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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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