Parents: Possible to keep kids away from TV until age 3? New Studies abound!

This This Article found today in the Chicago Sun Times, is reporting:

The American Academy of Pediatrics is reporting several rules for children and watching TV, outlined in the article above. One of the very first rules was no child under two should be allowed to watch television. We are not talking about Barney video’s or Elmo…we are talking about cable television.
My sister used Barney and Elmo videos to get work done around the house. The kids wouldn’t look away. They were glued to the tubes. Those with children I am sure have seen this.
Personally, I don’t mind if Lil-Phlosphr watches Dora the Explorer or other such programing, but I do care that they are around to see Sopranos. That would be a no no. Granted Lil-Phlosphr is not even a zygote yet…but we are thinking ahead.
I think about the psychology of developing children, I think about what my wife and I will do when we have children…will we be ploping them infront of the tube when we want a moment? Or not?
From a psychological point of view I see many ways a child can lose that developmental attention acquisition phase in the younger years by watching too much main stream TV. Their little minds are stimulated by what they are seeing and hearing on the tube…and I see this a time lost, taken away from creative things like painting with their feet, or pasting bird seed on pine cones with peanut butter. Obviously our little thinkers (when they come) will watch a certain amount of TV, but I do hope to limit it as much as I physically can. My wife will be at home with the litt’lins and I will be too if I make the decision to change careers. But for now, I think a healthy dose of limitation willl be best.

For the moms and pops out there, any anecdotes or words of wisdom on the subject of TV and children - how much is too much? Reactions to the article?

Not a mom or pop yet, but a teacher, so I’ve seen interesting things when it comes to TV and young, schoolage children.

I think both extremes are probably wrong - there’s no real reason to let a child be babysat by the tube - I’ve seen that happen in my own family, and the kids lack many of the imagination skills others have. Their attention runs about the timespan of an Elmo “short”, and that’s it.

This being said, I also knew a pair of siblings who were not exposed to television or movies until they were in grade 1 (and even then, just movies). They were raised by true yuppie-hippies… and both were incredibly insecure. Their teacher couldn’t show a movie in class (like for the christmas party!) without the little girl hiding somewhere because she was scared. Stuart Little gave her nightmares. She had no notion of physical comedy. Literary, yes, but physical, no.

Interesting stuff though. I wonder what we will decide to do with little Nofairs, if they do appear someday… :wink:

I believe that is extreme, I don’t believe that is something my wife and I will be doing…waiting til grade 1 is just too long. IMHO.

It is far to easy to let the TV become the Electric Pacifier.

Learning to set contraints for yourself as an adult will really help in the long run.

There will be days after a baby learns to move around that plopping them in the playpen with the TV on so you can run and take a shower is absolutely necessary.

My kids know there are specific cartoons they cannot watch. Either because of abject violence ( The Jackie Chan cartoon just is karate chopping mofo’s. I was surprised.) or because of words we don’t allow into our house ( Courage the Cowardly Dog has a character that says, ‘stupid dog’ or Stupid Whatever’ all the time.)

Do I see a difference of parents that set no parameters? Yes. Those kids seem to be more prone to kicking and shoving and inappropriate words and don’t seem to understand the boundaries between reality and TV. Then again, these are 5 year olds, so the lines are blurry as it is and they are spazzy little weasels at this stage, but I do see a bit of a difference.

I have also seen kids at the library who are asked by adults their opinion on specific cartoons ( anime) and the kids have said they are not allowed to watch it because of the violence. That cheered me considerably. I am no fan of anime. It gives me a headache.

Then you have parents that refuse to let their kids to watch anything except the really schmaltzy shows ( Little House on the Prairie as an example) and their kids really are insulated from the rest of the world. The parents are missing a chance to use the TV and the show as a teaching method, but the kids are missing just the water cooler conversation at school with friends. (My best friend in high school had parents like this. She was extremely naive and it was tedious after awhile to rescue her from her own ignorance and naivtivity. She now has 7 kids and is still incredibly naive. I think she thinks she is living in Little House on the Prairie or something.)

We have TV-Free Days. (mostly in the summer, where we can go days without TV.) But winter, oy vey, it can be a challenge as we really don’t have anyone for the kids to play with within walking distance. There are only so many crafts that can be done in a day and books that can be read. We rent alot of videos, and the Magic School Bus is outstanding.

What scares me for the future is just how many parents allow their kids to have a TV in their kids room. Unsupervised, unchecked, it becomes their imagination, instead of the kids learning how to color, draw or play pretend. Its not as if they’ve forgotten how to play, they’ve never learned.

Used judicously, it can be a wonderful tool.

Used without parameters, it will turn a brain and body to mush.

Also, one more thing I forgot, if I didn’t have TV, on the days that I have a migraine, I would simply implode. Being able to put the kids in front of it with the knowledge that it is a Scooby Doo All Day Marathon along with a snack and a drink, gives me two hours of near silence for me to lay down and wait for the medicine to kick in.

My (sole child) daughter just turned two, and mostly she could not care less if the TV is on. We have been given some videos as gifts (Wiggles, Dora) and on those occasions that we have tried to plant her in front of the box, she just doesn’t pay much attention…goes away to get a book or run around with a choke hold on a doll or flush the cat down the toilet. Y’know, normal stuff.

We don’t deliberately exclude TV from her life, but we hardly have it on ourselves as a matter of course, and so she just hasn’t integrated it into her life’s activities. She has watched some stuff: Monsters Inc. almost all the way through (completely unfazed) and Finding Nemo…again, not because we plopped her down in front of it but because we were watching it ourselves, and it seemed to catch her attention. OTOH we’ve tried other disney classics (Aladdin, Lion King IIRC) and the TV may as well not even have been in the same room.

We have friends who had their third child, a daughter, one day after Sprout was born. They are a very TV-intensive household, w/ a HUGEscreen dominating the living room, a TV in the older kids (6 and 8) room, and one in the master, all with VCR and/or DVD and/or game system. It seems to me that the two older kids have gnat-like attention spans, don’t read, don’t play games much, don’t converse well, don’t like being outside, and get genuinely stressed if they are forced away from a computer or gameboy or video for even the length of a normal dinner meal. The youngest seems to be heading the same way, demanding videos one after the other and learning how to play Pokemon. Now, I am by no means a technophobe luddite, and I love my web connection and flaking out in front of movies, but this does not strike me as “balanced development”.

Having said that, I am very reluctant to say in mixed company anything along the lines of “Oh, our child doesn’t seem to like TV, much”, because folks will occasionally get quite bent out of shape defending their TV use, and will in fact load us up with tapes, I suppose to “convert” us(?).

[I recall now, writing this, that when “we” were pregnant, a lot of people gave us the following advice as their first must have suggestion: “Oh, you don’t have cable? You’ll definitely *need* it. Treehouse Channel.”]

shrug Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

We don’t let our 14-month-old daughter watch TV, though we have shown her a bit of Sesame Street now and again. All of my nieces and nephews started watching TV as soon as they could sit up by themselves and I don’t want my children to develop that look: mouth hanging open, staring blankly at the TV, not reacting to what they are seeing.

A friend of my wife brought over a Baby Einstein video to give to our daughter. She said that her own daughter was done with the Baby Einstein videos. She was not even a year old at the time. She apparently was ready for college because she had watched countless hours of this crap. I said, as politely as I could, “Stinky (not her real name) doesn’t watch much TV”. I wanted to say, “How do you know she’s done with the video? Did she shit the theory of relativity this morning?”

My wife stays home with our daughter (and soon with our second child). She finds ways to get things done without parking Stinky in front of the TV. It is possible.

I started off letting DangerGirl, now almost 4, watch a short Sesame Street program (a mutant variant for tots on Noggin), usually every day. I have since changed my mind, and for the past 18 months or more, we watch very little TV. She likes to watch Oobi (also on Noggin), but doesn’t get it every day. There are several movies I let her see, like The Muppet Movie (yay for DVD, we can just skip the frog-torture scene) or others. But about half the time, she doesn’t watch TV at all.

Partly I’ve done this because it’s so obvious that she’s ready to become a couch potato if allowed. Also, she tends to get cranky after more than 30 minutes. So I’ve found the severely limited TV to be the best for our family.

She loves Dora, Maisy, and Blue, and if she knew that Thomas the tank engine was a show, she’d want to watch that too. But she enjoys the books and toys instead.

We really haven’t missed it. It’s nice to be able to have it sometimes, but mostly we’ve quit thinking about it. I also love my cabinet with the closing doors, so we don’t have to look at the TV all the time. And DangerGirl has a great imagination and a very long attention span for a 3-yo.

And I agree with Shirley that TV in the bedroom is no good. One TV is enough for a household.

It is very, very easy to fall into letting the TV entertain your kid. Especially when you need to do other stuff around the house, like cook, etc.

As soon as the weather warms up for good, we are cancelling our DirecTV, which means we’ll only be able to watch DVDs and videos (we can’t pick up local channels). It’s too cold to go outside to play right now so we’re waiting until we’re able to go outside most days. Abbie Jr. will watch TV for hours and hours if we’ll let her, and the more cartoons she watches, the meaner she gets (and yes, we screen what she watches. Even the “good” shows produce negative results after a while). On days that we keep the TV turned off, she’s a little angel. I feel bad sometimes because even at age 3 she has seen stuff she shouldn’t. Not because I’m permissive, but because it just flashes on the screen before I have a chance to turn it off. She imitates everything she sees and it’s scaring me. I don’t want to have a 7 year old on my hands in a few years who wants to be like Britney.

She’s never had trouble entertaining herself and I want to keep it that way. Even if she never becomes very active physically (which she will be, I can already tell), I’d much rather her be curled up on the couch with a book than watching electronic junk food.

To be honest, I don’t know how much television my son watches. Not because I leave him planted in front of the set all day, but because I’ve never bothered to “bookkeep” the information.

Generally, though, he only gets about an hour or so a day – a half-hour in the morning as he eats breakfast, and a half-hour in the afternoon as a reward for good behavior. My wife and I definitely turn off the set after a while, and since we seldom watch much television ourselves, he doesn’t get to soak up too much more other than what we dictate.

He does get the “zoned out” look when he watches television, but he’ll fidget and play something else if he’s uninterested. Haven’t noticed any development problems, actually – he’s only four years old, but can already read and spell a respectable vocabulary, and hasn’t exhibited any symptoms of ADD or other short-attention-span problems. It probably helps that we spend an hour or two every night reading to him at the dinner table. :slight_smile:

On the other hand, he hasn’t shown any major leaps in creativity (give him a set of building blocks, and he’ll gladly build a wall), though I’m not sure if that’s from television or just normal childhood development. He’s getting better at making up stories these days, though.

So, in summary, I dunno. I’d call it a toss-up, I guess.

I think TV in moderation is okay, but not, as others have posted, as a babysitter.

When Aaron and I get home from school, we’re both a bit tired, cranky, and overstimulated. Half an hour’s worth of Teletubbies (thank GOD for “on demand”!) gives him some downtime where he’s not having to do anything but relax. It also gives me the 30 minutes I need to fix dinner. By the time dinner is ready, he’s more relaxed and ready to spend the evening with the family.

At 7 p.m., our local PBS station re-runs that day’s Sesame Street. Again, it’s an opportunity to wind down from the day, but it also gives us some needed Aaron-and-Mom time. I watch with him and talk to him about what’s going on. I count along with Count, tell him about the letter of the day, and a little of “Elmo’s World”. Something must be working, because he’s already learning numbers up to five and is showing some signs of letter recognition.

Aside from this, the TV is usually not even turned on. I don’t turn it on in the morning at all (I get distracted, too!), and don’t usually sit and watch “adult” shows unless it’s for a class or Aaron is in bed, asleep.

I never got “addicted” to television as a child, but I’ve known too many people who can’t stand to be in a quiet room by themselves without some noise or visual stimulation. I would like to see my son avoid it.


Well, I grew up watching Sesame Street from infancy…to which I credit the fact that I learned to read at age four.

Of course, I also liked my Saturday morning cartoons, too…which also made my the first person in my family to find out about Tiananmen square. (Damn protesters, interrupting the Flintstone Kids…couldn’t they have waited until Sunday morning?)

It all depends on what the kids are watching, I think.

I’ve got two kids both diagnosed with attentional problems. One was never a huge TV watcher while the other one likes to have a video on in the background most of the time. He watches science programs and Thomas the TTE.

I always had the rule that mindless gawping while drooling on the sofa was unacceptable. If the TV is on, then you are playing with lego or trains or whatever as well.

I wonder about the chicken and egg thing though – parenting my kids when they were 3 and 4 was beyond exhausting. P the Younger in particular never stopped moving and was always into stuff and hard to entertain. I wonder how many of these kids got parked in front of the TV because it slowed them down enough to give the frazzled parent time to do something, anything.

To sum up – maybe my kids would have done better if we had never had a TV in the first place. Given that what they watched was always carefully monitored and multitasking insisted on, maybe they wouldn’t have. I dunno. I spend a lot of time thinking I dunno.

My daughter (almost 14 months) watches some TV. We watch Dora the Explorer, Blue’s Clues and Gullah Gullah Island. She also has a couple of Baby Einstein videos that we throw in now and then. We’d also watch Mr. Rogers if I could ever find it on TV. I loved him when I was a kid. :slight_smile:
She dances whenever the characters sing and she claps when they clap, so she’s not just sitting there slack-jawed. I do read to her daily and give her a lot of playtime in her room, where there is no TV and won’t be until she’s at least a teenager, if then. I never had a TV in my room, but my husband’s little cousins had TVs in their rooms from age 2 and up. i just thought that was kind of odd.
On the other hand, I have two cousins who don’t get to watch TV at home except in very, very limited amounts. They are 3 and 9 (I think. 9 or 10.) When we have a family get-together at someone else’s house and the TV is on, the oldest one will sit there, transfixed. She won’t speak to anyone while the TV is on, and the only time she’ll move is if you stand in front of her. She will do this when the sound is muted or when commercials are on. I don’t want Em to end up like that either.

Man, there’s always something to worry about when you’re raising a kid.

I didn’t have much TV monitering as a kid, but I was only glued to it during the winter months. Otherwise, I was outside building forts and having adventures. I never had a TV in my room until I was much older (about 16). My dad read to us a lot as kids and later had a good system to get us to read on our own. Bedtime was 9 o’clock, but we could stay up til 9:30 if we read. So every night we had a half hour of reading time. I was usually up long past then with a flashlight under the covers desparate to know what the Babysitter’s Club was up to. Now I am a voracious reader.

My sister, on the other hand, being raised by my mom, has had a TV in her room from age 5. She’s 12 now. She has spent way too much time watching TV and playing Nintendo 64. She is a very creative kid, drawing and writing stories, but she’s not much of a reader. I’ve tried to get her interested in reading by buying heaps of books (mostly books I loved as a kid) at thrift stores and giving them to her. The books are there for her to discover them and I keep hoping she will very soon. But for right now, I think she has a crush on Inuyasha.

My little brother, age 5, also has a TV in his room, although he never sleeps in his own bed. The TV has been there since birth, and it’s disgusting. (Cartoon Network on for a kid in a crib, just picture that…) He’s glued to Noggin all day (Oswald is his favorite). He often watches what my sister’s watching, and my mom then scolds my sister for letting him watch Adult Swim.

Arg. I hate to see my siblings raised like this. My mom will do anything to keep them out of her hair. If I had a house and money I would take them away from there so fast…

Prior to having kids, my wife and I rarely watched TV–there is just too much stuff to do. Since we had kids we have tried to be judicious about the two-dimensional world (TV and computer games are both pretty similar in their presentation to kids in my opinion). Our kids are 6 and 4. They average about 45 minutes per week of broadcast TV–usually a Sunday morning PBS cartoon like Arthur, plus an occasional sporting thing with me. TV management has been pretty easy as my kids just seem to prefer creating stuff on their own or hanging out on the playset outside.

We also allow them another hour or two of videos per week. Usually kids type shows, but that is changing now towards feature-style animation like The Last Unicorn or old classic movies like Robin Hood. They also like to watch videos of symphony orchestras that grandma and grandpa send.

This level of TV input management has been working out quite well. I have noticed that other kids who indulge more in broadcast TV have much more cliched language and are a little more passive in searching out stuff to do. But that may have more to do with DNA than parental approaches to TV.

Elenfair’s comments about the luddite kids freaked out by movies were fascinating. We had friends who raised their kids in a real Waldorf magical method including zero TV. Their kids were good and sweet but always seemed to be intimidated by the amped up playing style and volume of most of the other kids in the neighborhood. That helped us stay reasonable in our TV management approaches.

I am totally fascinated by those kids too.

Again, I’ll say moderation is the way to go. As a kid, I was limited in what I was allowed to watch, but I was more likely to go entertain myself playing “Les Schtroumphs” in my room, or legos with my dad. (We used to have lego marathons that could last days…

What bugged me about these yuppie-hippies was that the kids were not exposed to the actual POSITIVES that some television shows can offer - I mean, come on, Between the Lions is probably one of the most well-paced, clever “learn to read” children’s programs EVER! And what’s wrong with watching “Mary Poppins” as a family, eh?

I found those kids were also seriously behind musically (which is what I taught) - they’d never really SUNG anything at home, and unlike most kids who sang along to Sesame Street songs and such, they knew precious little childhood songs/nursery rhymes put to music. That COULD have been remedied by music and singing at home, but…

Meh! Interesting stuff. What fascinated me MOST of all was their lack of understanding of physical comedy.

This may not be anything. My husband and I don’t watch any television (except on DVD), so when we go to someone’s house who always has the TV on, we tend to have the same reaction. In our case, it’s because we’re used to focusing on one thing at a time, so when we watch something, we give it all our attention. It could be simply that they’re used to focusing on one thing at a time and have longer attention spans than other children.

I debated posting here since I am in the minority in a huge way but here goes:

My kids are 3 years (she turns 3 in May) and 6 months.

There is a TV in our TV room and in my bedroom and in my 3 year old’s room. She also has her own VCR and DVD player. She knows how to work them too. So when she gets up and mommy and daddy want to sleep some more she can put Dora on and play by herself for a while.

We don’t have cable so we watch videos exclusively. She’s seen all the Star Wars movies and the first two LOTR movies and Indiana Jones and whatever else we watch.

The TV in our TV room gets little use. We generally just put the news on while I am cooking supper. We watch our movies in our bedroom, all four of us together.

She gets plenty of exercise (she hardly ever sits still unless she is asleep) She loves to play outside. Her blocks are a well loved toy and she makes “high towers,” planes, trains, and stairs. She loves to color and tries very hard at making pictures we someday hope to recognize. She reads plently of books and has a phenomenal attention span. From the time she was one she could pass an hour in the car paging through and studying her books. She counts to 15 in English and 10 in Spanish. She knows her colors in both languages. She knows all her shapes and can properly identify most of her body. The other day she asked if she could open the fridge in Spanish! Yay Dora! She recognizes many letters and numbers. Her imagination astounds me. She spends hours being a mommy, or a doggy, or a baby, or a kitty. We talk about the things she sees on TV just like we talk about the things in her books or around us in life.

She also has her own computer with her own software libraray of Dora and Blues Clues games. She just switched from mouse to trackball as she finds it easier to use and asked for the trackball. She also likes to watch me work on my computer and then we take a detour to play on the Nick jr site for a while.

TV isn’t evil unless it is a substitute for having a life.

Tanookie - you are very correct. :slight_smile: