Why TV Doesn't Have to Be the Enemy
One father's thoughts on television and toddlers
Now, I realize that my family’s situation may be somewhat unique. We moved away from most of our family for my career, so we don’t have a grandma or uncle who is a convenient babysitter once or twice a week. Plus, we live in the Pacific Northwest where it rains a lot, so we may be a bit more cooped up than a family in San Diego, for example. But I still can’t help but feel that there are lots of parents who, like us, use TV as a parenting tool and who, like us, could use more guidance on how to use it in a healthy way. Even dermatologists give alternatives for people lacking sunscreen (put on a hat, cover up, limit your time in the sun, etc.).
My other concern here is that this one- to two-hour time limit represents somewhat of a mixed signal. On one hand, we learn that our babies and toddlers have brains that are rapid-synapse-firing, sponge-like organs that want and need as much stimulation as possible. Then we are told that the wealth of quality educational programs available—full of colors, numbers, languages, and people in faraway places laughing, dancing, and singing—should be significantly restricted during this critical time in our children’s cognitive development.
3 Television Viewing Guidelines
We all must parent as we see fit. Whether more than an hour or two of TV is good or bad is up to each parent to decide. For our family, more than an hour of quality television, judiciously administered, is OK. Our priority is certainly to read, sing, and interact with our daughter as much as we can. But when we need a break from her or her from us, or when we want to stimulate her brain with things beyond our walls, our town or our country without having to get on a plane, we follow these guidelines:
- She only watches commercial-free children’s programming or DVDs of shows that are age appropriate, violence free, educational, and that she enjoys.
- We never let her watch TV for more than about 30 minutes at a sitting, and each sitting is spaced out by several hours.
- If my wife and I want to watch a program and our daughter is in the room, one of us always has a remote control in hand for a quick mute or power kill, for inappropriate dialogue, unexpected violence and, of course, commercials. We are especially wary of movie previews and previews of late-night programming.
By following these family guidelines, we are confident that our daughter’s TV viewing is conducted in a safe manner and that we’re doing our jobs. We’re parenting—and there is balance.
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