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Babies and TV: Moms Debate the Electronic Babysitter

Babies and TV: Moms Debate the Electronic Babysitter

Dora the Explorer, Barney, Sesame Street, Playhouse Disney ...popular children's TV programming can provide a welcome mini-break for moms who need to cook dinner, clean house, or simply shower. Yet moms have varying opinions on the acceptable amount of TV time for babies and toddlers, as well as the potential benefits and risks. Here are some of the most frequently-heard views expressed by Circle of Moms members.

No TV Recommended for Children Under 2

No TV is best according the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which encourages interactive play for children under 2 and recommends no TV at all. Many Circle of Moms members hold fast to this recommendation, arguing that passive TV time could be better spent talking, singing, reading, listening to music, or playing. As Rachel M. shared, "My children never watched TV until they were almost two, and even then I limited it to one show a day. They learned to play outside a lot which was great!" Other moms feel that the visual and aural stimulation provided by TV can be positive for babies. New York mom Noelle L. shared that her 3-month-old boy "loves the sounds and the bright lights," while Lisa G., a mother of two, feels cartoons advertised for ages 0-2, such as Clifford, Barney, Sesame Street, and Wonder Pets are positive sources of stimulation: "My son is 3 months old as well and loves watching TV...I actually think it's a good way to stimulate his brain."

Beyond Age 2, Moderation is Key

After the age of two, the AAP recommends no more than 1–2 hours per day of programming, and specifies that it should be educational and non-violent, and supervised. Many Circle of Moms members with children over 2 make good use that short window of TV time to speed through household tasks, carving out more time to spend with their children. As Tana K., a mother of two boys, explains: "It allows me to get what needs to be done fast without having to worry about what he is doing. I can finish more quickly when he's not following me around, tugging on my pants to try and get attention. I then have more time to focus on him and we can play, read, work on colors, numbers, etc., together." Other moms feel that strictly adhering to the 1–2 hour limit for toddlers isn't terribly important. As Julie N. shares, "My kids watch heaps of TV and DVDs, but at the same time they are really active and we go out a lot and do lots of other activities…At the end of the day, as long as they are not glued to the TV 24/7, with their face right in front of the screen, stuffing themselves with sweets and crisps at the same time, then it is not a bad thing."

TV's Effects on Child Development

Why shouldn't infants watch TV? As recently reported by US News, a study found "babies who watch TV are more likely to have delayed cognitive development and language at 14 months, especially if they're watching programs intended for adults and older children." As Washington mom Sally N. further explained, the lack of human interaction in the TV experience, along with the distortion of sounds and quickly moving images can all pose problems.

On the other hand, several Circle of Moms members argued that TV alone won't cause developmental delays. Erin H., a single mom in Australia, contended that in addition to TV viewing, development in young children depends on factors including "personality, genetics, social environment, and, most importantly, the amount of time spent talking and exploring new concepts."

Looking for more information about moms' views on TV? Want to share your own opinion?

Home to dynamic communities where moms share their diverse opinions and real-life experiences, Circle of Moms is a place connect with fellow moms about all kinds of parenting topics, whether you want to ask fellow moms developmental questions (search under "Communities" by your child's month and year of birth), find advice on age-appropriate TV shows, or debate hot parenting topics.

Image Source: khrawlings via Flickr/Creative Commons

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ShirleyAdams22000 ShirleyAdams22000 4 years
It's all about moderation - same with anything in a kid's life. But TV has been a lifesaver for this working mom when my 7 year old daughter is sick and I have a conference call I have to do!
CoMMember13631122753501 CoMMember13631122753501 4 years
I think the learning programs are great for toddlers! She has learned to speak words in Chinese from Kai-lan, Spanish words from Dora and math skills from Umi-Zoomi. She's only two years old by the way!
PriscillaWright PriscillaWright 4 years
I Gree it's not the best yet try having a 3 month old and a 19 month old and tell me what you do?
DianaEvans48706 DianaEvans48706 4 years
I'm really tired of hearing how these "experts" perdict what is ok for our kids and what isn't. My kids are VERY well balanced, top of their class and well mannered kids (ages 19 1/2, 17 & 8) and they've watched tv their whole lives. Also my son has played all those video games that's suppose to be "baaaad". If it wasn't for these kids shows many kids wouldn't: ONE, speak English, TWO, learn their letters, numbers, sounds, & THREE, tv is only as bad as you allow it to be. Parents need to look at their kids, watch tv that is appropriate for them WITH THEM. Kids only act out when they feel disrespected, or alone, or bored. Some kids just want to be important. Stop blaming tv, music, video games or even toys for children's behavior and start looking at the parents or their surroundings. Sometimes kids turn into bad adults, that's all there is to it, theres no science behind it, it's just nature. Life gives us all challenges, GOD gave us the ability to makes decisions, whether they are good or bad ones is all on us.
KristiKamp KristiKamp 4 years
My 1 year old watches tv with me and she is in no way developmentally delayed in her speech. She has more words than the average 1 year old; it just depends on the child, genetics, and the environment. I work with my daughter on her language skills and I also don't talk to her in baby talk. We aim for 1-2 new words each week and she is doing great. Not only is she saying them, but she understands them and points to the object too. We work on 1 syllabyl words- favorite word is ball. So, I definitely do not think tv harms her brain.. It actually helps her- she watches music videos of country stars and dances to it.
KellyAnnDunstan KellyAnnDunstan 4 years
I am an outdoors kind of mum as I was raised but TV is awesome when it comes to keeping a child quietly entertained when mummy needs quiet time as I have a very active 3 year old. Also must admit I did use the tv as a babysitter when I was pregnant with number two and couldn't keep up with him. Otherwise turn the tv off and share a story or play games and get their little brains working.
HollyPowell47937 HollyPowell47937 4 years
I disagree with no TV before 2yrs. If you let them watch the correct shows it can be helpful with learning BEFORE 2yrs. My daughter just turned 2 and she watches TV while she eats (NOT during family dinners though) and has since she started feeding herself. She knows the characters of her favorite shows; she knows when they ask questions that require yes or no answers; she repeats certain words during the show (i.e. Spanish, Chinese, Animal sounds); she knows shapes, colors, numbers, etc... Granted I also play with her and read to her but I know the shows have taught her just as much.
CoMMember13613649743485 CoMMember13613649743485 4 years
My daughter now 2yrs old started watchin tv wen she was bout 5mnths. Around 10/11mnths old i heard her counting 1 to 6 n was singing along to peppa pig and dora so tv can b good especially for kids like mine without siblings. N right now she talks more than an average 3year old child with almost perfectly structered sentenses
LizB55156 LizB55156 4 years
My brother was glued to the TV as a kid and did really well in school and university.
KimClemence KimClemence 4 years
I let my son watch Baby Einstein quite a bit while he was under 2yrs. It's safe, slow paced, no violence, yada yada. It was a life saver for me since I was going to college and it was just the two of us. By the time he was 1 1/2 he could recognize all the letters of the alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes, animals, various objects etc. as well as some sign language. I'm very proud of him and how much he's learned and I don't regret his time spent watching their videos. Everyone he comes in contact with is surprised at how intelligent he is for his age. We couldn't have done it without some quality TV time.
JodiJensen73819 JodiJensen73819 4 years
my 3 month old son loves to watch tv especially Nick Jr. and Disney Channel...I think its the colors and the music because he sits and laughs at it. It also helps me out when i have to clean house especially since my husband works nights im usually the one up during the day with my son.
JennaKing26603 JennaKing26603 4 years
I would like to know if all these parents who are insisting their child NEVER watched TV before the age of two ever had their child in the same room while THEY were watching something. That is exposing them to TV as much as if the parents sit them down in front of it. And if you live in a house where you don't ever have the TV on, kudos to you. Some of us married couch potatoes and unless we make them stay in the upstairs bedroom watching TV, there's no way that our little ones can escape, try as hard as we might. That's why it's a good idea to also know that there are good wholesome shows. And to interact and play with baby as much as possible. For some of us, it's unrealistic to expect the TV to be off for all our kids under the age of 2 when our spouse has it on 24-7 when he's home from work.
DawnSpivey39414 DawnSpivey39414 4 years
My two year old son watches t.v. I don't think it has inhibited him in anyway, everyone always tells me how smart they think he is. Ofcourse, I only let him watch channels that teach him important learning tools, and the occational Disney flick
Meg75456 Meg75456 4 years
Many times I feel guilty about letting my 3 1/2 yr old watch tv, but she loves shows like Team Umizoomi, the Backyardigans and Olivia where she learns so much. Plus she's really active and social. I grew up watching tv and so it's on all the time. I do make sure we have "broken" tv days and when she watches tv, an adult is always around. Do I agree she should watch less? Yes! But trying to limit it to a very small amount is hard.
DeziraeJohnson DeziraeJohnson 4 years
My kids watch tv. My son is 15 months and my daughter is 3. My daughter is EXTREMELY smart for her age and human interaction does not allude her. She is in preschool now and she had surpassed her 4 and 5 year old classmates before she even entered the class. She even gets to participate in teaching when she knows what is going on better than the other kids in her class. She has always watched tv and I will never be convinced that tv is bad for my kids. My 15 month old is starting to form sentences and identify a lot of things. I think what is bad for children is not playing with your kids and relying on the tv to be their teacher and not interacting with them in other ways.
ErinZimmerman13796 ErinZimmerman13796 4 years
My son has been watching tv since he was about 6 months old and he is almost 3. He is the most active toddler that I have ever seen, we play outside everyday and he is sooooo smart! I dont think its wrong or bad for a child to watch tv at a young age!!
CarolynLewis69101 CarolynLewis69101 4 years
I don't recomment much tv for anyone, I am a big advocate for outdoors and family activities, we use our television very little, we love board games, cards, crafts, and when the weather is nice, we're outdoors alot, always something fun to do rather then using tv to entertain. Young children love hands on attention, and it is the best thing for a developing child.
LaurieJensen88487 LaurieJensen88487 5 years
Just like many other things in life, the TV can be beneficial if used in moderation and wisely. My son's speach was delayed and I used Dora to encourage him to respond to prompts. The Letter Factory was perfect to help him learn his letters. Now, years later, 1 TV show is a great motivator to for my kids to get their chores done or to clean their rooms. My kids don't really know what commercials are since they almost always use netflix or DVDs.
LeanneHamilton LeanneHamilton 5 years
I think TV was sent from the Gods! We do limit to how much our little one watches, and what he watches.. But today I let him watch all he wanted because I am very sick.. I was right by him, he was laughing, clapping and having a real good time. I would much rather him be happy by watching TV than have him not watch it, get into things and have a cranky mommy on his hands because she was in to much pain to chase after him and whatnot. Sometimes a little more TV than normal can be a good thing. However, my son would pick outside over TV any day. Also.. We have Netflix, so I can choose exactly what he is watching and do not have to worry about him being subjected to commercials.
AngieCousins38198 AngieCousins38198 5 years
My 4 year old, watched the channel baby tv for a while maybe in total 1 hour every day especially at night as it plays soothing classical music with kaleidoscope effects which became a godsend for getting her off to sleep. She is 4 years old and was speaking before 1yr old with words and swiftly moving on to sentences before the age of 2. I do not think all tv is bad, in fact, if used properly it can be an educational tool. MY 4 yo can write her name, count to 20, say her ABC's and recognise letters and numbers too. She recognised the number 2 at 2.5 yrs old. I am ashamed to say that none of this was my input apart from the counting and reciting the alphabet. Most of this was purely because of Baby TV channel or the Playhouse Disney channel. There is some benefit that tv can bring, but would not have them glued to it all day long, that's where I draw the line xx
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