I limit the amount of tv that my children watch. With my firstborn, Wingnut, we waited until he was 2 years old before letting him watch any tv. With my second, Pigpen, it’s been harder. If Wingnut wants to watch some tv and it’s a good time, I don’t want to deny him just because Pigpen is around. If our tv was in a different location where I could keep them separated, that would help, but that’s just not the situation in our house right now.
At first I was worried about Pigpen being exposed to tv before he was 2. After all, that was the recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics (now you can see that it is 18 months). But in reality, Pigpen really didn’t end up watching that much. I would set up the tv for Wingnut with some “high-quality programming” and Pigpen would sometimes hang around and watch. But he usually only watched for about 10-15 minutes before wandering off to hang out with me or play somewhere else.
I understand the purpose to limit time spent watching tv. There needs to be time for family interaction, for quiet, to be alone, for creative play, music, reading, etc. But the more I think about it, the less I agree with forbidding it altogether.
As I’ve said before, I am not an expert on children and I am not an expert on television. But I do think that it’s hard to prove that tv is totally detrimental. There are studies that conclude that children under 2 years old should not watch tv because it may inhibit their learning and development. But by the nature of this activity, we could only compare children to other children. We could never compare how a child turned out after watching tv to how he would have turned out if he didn’t.
No two children grow, learn, and develop at the same rate. Add in the millions of external factors that could influence a child at any moment during their day to day life and extrapolating the effect that something like tv watching could have seems impossible. I’m not saying that these studies are completely invalid. I’m saying we should watch and monitor our own children and how tv effects them, be mindful, and decide how extreme to be with the regulations we place on them.
Some researchers have even found that watching tv can be good for toddlers. Even accepting that children may learn less from tv than from live interaction, it doesn’t mean that that learning isn’t worth it. The stories children hear and see from tv can enhance their lives, just as much as books I would say, depending on what is understood and how the rest of their life experiences grow and build on them. Hearing stories and seeing different parts of the world expands the mind, opening it up to more curiosity and acceptance of differences.
Perhaps that is where the idea of “high-quality programing” comes in. What is high-quality programing and who decides what does or doesn’t fit the bill? I have a few of my favorites (that I will list below) and I have a few that I really don’t like (here’s one example). This is a totally personal choice I have made, though, and the views you may have for your children may be different. As parents, we need to pay attention and be involved with our own children, deciding what tv — if any — is best for them just like we decide what is the best for them out of everything else.
Too much tv, like too much of anything, is not a good thing. But balanced well into a week full of diverse, stimulating, and restful activities, I think tv is okay for children.
Also, I must add here, that I benefit from the hour Wingnut is engaged watching tv. It gives me a much-needed break (2 year olds can be very attention-demanding) where I can rest and recharge or be productive, where I can concentrate completely on something for a whole hour. This is very important for my sanity — a stressed-out mama is not pleasant for anyone. When I am able to receive the self-care that I need, I am better equipped to provide the care my family needs, and that is better for everyone.
Some of my favorite “high-quality programming” on tv:
- Puffin Rock -A young puffin and her ever-curious little brother explore an island off the coast of Ireland – Netflix
- Mouk – Young Mouk and Chavpa discover the world on their bicycles, making friends along the way – Netflix
- Kazoops – A imaginative young boy and his pet pig explore home life and encourage children to challenge the workings of the world – Netflix
- Stella and Sam – Sister and brother have many adventures, mostly outside, because they know they have more fun when they’re together – Family Channel and Netflix
- Wild Kratts – Follows the adventures of animated versions of brothers Chris and Martin Kratt as they encounter wild animals during stories of adventure and mystery – PBS Kids
- Sesame Street – Bridges many cultural and educational gaps with Muppets teaching children numbers, colors and the alphabet, set on a city street full of valuable learning opportunities – PBS Kids
- Peg + Cat -Inspires preschoolers’ natural curiosity about math and helps them develop new skills and strategies for solving problems creatively in their daily lives – PBS Kids
- The Muppet Show – A medley of sweet and mischievous, a weekly variety show with songs, dances, and comedy featuring a range of famous guests – DVD