TV Should Not Be Your Backup Babysitter


baby in front of tvI fully admit that I'm a TV junkie -- I mean, you know it's bad if I'm still watching Gossip Girl. Now that I have 3-month-old twins, though, I know that I need to be more mindful about exposing them to TV. For years, the American Academy of Pediatrics has been warning against letting children under 2 watch television. Recently, they've spoken out about it again, emphasizing that even so-called educational shows cannot replace the cognitive and language skills they gain from human interaction. In fact, TV-watching can be detrimental.

The report states: "... for every hour a child under 2 spends in front of a screen, he or she spends about 50 minutes less interacting with a parent, and about 10 percent less time in creative play."

Ask me today, and I'm like, "TV bad, no good for little ones." But when I've got two active toddlers tearing apart my house? Eh, I might be a little more lenient.

My brother and I are only 14 months apart, so when I was little, my Mom often just plopped us in front of the TV so she could, I don't know, breathe, maybe. Apparently, I'd sit there playing with toys and ignore whatever show was on. But the commercials always had my rapt attention. Regardless, I turned out okay.

Or, at least, I think I turned out okay. I guess everyone says that. Even dysfunctional folk say things like, "My parents let me watch slasher flicks when I was 4, and look how well I turned out? Want to come down to the basement to check out my antique sword collection and dead squirrel pelts?" One has to wonder, though, if all that time spent in front of the TV stunted my budding genius and kept me from blossoming into the cancer-curing, world-peace-making wunderkind I was really meant to be. Okay, not likely.

For the most part, my babies spend their time in the nursery. But their swings are in our den, where we do watch TV. I mean, it's not like we've got The Walking Dead on. But they do stare at the screen, totally fascinated, and sometimes, I think I hear their little brain cells squealing, "Help me, help me!" The reality is, it's probably not doing any more damage than the ceiling fan, which they seem to find equally mesmerizing.

I think what really matters, though, is that I spend plenty of time singing them songs and putting them on their play mat, and suffering through tummy time. I make it a priority to engage their minds with one-on-one-interaction, which is doubly hard with twins.

Still, there are those times when I'm like, "Hey buddies, wanna go in your swing for a bit while Mommy catches the last 10 minutes of the Real Housewives reunion? Okay, let's do it!" And as they get older, I imagine I'll only start doing that more and more. Still, as long as I'm committed to giving them as much Mommy playtime as possible, and I'm not consistently relying on the TV to keep my kids occupied, a little bit can't be all that bad, can it?

What do you think? Do you let your kids under 2 watch TV?

Image via flick_family/Flickr

baby development


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Alain... Alainalynn

I Love Gossip Girl too!!! My daughter is 3 and her fav show is Max and Ruby. There are bonuses to her watching it (she has learned alot of new games and dances (the hippity hop)) and there are downfalls as well (she doesn't like to be torn away to go to the bathroom).

mommix4 mommix4

Yes I did

MadMe... MadMerlotMama

I'd like to believe I'm not alone when I plop my kid in front fo Max & Ruby, (evidently popular among 3 year olds) so I can have 20 minutes of peace. Whether that means showering, emptying the dishwasher or just enjoying a cup of joe.


nonmember avatar blh

My sons only a year and a half so he'll look at it sometimes but only for a few minutes. But when he's older and I have something I need to do I don't see the problem with letting him watch tv for a little bit....if you freak out about tv and make it this forbidden thing they'll just want it more.

Logan... LoganTroyMom

my son is 3 and still mostly plays while it's on (only nick jr, ever) but lately he gets more transfixed. When he gets so into it he cries about it going off or something though, we find other activities. He has learned a lot from it though

ChicH... ChicHippie

He watches Mickey Mouse in the morning while I have a bowl of cereal. He loves the colors and songs. He also loves when we sing songs and look at books together. Its only 15 min out of his day and I need that few min. I think he does too actually to just swing and take a break from mommy.

nonmember avatar Karen

I think TV watchers get such a bad rap. Really, what is the difference between sitting and watching TV, or sitting and reading a book, or sitting and listening to music, or sitting and knitting? No difference at all, in my opinion. But all of those other activities are labeled "good" while TV gets a "bad" label. Kids rarely just SIT and watch TV anyway - my boys are always acting out the stories they see on TV with their own toy cars and stuffed animals, dancing around to the music, or running in and out of the room doing other things while the TV just happens to be on. I just don't see why people get so worked up over having a TV on.

nonmember avatar jen

My daughter in 1 and a half and I let her watch yo gabba gabba. Well that is the only show she likes to watch and she has learned a lot watching that show. Like learning how to use phrase, I'm scared or oh no and actually using correctly. So there are some benefits and it lets mommy and daddy have time to do stuff around the house.

craft... craftycatVT

My daughter loves to have cartoons on and I think it's ok sometimes because she mostly sits and draws while they're on. She also never just sits and watches. I think its mostly that she likes the background noise.

MRMama MRMama

i need to take a shower.


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