The Baby and The Telly

How is it already Thursday? Have I ever told you I like Thursdays? Mostly, I'm happy because it means that Wednesday is over. Wednesday gets me down every week. Plus, Thursday is the night I watch my favorite television shows. So here's one subject everyone exaggerates and huffs about: TV for babies.

The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) states:

The first two years of your child’s life are especially important in the growth and development of her brain. During this time, children need positive interaction with other children and adults. This is especially true at younger ages, when learning to talk and play with others is so important.
Until more research is done about the effects of screen time on very young children, the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly discourages television viewing for children ages two years old or younger, and encourages interactive play.
For older children, the Academy advises no more than one to two hours per day of educational, nonviolent programs, which should be supervised by parents or other responsible adults in the home.

I decided I wanted to keep Baby A's exposure to television and movies minimal. She won't get to watch a full-length movie until she's closer to two. She watches no more than 140 minutes of DVD per week, and it is of 20 minute DVD episodes of Muumi cartoons, or, occasionally, the Baby Einstein World Music DVD. 

(I do move her back when she tries to watch it so close.)

 I started putting on a Muumi episode when she was about seven months old, justified by a desire to expose her to more Finnish. I speak exclusively Finnish with her, but my Finnish vocabulary and grammar are sometimes weak, and the Muumis are so conversational and any case, she dances in excitement to the opening song, then crawls around playing as usual until the closing song. I am hoping she grows up loving them like I did, (and when she is two next summer we can take her to the Muumi theme park in Finland!) So, why do I judge (secretly!) parents that choose other media for their kids?

1. I'm a hypocrite. But hey, I can admit it, so that makes it not as bad, right?

2. I think too much princess hype leads to early sexualization and distorted views on gender. This Redbook article explains it well. Also, I hope that my daughter makes it to at least age ten before she knows who the Osmond-Fonzie-JTT-Timberlake-Bieber of her time is. (Have you noticed how the target audience of teen idols has gradually shifted to a younger age?)

3. I'm annoyed that advertisers and some parents try to say that the show they put on for an infant is educational. Everybody knows it is to give the parents a much-deserved break. A baby would get more education from watching a fish aquarium (and even more from reading a book with their parent) than watching bright flashing (even slowly paced) images, whether or not they include the alphabet, numbers, vocabulary exercise, or watered-down lectures on sharing. This article explains it won't make your kid smarter, and this one admits baby shows are for the parents, not the babies.

4. Screen time adds up quickly (and technically includes the computer and video games). I theorize the longer you can put off parking in front of a screen, the easier it will be to keep screen time from encroaching on time for interactive, exploratory, and outdoor play.

On that last point, I must admit Baby A is exposed to a little more media than I intend. If she wakes up from an evening nap while the hub and I are watching something, we don't turn it off. If Baby and I come home and the hub has beat us there and is watching something, he usually finishes it. And I have to pitch a little passive-aggressive fit to keep video gaming strictly to times when Baby is away from home or sleeping.

The point is, the best expert opinion (in my opinion) says toddlers don't benefit from television/movies, and that it could be detrimental. But when I google first birthday themes, mommy message boards are filled with suggestions like Tinkerbell, Minnie Mouse, Pooh, and Baby Einstein. 
Exhibit A, a FIRST birthday cake:

How are these characters beloved already? Other people don't even own a TV. Obviously, there's a big range of what people think is good for their child in terms of the telly. So, let's chat. What do you think? Be nice.



  1. Agree and agree. I'm actually rather proud of the fact that my 2 year old has no attention span for movies (on the off occasion I put one on hoping to get something done) and that as soon as the music stops she's asking for the crayons and her coloring book. We don't have TV channels or a video game system, so movies and the occasional youtube video are all she gets.

    She does like short Sesame Street videos, which at 2, I don't mind too much. At least they're classy and she picks up the songs and sings them all the time. But no princess movies yet. She doesn't even recognize the Disney princess characters. Her first birthday theme was Classic Mother Goose and it turned out adorable and very age appropriate.

    Anyway, keep up the good crusade. I feel just as passionately about feeding my child healthy, natural foods as you seem to about limiting media influence on yours. We've got a long battle ahead of us without much support from other Moms or popular culture. But really, is there anything more important and worth fighting for than nurturing healthy minds and bodies in our kids?!

  2. The photo of the little mermaid cake had me hunched over my keyboard in laughter. I KNOW how much you just love THAT disney character.



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