Babies and Television Exposure: Ripe for Holier Than Thou Parenting 

I was following a discussion thread on a little parenting related Facebook group that I’m a member of, and what was a simple question about the effects of TV exposure on sleep had turned into a judge-fest with Holier Than Thou parents piling onto the original poster for even asking such a question. 
Parents are serious about the whole TV thing… And yes, most expert bodies will recommend no TV before age 2, and yes, googling TV and babies will show you a list of horrible things that will happen to your baby, developmentally, if they are exposed to TV. But I find it hard to take those threats seriously when the generation making these judgments was largely raised on too much TV themselves. 

I remember watching multiple cartoons on Saturday mornings, and I remember the news being on before dinner while my parents cooked and I played. As I got a little older we started having a nightly show that we would watch as a family, like The Outer Limits, or Xena: Warrior Princess. We often watched dinner in front of the TV. It felt like a treat, and it felt like time spent with my family. I wasn’t glued to the TV set, and even though the option to watch was there, I usually preferred and chose imaginative play over TV. I don’t know if this was just me – if maybe other little kids would have more trouble becoming “unglued”… But I really don’t buy into the threat of damages to the child’s psyche. 
Another reason I am bothered by the judgmental tone of Parents-Against-TV is that, as a Work-At-Home-Mom, I sometimes desperately need to distract my baby for just another 15 minutes so I can finish up a project/email/task. I do feel guilty about it, but only because I have to spend another 15 minutes not engaging with my baby, not because I put her in front of a carefully curated TV program. 

In my (preemptive) defense 

I DO however have concern with advertising, and how it is increasingly targeted at children, pushing consumerism at a young age and making children enter the competition of the Haves and the Have Nots at such a young age. That’s why we use Netflix, and we hand pick the shows we let our baby watch. I don’t turn on disturbing adult-themed shows (these days that includes news programs…), and I don’t welcome commercials into my home. That’s the extent of my extremeness on the matter. 

Where do you stand on the TV-for-babies front? Am I alone in my lax approach? (it’s ok if I am… Don’t let that hold you back from your comments  😊) 

24 thoughts on “Babies and Television Exposure: Ripe for Holier Than Thou Parenting ”

  1. Charlotte can name EVERY. SINGLE. Sesame Street character and has started reciting the words when she’s watching Frozen. So yeah… TV. It’s a thing for us. She is a velcro kid and sometimes, it’s the only way we can get a few minutes to fold laundry or make dinner. I really have no guilt. To me, it’s all about balance and she spends FAR more time outside playing than she does in front of the TV.

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    1. Yeah Charlotte seems to be so outdoorsy, so clearly tv exposure didn’t ruin her sense of outdoor play or wonder! I like that phrase, Velcro kid. I think Avery might be one of those…

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  2. We held off until about 2 with Darwin. She now recites entire scenes from Puffin Rock. Linnea reacts to the theme song. The terrible things about television that have come from research have been shown to be unimportant when studies have been designed to account for compounding factors. We limit to about 2 20 minute shows a day unless sick, in which case anything goes, basically.

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    1. I love Puffin Rock! I think a lot of parents have certain standards or rules that they set for tv, rather than saying no TV at all. And yeah, when sick (or teething for us..) sometimes you just need the distraction.

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      1. Haha I love the accents… And learning weird facts about island creatures. Every time I watch it I see the narrator’s character from Bridesmaids and it makes me laugh.

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      2. It’s so funny how different things can strike you. Puffins is one of the few kids shows that I can stand right now. For a few weeks Darwin really wanted to watch My Little Ponies. I wanted to claw my eyes out.

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  3. I can vaguely remember being planted in front of the TV to watch Sesame Street and Barney when I was very tiny and don’t seem any the worst for it. Like you, I actually ended up preferring my own play to watching TV and eventually became engrossed in books. Also our family was an always-on TV family, which might be why we don’t even have a TV in our house and why visiting my parents – who still always have the TV on – is super grating.
    My brother, on the other hand, has become a TV always-on person and he often falls asleep with the TV on at night. So… I guess it ultimately doesn’t seem to matter one way or the other. 🙂
    I don’t see the harm in a little bit and a lot of kids’ TV is actually educational. *shrug*

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  4. We do tv, and always have. They even get their own kindle when they turn 2! We have some loose rules around screen time, and will nudge them to do something else if it seems to be getting excessive, but that doesn’t seem to happen often.

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  5. I grew up with the TV on most of the time, and the TV is always on now. I can’t fall asleep at night without it on because I’ll just lay there and think, I need the distraction. That being said, my sister and I preferred to be outside or play with each other when we were young rather than watch TV. I mean we did watch cartoons in the AM and after school specials and stuff; but we’re both pretty smart and highly functioning adults, so whatever. C sometimes will stop and look at the TV, but only briefly, and I try to keep her from watching at this point. I think people need to do whatever works for them and their family, and everyone else can butt out. 🙂

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    1. There’s a time and a place for it, for sure. Will you get him headphones to listen to the air plane’s tv, or use a tablet or something of your own for the flight?

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      1. Definitely a tablet so we can preload shows he likes. Of course we have no idea what shows he likes, so we have to figure that out! Any suggestions?
        Probably no headphones. We are told it’s really hard to get kids his age to wear them. And I cannot see how they would be good for his ears? But we haven’t tried any yet so we don’t know.

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      2. Hmm Avery likes Taratabong and Puffin Rock on Netflix. Those are the only shows we’ve tried so far. Taratabong is about music/instruments and is pretty annoying but the music is really catchy/distracting for little ones.

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      3. Color crew and wonder balls might be a good place to start at his age. Maybe Timmy time or bubble guppies, they have more of a plot to follow.

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  6. We take a very casual approach to TV. We don’t usually have it on when she is awake, so she rarely sees it at home. My parents have Fox News (gag) on 24/7, so I know she sees it at their house. She will sometimes be around other TV’s, but she doesn’t ever really pay attention for more than a moment to see what the moving lights are. I DO use a short cartoon or Baby Einstein on my phone to try to distract her while I clip her nails. She is less interested in the “show” and more excited about reaching and holding the forbidden phone. I figure she’s going to see TV as she grows, and we just aren’t going to have it be a focal point of her childhood, but I don’t care if she watches some. I feel the same as you about ads…we only really do Netflix and Hulu, so we don’t see many of them ourselves.

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    1. Ugh yeah we have family who has CNN on 24/7 and it’s too much for me to handle… Using cartoons as a distraction is just so helpful sometimes. I don’t know how some parents do without!

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