to do that AREN'T television.

(And yes, I do remember that song. Ned's Atomic Dustbin FTW! Lol)

Sheree said...

Jack is home with Daddy all day, which means lots of TV time. But he gets lots of other time too. I don't turn on the TV in the mornings or evenings, because there's only so much Dora and Sponge Bob a kid should have. Instead I let him "help" me with cooking and laundry. Seems like a good balance.
With you and Britt as parents, I'm confident there's good balance in your home.
Besides, the girl needs to have a handle on her pop culture.

Kill - Your - Tele-vision!

(validation word today = fabio)

Amber/Dia said...

I too grew up with only public television (side note have you seen the new Electric Co? It's awesome!) I just read Rafe Esquith book Lighting Their Fires. He mostly is not a fan of tv, thought he has specific suggestions for shows and movies to watch that help teach a lesson for older kids. What I really liked was his emphasis on teaching kids to turn off the tv themselves. I can't speak to the amount of tv Archie is going to watch because that's an evolving thing. We don't have cable or sat, but Josh is a tv addict and I am not. Thanks for the thoughts.

Momcat said...

Two hours a day of baby Einstein isn't going to corrupt anyone, and dinner does have to get made. I never let our kids watch Sesame St. because it invited kids to interact with the TV "Can you say .....?" I think it is bad to have kids interacting with a tv like it was another person. Of course that was way before the wonders of Playstation and X box. I still think I'm right though.

jen said...

I spent the night in that beanbag once...