Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Boob-Tube Controversy

Recently, I've been thinking about all the 'experts' out there with 1,001 opinions on letting your kiddos watch TV. It's been on my mind a lot; Audrey is beginning to show markedly increased interest in kid shows, especially anything including Sesame Street characters. Heck, sometimes she even likes to watch the commercials in between grown-up shows. It begs the question: how much TV is too much, if any?

Before Audrey was born, I got my hands on an article released by the AAP, which claimed it was vital to keep kiddos from watching TV before the age of 2, and that every hour parked in front of the TV could be directly correlated to delays in speech development (also supported by other docs and such from other sources). THEN I read about how no one knows for sure what the impact of watching TV is when it comes to young kids, and that you should be safe and keep them from watching any at all for ever and ever, amen. At the same time, I was bombarded with the supposed genius that is the Baby Einstein line. Hmmm.

Out of frustration, confusion, and ignorance, I vowed to keep the tube off around Audrey at all times, and went forward in to parenthood. Well, that was easier said than done. Once Audrey got past the 12-month mark, she really started showing more interest in the TV. Some say it's because of the bright colors, others say it's the noise and movement... Most say kids this young don't even comprehend what they're seeing, and don't understand that what's on screen represents something. However, soon after Audrey's one year birthday, I started putting on Sesame Street while she ate lunch, basically to see if there would be any impact at all. Let's just say she noticed.

From the moment Elmo popped up on the screen, she was riveted, and still is to this day. However, something interesting happened. She immediately picked up on his name, his color, and frequently, even what he's doing. She then picked up on most of the other main characters (the puppets, anyway), and very quickly could pick them out of her Sesame Street pop-up book along with the sounds they make (like, 'Count, ah-ah-ah'). Then one day when she was about 14 months, I noticed she was repeating letters that the characters were repeating (her first being the letter 'X'). It got me thinking...

After hitting the books and parenting websites a second time (now with a new point of view), I was able to find less extreme sources and studies, and it seems like the following are proving to be true, at least for us:

1. Letting your kiddo watch TV only stunts his/her vocabulary if you're letting them watch TV in place of interacting with them. Watching with them, repeating letters and colors, describing what you're seeing, and validating what they say about said show, all makes a big difference (vs. just parking them and walking away).

2. TV used as a babysitter all day is bad for your kid's well-being and development, but a quality show here and there as part of a well-rounded day can be a fresh perspective on what you've been teaching them.

3. As with everything, you have to take expert advice about TV-watching with a grain of salt, because every kid and every family is different.

That being said, Audrey now watches an episode of Sesame Street every day while she eats lunch, and she really gets a kick out of it. It helps her eat slower, and it helps her wind down before nap time. If I were told a while back that this would be part of her regular routine at 18 months old, I would have laughed in your face. Now, as I am so much wiser, I realize yet again- you can't judge until you're there, and even then, everyone's different; the only one that can make the right decision for your family is you.

Audrey watching "Mr. Noodle" on Sesame Street right after lunch


  1. Hmmm, veeeery interesting! I am definitely going into parenthood with the "no tv" approach (we are canceling cable when we get back to North Carolina) but I'll have to do some research ;)

  2. Sesame Street definitely taught Kyle the alphabet before I even realized he was learning it!
    CUTE photo----such a squat! I think she needs a little recliner :-)

  3. I totally agree with your findings. While we do have the TV on more than I'd like around here, it's not stunting the boys' development in the least. We don't use it as a replacement for interaction. We watch a lot of Nick Jr. shows which has actually improved Elias' vocabulary (how else would he know the word volcano and know what it is?)

    I also think part of the problem is that some parents not only use the TV as a babysitter, but will forgo children's programing altogether and put on age inappropriate crap TV that they want to watch all day filled with commercials.

    There IS a reason it's called the "boob tube", but that doesn't mean that all TV use rots one's brain.