Breaking news today: According to the New York Times, pediatricians reconfirm their recommendation that children under 2 step away from TV and simply talk and play. The American Academy of Pediatrics cited that passive television viewing could slow language and physical development in infants and toddlers. The AAP recommends that parents talk, play and interact with their kids instead of turning on the boob tube and vegging out. (Those are my words, not theirs, but I think they’d agree.)
In an aside, I find that my language and physical development also slow when I watch too much TV. For instance, the start of the new TV season often results in weight gain, loss of muscle mass and the inability to form a retort any longer than, “Really? Really?”
The recommendation comes with a warning about “Secondhand TV. “ By that term, the AAP means the unintended consequences of the TV being on all day in a household, which results in both distracting the parents from interaction with their kids and grabbing the attention of the toddler with, say, the Mega Doppler 7000 Weather Map or the highly addictive theme music from House Hunters. Raise your hand if your guilty of Secondhand TV?
In an aside, it makes me think of the many “secondhand” influences that I exposed my children to like the Sport Illustrated Swim Suit issue or microwave popcorn. What damage did I render with my over-use of headbands or seltzer water? Time will tell I guess.
I love TV, but not for kids. And really, really not for babies and little kids. That doesn’t mean I have a perfect record. Far from it. My active older son didn’t sit in front of a TV until he was 2 and I was pregnant, overcome by morning sickness all day long and trying to get through the day in an un- air-conditioned house during a hot Pasadena summer. A large purple dinosaur provided us with a few minutes of rest on such days and I was grateful. Then, the first set of recommendation came out in 1999 when I had a 3 year- old and an 1 year- old and used the TV as a distraction tool to get the baby fed while the toddler freaked out. We managed to confine our TV viewing to Barney and Oprah, but I knew that I had already lost my advantage in the TV war.
But I fought anyway to limit their screentime and increase my facetime with the kids. It’s a bit of work, but it was worth it. I did have to put aside my desire to watch the news at 4 pm everyday. We opted for no TV in the car and no TV on school nights. And, more often than not, our TV is silent through dinner so we can talk to each other, not stare at the screen. And, I’m guessing that most of you have made similar choices ( and sacrifices!) But was it worth it? Of course.
The other day, I was walking around the Rose Bowl when a mother with a toddler in a stroller went past me. The mom was talking away to her baby (not on a cell phone!) and pointing out all the many wonderful people, dogs, and trees to point out on such a walk. It made me smile, thinking of the constant talking I did to my kids when they were little. That’s one lucky kid, I thought.
Embracing my Chaos,