Is It a Bad Parenting Choice to Let Baby Watch TV?

Lauren Flynn Kelly

I love my baby. And I love my television programs. But do they go together, or is the theory that TV rots your brain true for babies, too?

We all know that kids don't get enough time outside. And it's not just American kids. A study in England says that one in four children straight-up never play outside. My husband and I have even considered not allowing our daughter to watch any TV when she's older to encourage outdoor play. For now, however, we watch a lot of TV. But the American Association of Pediatrics does not recommend exposing children under the age of 2 to television and has suggested that "too much television can negatively affect early brain development."

In the final months of my pregnancy, I spent a lot of time on the couch. And that meant weekend marathons of One Tree Hill (thank you, SOAPnet's "Breakfast in Bed") and a nightly date with TBS reruns of The Office. In other words, too much TV.

Then I discovered Netflix streaming on the Wii and I was a goner. Practically all of my favorite shows were at my fingertips, and in the weeks following the birth of my daughter, I was so out of it that all I could do to stay sane through the hormones and the 4 a.m. feedings was turn on a fave episode of something. (The two-part Office episode where Jim and Pam have their baby, by the way, is really comforting after delivery.)

Now that I'm actually getting sleep and somewhat of a handle on this parenting thing, I find that the TV is still playing an active role in my life. When my fussy baby is crying for hours on end and won't respond to my singing or my husband DJing some soothing tunes, I give up, sit on the couch, put on the TV at a low volume, and rock her until she's asleep ... and it works. Sometimes it's just all I have the energy for, and it helps us cope with the stress.

I suppose it's all about finding a healthy balance of quiet time and TV time, but if the AAP is right and Michael Scott is messing with my child's brain development, I'm wondering if I should just keep the tube off while she's in the room and reserve it for naps and bedtime. I don't know. For my own sanity, I just can't give up my TV habit.

Is having the TV on around infants a form of bad parenting?

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