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 developmentAccording 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
How we make it workWe 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.