Letting your toddler watch TV

Sitting in front of the “boob tube” (as my grandpa used to call it) has been a much talked about conversation in our household. I grew up with the TV on almost all the time, my husband did not. I enjoy LOTS and LOTS of different shows, my husband does not. I’m pretty lazy (I mean I do what I’ve got to do, but I’m not very motivated to do things in general). I’ve wondered if that comes from watching so much TV.

Now that I have a son and need to think about his future, I keep going back and forth on the issue. So the other day at a play date I brought it up to some other moms. Of course, with almost everything concerning parenting ask a question and you’ll get just as many answers as there are parents. Toddlers and TV watching got even more of a response than I had expected.

There is soooo much conflicting information about whether it is good or not. In general, all of the recommendations say that kids under 2 should not watch TV. The main reason is that there is not enough good research on the effects – good or bad. As with most hot button issues, organizations will usually err on the side of caution.

Part of the reason for the lack of research is the ability to document language capability at the beginning of the study. That’s why most studies you find about kids and TV involve kids 3 or older.

Of those studies, I found a really interesting study from 2006 on the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) website… “A Systematic Review for the Effects of Television Viewing by Infants and Preschoolers.” Its a very interesting study because it doesn’t say that all TV is bad, just some TV. Its really the quality of the programing that affects the children, not the TV itself. In fact, it found the educational program actually increased positive behaviors and other programming increased negative behaviors. The categories researched were learning, racial attitudes, social behaviors, imaginative play, aggression and self-regulation. Programs such as Sesame Street were proven to have a positive impact on preschoolers, in particular in learning language.

To begin with, I was really against having my son watch any TV. However, I had talked to a few moms and they had noticed that there toddlers (under the age of 2) had actually learned some things from the programming they provided, such as how to sign, letter recognition, animal recognition and some general words.

Up until a couple of months ago, my son could care less if the TV was on. But now, he really likes to watch it. So I started letting him watch some TV every day. He really digs Sesame Street, especially Elmo! And to be honest, Sesame Street is on the TV right now so that I could get some things done around the house, including writing this post.Funny enough, he is trading off sitting in his chair watching the TV and getting up playing with his little golf set. The worries of him being sedentary too long do not seem to be a concern, at least as of yet.

It is a mixed blessing. I do get some needed breaks that I wasn’t getting until he started tuning in, especially since my husband works 6 days a week and long hours, too. But I feel like I’m not a very good caregiver on the days when the TV is longer than I had planned. We do go out and play every day, in fact we already went to the park this morning before nap time. And soon we’ll be running some errands and then hitting up a park afterwards.

We read every day together, we play games every day, we go outside and play. So for now, Sesame Street will be on the TV when mommy needs some much needed peace and quiet, or a few moments to get some things done.

Posted in Parenting

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