It seems that the recent refund offer by Disney was the spark that reignited the flame of a decades-old controversy: Is television harmful to tots? Are we a society of lazy, selfish parents that use the screen as a live-in babysitter? And if so, are we creating a society of mush-brained mutants that call the remote “Daddy”?
Julia Pimsleur Levine, mother of 2 and creator of Little Pim, an educational foreign-language DVD series for the toddler set, has weighed in with the following letter:
“Although I have mixed feelings about the Disney refund, I believe the ban-TV-for-tots frenzy that has ensued is misguided. Let us contemplate the following:
1. Studies show that 75% of all kids in the U.S. under two watch SOME videos or DVDs. So either nearly 3/4 of the parents in this country are bad people, or letting your child watch a show while you make dinner isn’t as big a deal as some advocacy groups would have you believe.
2. There is a BIG difference between a baby or toddler watching a few minutes of an educational DVD and the 2-3 hours of viewing per day that the American Academy of Pediatrics found to be potentially unsound for young minds and prompted them to issue a warning against ANY screen time for kids under the age of two.
3. We are now living in a digital era of You Tube, 500 cable channels and videos on our cell phones. Our kids will be surrounded by media from their earliest days, whether we like it or not. The question we should be considering is “what” and “how much” screen time is right for them? Parents need to make their own decisions about when the right time to expose their kids to media, and then be encouraged to make thoughtful decision about what that media is. Media literacy should be the issue of the day, not media abstinence.
4. Most parents engage their young children in a variety of ways–reading to them, talking, singing, playing, dancing AND allowing them to watch a DVD from time to time. Most of us do it all. I have yet to read a study that shows there are negative side effects of limited screen time, when it’s part of a verbally rich environment and healthy family interactions.
So, even if the secret is “out” that we sometimes use DVDs as a babysitter, we also know that sometimes we watch WITH your children. We share in their delight at making new puppet friends, learning new words in English, Spanish and Chinese, and acquiring social skills by imitating kids or animated characters on screen. These are moments we can celebrate and cherish; the watching may not make them smarter, but it may help them learn about making healthy viewing choices that will carry over when the are old enough to control the clicker.”
I think Ms. Pimsleur Levine is simply saying that moderation is the key. Isn’t that true for just about everything in life, save eating dark leafy greens and flossing?
What about you? How much screen time do you allow your kid? A little? A lot? None at all?