"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes-and ships-and sealing-wax-
Of cabbages-and kings-
And why the sea is boiling hot-
And whether pigs have wings."

- The Walrus and the Carpenter by Lewis Carrol
(From Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1872)

Friday, June 17, 2011

How Evil Is TV, Really?

The level of wickedness that resides within the soft glow of our flat screen television is something that I've struggled with ever since Abbey came home from the hospital and I started devouring information on baby/childhood brain development.

Everything I have read suggests it is bad, bad, bad to let your infant watch television. Most experts agree that the TV should be OFF - no exposure - for infants, and most seem to agree that TV adds no value for children under the age of 2.

Intellectually, I totally agree with them.

Here's the thing.

I grew up in a household where the television was on pretty much ALL THE TIME. Thus, in our house, the television is on almost ALL THE TIME. No, we aren't always watching it. Often - like now - it's on in the background turned to a news channel with the volume set lower. On the weekend, it's usually set to the Food Network, or a DIY channel. So, it's not like it's continuous gratuitous sex/violence being exhibited on the flashy screen. It's Eggs Benedict. And gardening. And the Today Show. And we NEVER plop Abbey in front of the television thinking that we WANT her to watch it. Heavens no! But she is, from time to time, drawn to the magical screen. Especially when there's something musical happening - a jingle, or a video, or Dancing With the Stars. But it's usually just for a second or two and she returns to playing with her toys, cooing happily.

So, how badly are we damaging our child here?

The television is by no means a "babysitter" in our house. Rather, a companion for the adults who are news junkies and like to check in with the adult world. So, I'm curious if any of you out there have read anything on passive TV viewing in children? Because I think I can attest that I definitely have some ADD and OCD tendencies, and maybe that's a product of growing up in a digital age. And if that's the case for me - in my Atari loving, MTV just came out, I loved Fraggle Rock childhood - what does the impact of so much technology mean for our daughter?


  1. We took the TV out of our living room and turned it into a play room when Kyle was little. We really felt there was no need for him to be watching TV as an infant. If we wanted to watch, we watched in our bedroom in the evenings after he was asleep. As he got older, we started giving in to it a little more...but were very selective in his watching. We don't have cable, so it has always been DVD's only for him. I'd say he really wasn't watching much TV though until he was around 2 years old, I think that's when we loosened up a bit. Until then I don't think he got any benefit out of it anyway...it's just lots of lights flashing. He will be 3 at the end of July, and he does enjoy watching shows now. He understands so much more now, and it is more than moving puppets or flashing lights. :) I think that the problem with TV is when people use it as a long term babysitter....however, I will say....I never thought I would be this parent...but yes, I will use the occasional show to entertain him so that I can get some things done. We do what we can to be good parents, all of us, and I don't think that a few minutes of TV will ruin a kid. It's when it is non-stop that the issue comes about. I do not have a kid that is addicted to the TV...he does not cry when I turn it off...he LOVES to play OUTSIDE. He is very active, coordinated, and busy...so I am not worried about the TV watching that he does. :) Even right now, he is playing with toys, and will occasionally stop to check out his show...but really is more interested in playing than the TV. ;-)

    You are a great Mommy! You will do whatever you feel is best and right for your Abbey. xoxo

  2. We Millen's were all about taking it in stride...A little here and a little there in the first years...We liked the Baby Einstein DVD's, and not because I thought it would make them instant geniuses but because they actually really were designed for babes, and very entertaining. After 2yrs old they care, are seriously entertained and actually can benefit from shows like Sesame Street,with the counting and Spanish and what have you...Not to mention I personally LOVE LOVE LOVE Charlie and Lola, the cutest little cartoon in the world! (Totally completely reminds me of my relationship with my brother Tim growing up)....Don't recall the channel but it DVR's every Saturday and Sunday, early AM.

    I grew up with TV, just as you did and kind of makes me laugh when I see the girls enjoying 20min here and there, commercial free...They have their "Shows" and its totally cute. They still love to play, Cecilia has quiet time everyday for 2 hrs where the TV is off, she is in the playroom while Josie naps and she can do anything her little imagination desires. In the Summer we are outside for hours at a time. Life is good. TV is a fun treat! We even, on rainy days, have movie days now that they are 3ish and 4. Mama needs a break now and again! :)