No Mo’ Elmo? Docs recommend No TV for Under 2 Set.

by Lian on October 18, 2011

For Your Eyes Only! Don't let the kids watch this adorable video of Elvis Costello and Elmo sing, "The Monsters Went and Ate my Red Two." Click here!

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,






Barbara in Idaho October 23, 2011 at 11:22 AM

For the last nearly 4 years, TV is the only way I’ve been able to take a shower…

My 3 year old is obsessed with dinosaurs, his favorite show is Dino Dan, and he tells me that a dramiosaurus (sp?) is a scavenger and that a T-Rex is a carnivore.

We have an ipod specifically for our 1 and 3 y.o. boys. My belief is that their ability to use, learn from and adapt with technology will be in direct corrolation to their success later in life.

That being said, we played for hours this morning “building houses”, “monsters” topped off with “lego cake” my son made for me.

As Dr. Dean Odell says…and you Lian…everything in moderation.

Jan B October 19, 2011 at 5:07 PM

Children learn so much through play. I am so saddened to see there is a “baby network” now.

Lian October 19, 2011 at 10:38 AM

Good column. Thanks for the link, Bill. Love the bit about the $100. Lian

William J. October 19, 2011 at 8:55 AM

Loved this column by Craig Wilson in today’s USA Today about parenting.

He makes me wonder what kind of a parent I’d have been.

Lian October 19, 2011 at 8:04 AM

I think the interesting part of this is the “passive” aspect. The recommendations are aimed at the old “sit on the couch and do nothing” model of watching TV. I know, who doesn’t love that, right?

But moderation in all things. There is a time to turn on and a time to turn off.


Sue in NJ October 19, 2011 at 6:50 AM

I am a digital immigrant but I taught in a technology lab for over 25 years and am proud to be a geek. I agree that parents and relatives should play with, talk to, and read to babies, toddlers and children as much as possible. On the other side of the coin, along with all the talking and reading, my daughter grew up watching Sesame Street (at 6 months), Electric Company and Mr. Rogers. She is over 40, has a Masters and a Doctorate, is an excellent mother, and holds several important posts in her community. Am I worried that I stunted her emotional and intellectual growth? Not a bit! Everything in balance and moderation. Never thought I’d be quoting my mother :-)

Cyndi October 18, 2011 at 6:42 PM

I read an article today in the Boston Globe about a similar topic … the impact of growing up digital. In the opening paragraph, a mother commented that her 4 1/2 year old already tried to “swipe” the paper pages of real books. Interesting … I love the term digital immigrants (our generation) versus digital natives (their generation) which really describes our different relationship with technology. I’ll probably always think about the old way of doing something versus the new way while our young ones learn and grow with what is currently in front of them. Good for them.

Raising children for most people, certainly in my case, relies on those electronic conveniences (tv or insert latest i-whatever) to snatch a little breather. I couldn’t agree with you more about facetime and walking, talking and pointing out everything in sight. No matter what technology (yes, it’s a good thing) becomes part of our daily lives, it’s only a tool and it should never replace love, curiousity and the human touch.

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