Loving the Idiot Box

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of 2 not watch ANY television. They claim because the brain is developing at such a rapid place and an inordinate amount of learning is taking place, time spent in front of the TV may hinder that development. And even when kids 3 and older watch TV, they recommend 1-2 hours a day.

I think the AAP is misguided on this one.

Without help from the TV, there is no way I’d be able to survive with Will on a daily basis. And that doesn’t make a bad parent, it’s just true.

I’m in charge of getting myself and Will ready in the morning. I need to shower and get dressed. Then I change him and get him dressed. I also need to fit the dog in there too. MJ leaves before Will even wakes up, so I’m flying solo when I do this. And let me tell you right now, if it wasn’t for a combination of kids’ TV shows, I would never be able to get it done.

Will is 21 months old and he is a tornado of activity. He never stops. And usually that’s fine and I love playing with him. But sometimes I need him to stop acting like the Tasmanian Devil just so I can get him dressed or put a coat on him without him throwing himself on the ground and acting like a mental patient.

That’s where my good friends Handy Manny, Thomas the Train and Mickey Mouse save my ass on a daily basis.

He watches two episodes of Mickey Mouse every morning and he loves it. Begs for it actually. He says “Mo Mouse!” over and over again and shouts “Goofy!!” everytime Goofy pops on screen. And just like his father, he’s so tuned in to the show that he really can’t be bothered with anything else going on around him. In fact, one time I caught him watching Mickey on the couch, with a sippy cup in one hand and his other hand shoved down into his diaper. I was so proud!

But the reason I don’t mind him watching TV is because the show has educational value. They’re always teaching things like counting, shapes and colors. It’s not just mindless drivel. Plus it gives me a small window to do what I have to get done.

Yet there is so much controversy over this issue and it’s really divisive among parents.

The “No TV Parents” are unyielding in their criticism of parents who allow their toddlers to watch TV. From high atop their soap boxes, they repeatedly make snide comments about how they don’t need (or in some cases, choose not to even have) TV in their homes. Or if they do, it’s only one certain program for 30 minutes a day. As if exposure to TV is akin to radiation or something, and the second their precious kid watches that glowing box their IQ is going to drop 100 points and they’ll stop developing altogether.

Sorry, but I just don’t buy it.

Will probably watches 90 minutes or so of TV everyday. In the morning and just before bed when we’re calming him down. But the TV is on all day. That’s how I was raised and it’s the only way I can live. That TV has to be on, even if I’m not watching it. I need background noise.

I watched a TON of TV when I was a kid. I did my homework in front of the TV. In college I wrote term papers with the TV on. But I played three sports a year, was an honor roll student, played several instruments and had a ton of friends. I was not some socially isolated deadbeat simply because I watched a shitload of TV. In fact, if anything I think TV definitely helped improve my vocabulary skills and general knowledge. It certainly helped my Jeopardy skills that’s for sure.

As with all other things, it’s about moderation. Am I going to let Will watch TV shows that aren’t appropriate for his age? No. But am I going to limit his exposure to TV? Not really. As long as he remains a kid who likes to play outside, read books and converse with other kids then the TV can stay on.

And as for the AAP, well they’re the same organization that recommends keeping car seats rear-facing until the age of 2. And that is one of the worst ideas I can think of, because when we finally switched Will around to forward-facing he was SO much happier. People need to remember the AAP provides guidelines and recommendations, but parents need to weigh that against their own personal judgment and take it on a case by case basis with each child.

Now I gotta go. There’s a Paranormal State marathon on right now!

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8 thoughts on “Loving the Idiot Box

  1. It’s certainly an emotive subject, and one that can get people very upset.

    to me it’s not how much they watch as much as it’s WHAT they watch.

  2. Agreed. There are a lot of recommendations out there. It’s up to you, the parent, on how to raise your child. There is no manuel on how to raise your kids. Believe it or not, that’s a good and bad thing. Bad because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, still don’t. Good because I got to pick and choose how to raise my kid. It might be different on how you raise yours. That’s fine, that’s why there are so many different viewpoints and personalities out there.

    That car seat thing was so ridiculous!! And it changed every month. I turned Charlie’s around on his birthday, and never looked back. Pun indended.

    Also, thank God for TV.

  3. I swear my kids have better imaginations and are most certainly smarter because of TV! My 4 year old knows all of his letters uppercase and lowercase and all of his numbers up to at least 100 because of TV and because of Sid the Science Kid I am pretty sure he knows more about science than I do!!!!

    And you are right, TV allows parents to attempt to maintain some sanity!

  4. A-fucking-men.

    I would not have survived the last 4 years without the help of tv. And the way I look at it…as long as it is something remotely educational and at least sorta age appropriate then screw them! My oldest learned basic math and counting from Mickey Mouse which lead me into helping her further. Screw the ‘experts’. They suck.

  5. I don’t really have a horse in this race, but it sort of sounds like those that are not opponents or are actually proponents of TV are rationalizing its use as a de facto babysitter. Some have gone so far as to state that television is a boon to their child’s education and cognitive abilities. Jules states that her (I assume her) child knows all of the uppercase and lowercase letters. That’s great, it really is, but I was fully reading at 3 and I didn’t watch a whole lot of TV in my first few years of life. What does that mean? Nothing. Both are incidents of anecdotal evidence. To that point, the total dismissal of cognitive behaviorists and psychologists seems odd to me. Most parents don’t completely dismiss information from the AMA on their child’s well-being. Why is this so different?

    I really think it’s a rationalization. Being a parent is very, very hard work. It is easier to sit your child in front of the TV than to entertain a whirlwind of energy, play, or to constantly read or otherwise educate them. No one wants to think they are a bad parent because they need a break and put their child in front of the television and that’s fine. Everyone needs to parent in their own way, but at least be honest about what you are doing. If you think putting your child in front of the television is beneficial as opposed to other activities that could educate them in more fruitful ways, you are only kidding yourself.

  6. Some parents probably do use the TV exclusively as a babysitter. And any rational person knows neglecting your kid is a bad thing.

    My complaints stemmed from many an online discussion with other parents who said ANY television for kids 2 and under is negative. The reality is that most parents need the TV (or some other form of distraction) simply to get shit done. I know I do. And sure there are exceptions. Maybe the parent is a stay at home mom or dad and has the ability to devote as much time as possible to their kids all day. That’s a great thing. Unfortunately, it’s an impossibility for most people nowadays. I have things to do and places to be, and so I put Will in front of the TV in the morning out of necessity. And believe me, it’s a necessity. And the parents who choose this are certainly not bad parents, at least not just for this.

    As for completely dismissing recommendations, why not? I think it’s important to read up on the recommendations and I’m certainly aware of them. But you can’t have universal recommendations that encompass all kids. It really does depend on each individual child. I dismiss some recommendations and find others helpful. I think that’s pretty common.

    The latest study I read said putting your kid in front of the TV for moderate amounts of time is neither beneficial nor harmful. And yes, you should always interact with your kids by reading to them, playing with them, etc. But if you think you’re going to be parent who works full-time and won’t use the TV as a distraction at some point, you’re only kidding yourself.

  7. BIL –

    You are absolutely right – it means nothing.

    As technology expands, kids learn differently. TV has changed a lot and continues to change in ways both good and bad. I’m not sure there will ever be a difinitive answer on the question of if it is a good or bad thing.

    But having actually raised children (who turned out just fine) and never shielding them from TV, it is my non-professional opinion that TV, the internet, and other forms of tremendous information are things to managed – just like you manage everything else in your child’s life. I agree that outright dimissing the affect might not be the way to go, but kids are kind of like experts – they all tend to be different.

  8. Braden will not sit still enough to watch TV ever. Once in a while he will stop in front of the TV and stare at it for a minute or two. I look forward to the day he will watch a show. Sometimes parents need a break. Like you said most of the kids shows are very educational these days. I watched TV all the time and I am just fine. I actually learned some things from the idiot box along the way too.

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