Television Consumption

Updated on February 16, 2008
M.H. asks from Blackwood, NJ
30 answers

My daughter is 15 months and just recently started paying attention when the TV is on. I'm a SAHM and I used to have the TV on all day just for background noise, mostly the news, but have started turning it off after her morning nap because I have noticed her watching it for a few minutes at a time. I am afraid for her to watch the TV because I don't want her to turn into a child who wants to watch it all the time. On the other hand, I do so many other activities with my daughter (including reading about 20 books a day!!)that she loves so would this really happen if she watches a little TV?! I'm wondering if I should let her watch an age appropriate show for a half hour a day. It's not like she would even sit and watch it the whole time. Sbe plays with her toys while the Backyardigans sing and dance and she dances along and points and gets excited at certain parts. Isn't that a good thing... that she is being visually stimulated and exploring a different creative source! Also, is it a problem that when I do have Good Morning America on and an animal or neat song comes on that she gets excited and points to the screen? The reason I am writing this is because I have heard a lot of new moms (including myself) basically condem TV consumption of any kind, but I am wondering if small doses of adult supervised, age appropriate shows are not only not harmful for our kids, but a good thing!

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J.D.

answers from Pittsburgh on

I'd just keep the T.V off all together, if I were you. T.V can really affect the brain developoment of little ones. A few good reads on this is research by Jane Healy (Endangered Minds is one, I believe.) She has some really great insight. We went T.V free when my oldest was 2 1/2 and haven't (really) looked back. Now that my boys are older (11 & 7) we are thinking of getting one again in a few years. I can't tell you how creative, sweet and inventive they can be w/o the constant of the T.V, a.k.a babysitter. It's also nice to know that when my kids are at home, my husband and I are the only ones influencing them!! Good Luck, it's not an easy decision to make, but then again good decisions never are!

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A.D.

answers from Philadelphia on

There was a segment about this on NPR a couple of months ago. This was at the time that Baby Einstein DVD's were being slammed by researchers. Apparently one of the organizations (I believe the American Academy of Pediatrics) has come out and said no TV for the first 2 years. I am the same as you and used to have the TV on all the time...for background noise. Instead of this, I now have the radio on. On most days it seems to be a good substitute. I think that a little TV most certainly is not their concern...but a daily routine of TV is what they are suggesting we avoid.

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S.D.

answers from Philadelphia on

Its not bad to point out a couple of things on a show, but I wouldn't get into a half hour show just for her quite yet. The American Academy of Pediatrics say that children under 2 should not watch TV. On average, those children who watch TV and are under 2 will have 10 vocabulary words less than a child who did not. TV will always be there as your child ages. Try a radio for background noise or favorite CDs. She can still sing and dance with you!

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L.Q.

answers from Philadelphia on

We have some favorites (Elmo!) here, but I only put on shows that I feel have educational value. If my son dances and sings with them, I think that's great. We also don't just sit and watch - we play while the tv is on and talk about things we see: colors, animals, shapes, counting, the alphabet, and now even situations/behaviors. Sesame Street is our favorite, although we rarely watch it all the way through, and I think there are concepts that the show has reinforced for my son. Although he also learned a bad habit: he likes to "play Cookie Monster" sometimes when he's eating his food, and that can get him a scolding.

Follow your instincts. As for your daughter getting excited about animals and songs on tv - I think that's a great sign that she's learning to recognize familiar or pleasing parts of her world.

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J.M.

answers from Philadelphia on

Hi M.,

I allow my little one to watch certain shows, especially ones that encourage movement (like Wiggles). However, one of my big concerns is about the commercials on Nickelodeon for toys and sugar cereals. We stick more to PBS, Disney Channel (which mostly advertises itself) and Baby Einstein DVDs which she loves.

I hope that helps.

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S.F.

answers from Philadelphia on

I feel that all children are different and children can benefit from television depending on which kind they watch. I have 3 children and the tv is on all day. It is on Noggin or Nick Jr or Disney playhouse (Mornings on Disney, regular Disney even the cartoon movies is too old and scary for them). I monitor very closely what they are watching because I do not like all the shows but I have found that it has really grown their vocabulary and taught them. My son has just turned two and he can count to 15 (Dora the explorer), he can identify animals that I can't (thanks to Go Diego Go), He can recognize letters, He is interactive in dancing and singing (Backyardigans). My older daughter grew her vocabulary quickly after letting her watch. I am very careful to make sure that they play too. It seesm that they are only interested for a small time and then they play toys and games. I keep the toys and games close so they can do both. I also do not watch any adult shows because they do pick up what is on the tv. My daughter has a play friend who is not allowed to watch tv and when she is over she is mesmerized by it, so badly that I have to turn it off. She would rather sit and watch because she is never allowed than play with her friend.

Good luck!

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J.A.

answers from Philadelphia on

My daughter is 16 months and I let her watch some selected shows. She loves Elmo and any kids show with singing.
I do notice that if she gets too much TV, she attitude towards things change. She gets more frustrated with her toys.
When that happens, we go on a TV "Drought". :)
I just try to find the right balance.
I think ALL forms of media can be helpful to teach our children if used appropriately.
I even show my daughter videos of dogs and cats and other animals from youtube.com.
That way she isn't only seeing 2D pictures of them in her books. She loves it.

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L.N.

answers from Pittsburgh on

Don't worry so much. My kids all watch tv, here and there, some days more than others. They do great in school. Even my 6 mos old will sit on my lap and stare at blues' clues for a few min too. Just relax about it. You seem to do great with activities. I swear these days people worry too much about the little things. I grew up watchin my cartoons and evening shows, and I was still an active outdoorsy gir, have a high IQ, and I turned out just fine.

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N.H.

answers from Pittsburgh on

My x-husband grew up in a home with the TV on as background noise. It didn't much matter what was on. I was concerned about the images my children observed, and persuaded him to watch mostly/only public television. We could live with that.
Since we divorced, I have gotten rid of the TV altogether. The TV in my teenage son's room got launched out the window when he was disrespectful to me one too many times. So now we are without a TV. When they are here (and not at their Dad's gaming), the kids spend time talking, playing scrabble, baking, etc. It is my belief that even being bored is better than being pacified -- it leads to creative endeavors.
I have noticed though that my kids do not have that ability to tune out the TV if there is one on. That may be a bad thing, I don't know. If there is a TV on, they will tend to watch it. That's my two cents worth. It's always best to listen to your gut instinct.
N

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L.G.

answers from Philadelphia on

M.,

Hi. I want to point out something about Television. My son is 34 months, he'll be turning 3 in April. He is considered very intelligent and I feel it's because of educational television shows, such as, PBS and NOGGIN. When he was an infant I would put on Baby Einstein and I still do till this day. He counts to 20 and knows all his ABC's and he even adds on his fingers. I did and still do read to him because he loves books. We take trips to the Library often so he can pick out books that he likes. But I have to credit the Educational TV for some of his knowledge. When I was a little girl I watched Sesame Street and I still love that show for children. I don't think you should be scared of TV for your little girl. IT is okay for her to watch those kind of programs. Take care.

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F.U.

answers from Syracuse on

My son was a backyardigans "junkie". That was the only show he remotely paid attention to. Like you, I like to have the noise it doesn't feel so lonely. Anyway, my son is now 21 months and graduated to Sesame Street. That's the only show he actually sits and watches. After that I take him in another room. I keep the TV on, for the noise, but I change the channel, so it's on the View, or the weather channel.

Don't feel guilty, it sounds like you're doing a wonderful job. And your daughter isn't going to be a TV Junkie from just one show. Also, what I do is sit with him and point out different things that are going on on the show. Good luck hun!

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N.P.

answers from Pittsburgh on

Hi M.,

I am a working mom(party time 4 days/week) and I have 2 wonderful children. My daughter is 5 and my son is 21 months. I have never worried about the amount of time they watch t.v. they've never been the type to just sit there and watch...they are always moving. Like you I tend to turn it on for background noise. I only allow age appropriate shows to be turned on...and I can tell you that my daughter has leanred a great deal from these shows! I also read lots of book to her but the shows that are on now are really great and a lot of them are interactive...she gets up and does what they tell her to do and she'll answer the questions that they ask. She believe that she learned to count from watching Dora the Explorer and my son is learning his numbers and colors from watching Thomas the Train. They both dance to the music and I do not believe for a second that it has hurt them in any way.

I hope my answer helps you and I wish you the best of luck!

N.

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K.N.

answers from Philadelphia on

Definitely at 15 months I was letting my son watch one show/dvd a day. We would watch Sesame St together and talk about what was going on. Definitely there were days when he got to watch more than one-sometimes you just need to get things done without little ones under foot. I did not ever leave the regular tv on during the day since even when breaking news comes on you would be suprised how much they absorb...and let's face it regular news is propably one of the most disturbing/graphic/violent programs on tv. I never have CNN on even as my homepage on the computer because of the graphic images. I do feel very detached sometimes from the real world-but can catch up on all events in the PM. Now my son will be turning 4 and we do keep tv/dvd viewing to one hour a day-unfortunately it is usually Yo Gabba Gabba we watch together...darn those songs really stick with you! Beware!

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D.Y.

answers from Pittsburgh on

TV is not always bad. There are so many educational programs on Noggin that would be great for your daughter! My daughter learned SO MUCH from watching TV. Good luck in whatever you decide to do.

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T.H.

answers from Allentown on

I think that watching tv can be very educational for a child. We grew up on sesame street, we watched and imitated the songs and dances. It opens up their minds to other things like early language skills and coordination. I think there are so many moms out there turning off the tv and the children are not getting involved in other mindful activities and are basicaly being isolated in their own little world. If you cannot find something on appropriate for the child to watch start collecting videos such as veggie tales and baby einstien, if you don't have the money to do that or want some variety, go to your local library and borrow the movies, that way you have a rotation of material and your child will not get bored with the same thing over and over.

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C.G.

answers from Philadelphia on

My son is almost 3, and he has watched tv on and off since he was about your child's age. That's when he started paying attention to it. We only had the PBS and some Nick Jr. shows on for him (thanks to TIVO, we put them on according to our schedule, not when they were broadcast), and they have added to his education. He started off with Barney and Sesame Street and Wonder Pets, and now his favorite PBS show is Word World, which has helped him learn to SPELL a few words! He loves the songs and sings along, and some days he sits and watches a full episode, but often he is up and playing with it on in the background. These shows have assisted me in teaching him numbers, letters, colors, and animals. Those are things we use books and "teachable moments" to help him learn, but somehow, it seems these shows were what helped him understand what I was teaching him.

I think the key to tv and toddlers is not using it as your primary babysitter, which clearly, you are not doing that. I think the right kind of programs, in moderation, can add to their development and allow you to get something done without your little one at your heels.

If you watch a show together and interact with your child, it can be another activity you can do together. My son sure does enjoy it when I sing the songs from the show with him.

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S.C.

answers from York on

Dear M.,
I am also a SAHM. My son is almost 5, and my daughter is just past 10 months. I rarely have the TV on while they're awake. I typically tape anything (except the news) that I want to watch. My son is allowed on DVD/video per day. This way I KNOW what he's watching. I have learned that even "educational children's TV" is produced with an agenda that can/does promote behaviors, habits, lifestyles, et cetera that we do no agree with. I have to agree with the Mom who said that she keeps the radio on ~ we have a great local Christian radio station that is often on in one or more rooms of our home during the day. I have seen the recommendation (not sure whose) that children under 2 not watch any TV, and that might be feasible for an only child. However, reality is that once you have more than one, unless you only let the older child watch TV/movies while the smaller one is in bed, they'll likely pick up some TV. Another option would be some of the new interactive TV games for babies, small children. My niece recieved on of the tri-cycle toys that connects to a TV game for her son for Christmas. She said he loves it. It entertains him, and allows him to burn SOME of his excess energy. She uses it mainly while she's cooking. I will say that when my son was a baby, he rarely watched TV (I didn't have it on). And when I did put in the occasional video he wasn't interested in sitting still to watch it. He was happy to play with whatever was in the room, while it was on, but was definitely not "paying attention" to it. However, he did pick up on what he was hearing, as he would sporadically say something from a video at a completely unrelated time. (That's one of the reasons I think it's so important to be aware of what they're hearing/watching, even if they don't "seem" to be paying attention to it.) Just some food for thought. I should also add that we do not have cable, satellite, DirecTv, et cetera in our home. As a result, we only get four channels. Unfortunately, there's very little "kids programming" on these channels, which may actually be a benefit. Now that he's getting older, I think that if lots of kids shows were "available", my son would want the TV on more frequently. One other thing, we've made the one DVD/video per day a privilege. He can lose it if he makes bad choices with his behavior or mouth. (A few weeks ago he went several days without ANY because he was being particularly sassy.) Good luck with your decision. Remember, children are very much like sponges - they soak up everything/anything around them, whether we like it or not. Choose carefully what you allow your little "sponge" to absorb. :)

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H.

answers from Pittsburgh on

I am also an elementary teacher turned SAHM and I agree with your thought that a small amount of age-appropriate supervised tv viewing can be beneficial for young kids. There are definitely things that they can see and experience that may not be available in your everyday life. Mine have always enjoyed shows with real kids - sing-alongs and field trip type shows - like farms, zoos, construction sites, etc. Mine are now 2 & 4 and love "Super Why" on PBS. It's a bit old for 15 months, but it would be great in another year or so. Fairytale friends work together using language skills (alphabet rec, phonics, spelling, and sentences) to find solutions to problems that are appropriate to preschoolers - sharing, listening, safety, etc.

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A.B.

answers from Lancaster on

I am on both ends here....my daughter is now 6 and it is hard with a 6 year old, a 3 year old and a one year old to monitor...however...when she was little and the only one she learned some great stuff from sesame street and dora. So I think those that are teaching shows are great....now we battle with the cartoon network which is awful....so to answer your question...no- monitored tv time will not harm them in my opinion it actually helps...but beware because eventually they discover more-LOL

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P.F.

answers from Philadelphia on

Personally I don't see anything wrong with having the TV on. Your situation seems similar to mine. I leave the TV on for background noise and always have. My kids (3 yr old twins) do the same as your daughter; they watch a little then play or do other things. My assumption is because you aren't sitting in front of the TV, neither will she. For example, Dragon Tails is on right now in our living room. My son and daughter are playing in their playroom together. As long as you are engaging her in other activities and she gets physical activity; don't worry about what others say. Good Luck.

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S.W.

answers from Harrisburg on

i am a SAHM of a almost 4yo and a 7 yo - and i really limit not only how much time they watch but also what they watch - anything on PBS is good - and diego and dora and backyardigans are good and so is mickey mouse club house - other than that i am careful what they watch.

honestly i personally think a little bit of tv is good - it helps them to learn to increase their attention span - and a lot of them are really educational.

also - if you have comcast digital cable - there are "ON DEMAND" tv shows that don't have any commercials and there are some good ones on there - under the "noggin" section - little bear and franklin are both good - they teach "moral of the story" - and there is a whole section of pbs - my kids watch more on demand than anywhere else bc i figure without commercials there is less chance of seeing other "negative" things through commercials...

i think you also have to see how your child reacts - like my older child (my daughter) wouldn't "self limit" but my son will -

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D.B.

answers from Pittsburgh on

It sounds like you're a great Mom - you're doing so many good things already. With many toys having video components and computer games - some Mom's that pooh pooh t.v. outright might be being a little hypocritical. A very small dose of television - like a favorite goofy kid musically oriented or sesame street type program can be very beneficial. Kids are usually very visual learners - and if they see actors/animation very excitedly displaying the abc's - they are going to pay attention AND learn. The problem with television is in keeping it very controlled, and all the advertising. I think videos are better as they can re-inforce learning (you can play multiple times)and you can skip advertising. Never encourage your child to play a movie themselves or to turn on the television themselves, or they may do so when you are busy in the kitchen and you'll find they're consuming more than they should. It sounds silly, but our tv is in the basement and in a cabinet (not locked) but because my husband is a techie we had several remotes for all the media and my children did not know how to turn on the tv until around age 8 or more. None of them are tv addicts (I have 3, ages 12/10/8). They love their video games and computers, but they have a 30 minute timed limit on these activities daily too. They are all great readers and I still read to them most nights - a chapter a night of many series that we've gone through. Children learn what they live - and if you're very involved with them and are exposing them to interesting things - getting them involved in learning in the kitchen etc. at home - tv won't ever be an all-encompassing magnet.

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J.S.

answers from Philadelphia on

Hi,

Looks like I'm the odd one out here. We're a household that discourages television for young children. My two-year old has never seen TV, except maybe in passing at a store. My six-year old watches TV on rare occasions, usually as a special winter/bad weather treat.

Our six year old watches approximately one show (movie) a week during the winter, and none at all during the summer.(More on sick days.) I choose the movie, but don't watch with him. First, I get bored with his shows, and second if I pop a movie in it is becuase I need a few hours to myself (no relatives live nearby for the much-needed mommy break). But I know which video he is watching.

Also...each year, the six-year old gets a visit from the "birthday fairy" who writes in his journal. She writes the name of a "new" movie that he will be allowed to watch this year, one that he was previously not old enough to watch (this year, pete's dragon). So every year he advances a bit (the movie is a highlight for him, with popcorn, lights out, etc). (He can't wait until he is 12 to watch Narnia).

I've read numerous books on television/computer use at a young age, and came to the conclusion that it really wasn't for us. Yes, TV can be educational and introduce children to all sorts of exciting things about the world (animals, cultures, etc). A bit of TV isn't horrible and may help educate them a bit. But the main "work" of young childhood isn't to gain knowledge, it is to explore using their bodies, to create, to play, to get messy, and to imitate real life people (caregivers, teachers, grandparents, etc). There is much time later for "educating" the child as far as their "brain" is concerned. (See Endangered Minds, Jane Healy, Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, Jerry Mander, the Plug in Drug, Marie something). (Also check out Last Child in the Woods).

(I also read an article somewhere about how kids in the US are more able to identify mammals from Africa, as a result of TV watching, than the animals in their local parks. There are more TV shows on african animals than north american. Little kids should be noticing chipmunks, badgers, and squirrels!)

It can be hard when you first turn off the tube, but kids get creative and figure out how to entertain themselves.

That said...this is how our household functions. I have many friends and family members whose children watch mild amounts of television and it can be educational when you hit a certain age. Also I would never tell an exhuasted mommy who needs a break what to do (especially during winter!) with their child. TV can be a much needed break for a mom - an activity when there aren't alternative caregivers around to help out! (better an hour of TV than a yelling or sad mommy). Also sometimes kids need a bit a "joy" and just can relax while watching the tube.

I would follow your own heart here. I'm sure your daughter will be just fine whatever you choose because you love her and spend time with her. Personally I would avoid TV shows with adult content (news) and from what I've read, TV shows that have real "life" people or animals are more positive influences on children than animation (you want her imitating Mr. Rogers/The Wiggles/Laura Ingalls/the people on Sesame Street rather than a superhero).

I hope this made sense, I don' thave time to proofread!

Peace,
J.

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C.M.

answers from Philadelphia on

Hi -

Personally, I think that age-appropriate tv is okay, as long as it's in moderation and you know what your child is watching. Not everyone is going to turn into a tv zombie. And if it helps her get active, it can be a good outlet. You're already doing lots of other productive, creative, and stimulating activies with her. And sometimes you need a break. I found that my daughter (now age 4) watches a little from time to time - and it helps with her vocabulary, learning about new places & animals, and spurs her imagination. We don't let her watch violent shows, but she even watches the Food Network with me and is learning about good eating habits, how to cook, places to travel (and all without profanity!), overall nutrition and good health.

Good luck with whatever you choose.
Cindy

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A.P.

answers from Philadelphia on

Hi M.,
I can understand you not wanting your child to watch t.v. With my first child I was very strict and would only let him watch no more than an hour through out the whole day. But I must say, I really believe that by letting him watch some of the educational programs he really learned from that. He knew more at 2 than his sister who is now two but she isn't all that interested in T.V. As they get older sometimes it's inevitable for them not to watch t.v. I think there is a lot of pressure on todays moms about making sure we don't do this or that but our mothers did it with us and we're fine. We're great moms to our children. Good Luck!
www.greensthewaytobe.com

A.J.

answers from Williamsport on

I hear you! I have the same concerns, and at 2 years old I am slacking and letting my daughter watch a little too much TV, even though I'm home and I usually have on French learning DVDs and other DVDs on the french setting just so she hears something new to justify it-I need time to get things done! I also read to her tons and spend tons of time with her at home and out and about teaching and playing. Plus, now she watches adult shows just because she wants to be with us at night and we're exhausted watching a show or two. If there is no profanity or violence etc...

Here's what I've heard the problem is: It's not so much the content, as the fact they are observing and zoning out rather than playing and learning by doing and being physical. Supposedly, they aren't really learning from the TV, even if it's educational under age 2 or so. It's just a distraction. Therefore, I feel it's only a problem if she isn't doing all the other things with you she's obviously doing, and a break now and then won't hurt. I HOPE!!! I feel like if i was a better parent, I'd shut off cable for good! I totally put her in front of Sesame Street for lunch and go clean the whole kitchen and do some laundry while she eats!
Sounds like you're doing great!

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A.W.

answers from Philadelphia on

I've been thru this too. My husband and I agree that one or two hours a day is really not that bad... as long as it is age appropriate viewing. Most of the time we take out kid shows from the local library...both educational and fun videos. You could try keeping a radio on during the day for backround noise...we do this everyday. I like to expose them to diffent types of music in hopes that this will fill their appitite for entertanment.

Good Luck!

A. W.

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M.L.

answers from Scranton on

Hi M.. About the tv consumption....I have a son (3) and a daughter who will be turning 5 next month and since they were babies they have been exposed to tv...alot of it has been like you mentioned, background noise and such. I read and played all kinds of things with them from day 1 like you are describing, but I also exposed them to things like Baby Einstein videos (if they were interested in them- my daughter was moreso than my son). I understand the fear of raising a child that will give up imaginative play to sit in front of the television, but you are already watching out for that so I don't think you need to worry. There are some great, fun, educational cartoons/programs and kids do learn from them as well. My daughter has always been a bit ahead of the game as far as learning goes and I definitely think the videos I chose for her from a young age helped get her interested. I'm not a fan of mindless cartoons. Don't stress because it seems like you have the right idea....There's a book I read to my kids that has become kind of a rule to live by...it's called "Just Enough and Not Too Much". The title says it all and it's a good way to look at things.

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J.W.

answers from Philadelphia on

I think you are always going to hear varying opinions on this subject. My own personal decision was that I didn't want my son watching TV until he was older. Basically for the first 18 months, he hardly watched any TV. Once in a while, I would throw a Baby Einstein tape in just to see how he liked it, but that was maybe once or twice a month. I also always watched with him and pointed out things and words and letters, so I felt it was somewhat a learning experience. I just recently got On-Demand with all the kids shows so I've started to let him watch Nursery Rhymes singing shows and he just started to like Thomas. But again, I normally watch with him and talk to him about what he's seeing. I can tell you that now that he's started to watch, he's constantly wanting the TV, so I've definitely created a monster here and I'm glad I didn't let him watch until now. I basically limit it to 1/2 hour a day, and he really only likes shows where there's music. He doesn't like Barney, Sesame Street, etc...he does like the Backyardigans, but only pays attention when they're singing. I know people say that TV can be educational and maybe that's true. My son can't recite his ABC's or count to a certain number or sing any songs, which I know some kids his age may be able to do and people claim TV helps them learn. I just didn't feel it was necessary until recently and I still limit it. I also don't like to keep the Tv on in the background much no matter how tempting it is (I'm a TV junkie), I just am not confident that it doesn't have a negative affect. It's just my belief that he can learn as much from me by reading, singing and playing music. I do believe that one on one interaction is always going to be better than another medium like TV, but now that's he older I do allow some TV. I never like to get into my opinions about this stuff with friends, b/c everyone has different opinions. This was basically just my decision for my son and you have to do what's best for you. I definitely don't think TV hurts kids, like some people claim, but I do think moderation is important. As I've seen over the past 2 months that my son has started watching, that kids can become addicted to the TV and that is definitely not what you want for children.

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T.T.

answers from Pittsburgh on

The American Pediatric Association recommends no more than 2 hours of television a day for children over 1.