Because the important moments in life just don’t fit in a status update! I started this blog when I was training for my first ½ Ironman, (70.3 miles) to record what I hoped would be growth and progress but ended up being a huge learning experience. Although fitness is one of the key ingredients to a happy life, it certainly isn't the only ingredient. My blog has evolved to document growth, progress and setbacks in other areas too. From my surprise proposal in Rome and wedding in the fall of 2013, to Mom's devastating stage IV cancer diagnosis and death 2 weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Who knows what shape it will take, but thanks for being along for the ride.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

No TV Under Three

(The policy is actually "No TV Under Two" but three rhymes...)
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I told myself when I as pregnant that I wasn't going to let Baby A watch TV until she was three, one year more than the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends. I am happy to report that so far, I have stuck to it, even though some people said it would be tough. Others said it would be impossible, and my husband was indifferent. 

There are not a lot of things when it comes to parenting that I am rigid about (except, not being rigid!), but no television viewing is definitely one. Please know that I am not being judgmental or trying to sway anyone with this posting! If you've read this far, you're probably doing so because it is of interest to you. Or maybe you're reading because you disagree. 


We all have parenting ideas and ideals that are important to us; this just happens to be mine. For you, it might be germs, and you may shudder when I pick up her Sophie the giraffe that dropped on the floor and hand it back to her, without a second thought.


For some reason, before ever reading any of the studies, I was against television viewing for our daughter. Even though I love watching TV myself, especially murder-mysteries on Investigation Discovery. When I was pregnant, this was the one parenting thing that my husband and I disagreed on because he didn't see it as a big deal, and it was so important to me. 


Intuitively, a baby watching TV just didn't seem right to me. I've seen babies turn into what I call zombabies because they're watching TV. Sometimes, they don't even look up when addressed by name, and will instead keep their eyes fixated on the screen while they say hello or goodbye, when prompted. I have been at restaurants when parents give their baby who can't walk or talk yet an iPad to watch videos on so that they can "eat in peace" (read: without interacting). 

But why shouldn't my baby watch TV? What do the studies say? And can something that the majority of people do really be that bad? After-all, 40% of infants are watching some sort of video by 5 months, and 90% of parents said their children under 2 watch some form of electronic media. 



Early brain development

According to healthychildren.org, kids' brains grow profoundly during the first 3 years of life, with the brain tripling in mass in just the first 12 months. The stimuli children experience during this period profoundly influence brain development. 
Infants may stare at the bright colors and motion on a screen, but their brains are incapable of making sense or meaning out of all those bizarre pictures. It takes 2 full years for a baby’s brain to develop to the point where the symbols on a screen come to represent their equivalents in the real world.
Exposure to TV (or iPads, videos on smart phones, etc.) while their brain is in the formative stages of developing, and developing at such a rapid rate, can cause speech, motor and developmental delays.

The American Academy of Pedatrics (AAP) feels so strongly that it is detrimental to little ones for a multitude of reasons, that they implemented a "No TV Under Two" policy.



Where's the harm?

Okay, so babies don't really know what's happening on the screen, but can't they learn language from TV? After-all, there are a ton of "educational" shows geared toward infants, babies and toddlers. Baby Einstein comes to mind. But 'educational TV' for babies doesn't exist, according to the AAP. 

Dozens of studies affirming this led to the policy change in 2011 in which they recommend no TV or screen time at all for children until they are at least 2. 

The policy statement published by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that not only do children under age two probably learn nothing from the television, but that watching too much can actually delay language development and cause attentional problems.
One of the major manufacturers of baby "educational" videos, Baby Einstein, (owned by Disney) was threatened with a class action lawsuit in 2009, after they were forced to drop the word "educational" from their marketing in 2006 (read more HERE). Not only did they drop that word from their marketing, but they offered full refunds to anyone who had purchased the videos. When you visit their website today, there is no longer a mention of the videos. 
Lawyers threatened a class-action lawsuit for unfair and deceptive practices unless Disney agreed to refund the full purchase price to all who bought the videos since 2004. “The Walt Disney Company’s entire Baby Einstein marketing regime is based on express and implied claims that their videos are educational and beneficial for early childhood development,” a letter from the lawyers said, calling those claims “false because research shows that television viewing is potentially harmful for very young children.”  
The letter also described studies showing that television exposure at ages 1 through 3 is associated with attention problems at age 7. 
Even Sesame Street, which I grew up with, can have negative effects on language development when children under the age of 2 view it


What children are not doing when watching TV

The problem lies not only with what toddlers are doing while they’re watching TV; it’s what they aren’t doing. Specifically, children are programmed to learn from interacting with other people. 
The dance of facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language between a toddler and parent is not only beautiful, it’s so complex that researchers have to record these interactions on video and slow them down just to see everything that’s going on. Whenever one party in this dance, child or parent, is watching TV, the exchange comes to a halt. A toddler learns a lot more from banging pans on the floor while you cook dinner than he does from watching a screen for the same amount of time, because every now and then the 2 of you look at each other. (Read more here).

  • Asking questions
  • Solving problems
  • Being creative
  • Exercising initiative
  • Practicing eye-hand coordination
  • Scanning (useful in reading)
  • Practicing motor skills
  • Thinking critically, logically, and analytically
  • Practicing communication skills
  • Playing interactive games with other children or adults (helpful for developing patience, self-control cooperation, sportsmanship)

How we make it work

We are not people who are against, or don't watch TV. We watch it every day. We have been known to binge-watch Breaking Bad. My husband loves watching the news or Archer, I'm addicted to murder-mysteries, and we both love watching home-improvement shows and dreaming about buying a 4,000+ square foot home for a fraction of the cost of ours, when it's in any other state than California. The difference is that now, we just wait until she's asleep to watch. 

Okay, not all the time - my husband likes to watch the news when he eats dinner - but, we are watching it a lot less than we used to. If she is awake when he watches, I'm usually giving her a bottle and I put a blanket up as a make-shift shield, similar to what women do when breast-feeding. As soon as he finishes eating, he (surprisingly) now turns off the TV without me asking and moves over to the computer. When she's asleep, we come together to watch one of our shows, like Better Call Saul or, if I'm lucky, more murder-mysteries.

We have some adjusting to do, because when she's older I want us all to sit down together to eat at the table and have conversation. Right now, she eats her "meal" much earlier than us, around 4 or 5pm. But it's an improvement over what I feared (back when I was pregnant) would happen when he watched her. I generally don't do things without her, and even took her with me to extended care the other night, but he will watch her while I shower after a run, or need to do laundry. I feared I would come back to find her propped up in front of our 60 inch TV, both of them sitting in complete silence. Instead, I find him down on the floor with her, helping her play with her toys, teaching her to put items in her bucket or, most recently, starting to rough-house with her. 

All studies and research aside, I will take hearing her belly-laughs and squeals, or his "Yay!" followed by applause over the mindless din of the TV any day.


4 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for this post and for the links to great articles. I wrote a little on this topic. Mostly on how we're modifying our behaviour to set a better example. We realised we mostly use TV for white noise, so we switched to listening to Pandora -Bill Joel radio offers a lot of classics. The one exception is sports. We got rid of cable and switched to a Roku with Sling TV, so we can't DVR any programmes, so we had a bit of basketball with her in the room during March Madness last month, but we always tried to turn her away from the screen. (My co-worker has 2.5 year old twins, who were exposed to the NBA playoffs last year as a local team was present and she commented that they would watch for a few minutes, then play with their little Tykes basketball hoop). I find it disturbing how many parents pacify their kids with iphones or ipads. What happened to books? One of my patients gave her nine month old her iphone with a viedo while I went to remove her IUD (which I told her would take only 2 minutes) I could give my now 9 month old a pair of socks and she'd be entertained. We visited with my cousins over Easter and while his 5.5 year old son was playing with some toys, his father came in and asked it he wanted to watch a video on his phone.... Your child is playing and entertaining himself and you're offering him screen time. Yes, I'm being judgemental -that is BAD parenting! Sorry to go on for so long with this comment, I feel really passionate about this issue too! NB. We love Archer and are so bummed we can't get it through Sling :(

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    1. Thank you for reading and for your support!! I agree, socks can be just as entertaining to them! But I feel like once they get "hooked" on the more stimulating, busy flashing lights, they are less likely to do "boring" things like coloring or playing with blocks.

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  2. The first time I ever turned on the tv for my daughter she was 22 months old, it was new years day and we watched the rose parade. After that I didn't watch with her until she turned 2. We would do a few youtube videos of popular baby songs and such but nothing more. I am NOT a fan of technology for kids, my daughter first saw an ipad on our 5 hour plan ride, I never hand her my phone, ever.
    My daughter is now 4 and we do watch tv together, we watch classic disney movies, and we just saw mary poppins which she loved! There are some really cute shows out there, but it is no replacement for actual awesome interaction. I think the first thing she watched after 2 was on a day that she was home sick and I was sick too and we just vegged out watching winnie the pooh...
    All parents have their things!

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    1. I can't wait to watch movies with her and introduce her to some of the things I loved as a kid!

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