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TV For Toddlers: Tempting Trouble, Or A Useful Tool?

By Sierra Black |

Everyone knows screen time for little ones is a big no-no. Right? Attention problems, behavior issues, epic battles with their siblings over the remote: the problems TV can cause for kids are legion. The AAP has just issued new media guidelines for parents stressing that not only should young kids watch no TV at all, you shouldn’t watch TV yourself when your kids are around.

What if all this stress about screen time for kids is just so much fearmongering? Do screens really hurt the kids who watch them? One Slate writer is questioning the research. He says his 1-year-old son loves screen time, and letting him have it makes their lives better.

Slate isn’t advocating a free-for-all of endless cartoons for the toddler set. There should be some limits. But like the absolute prohibition on alcohol for pregnant women, there appears to be a bit of an overreaction going on here. It isn’t that a little TV will harm your kid. It’s that a lot might, and no one knows precisely where the line is.

Slate reports:

I have no intention of plopping the baby in front of the TV for hours on end. My kid spends, at most, 30 minutes a day with a screen, and we’ve cut down his screen time even further since our doctor’s prohibition. At the same time, I’m skeptical of the blanket rule against screens. Sometimes they can’t be avoided, and letting the baby watch or play with a screen can be immensely helpful.

The studies that have shown ill effects of screen time on kids all show issues emerging in kids who watch hours of screen time every day. That’s different from a kid who’s being given an iPad to play with while dad showers.

Still, it’s clear that screen time doesn’t do anything good for young children, so why get into the habit at all? Well, as Slate points out, it buys you some peace. TV has a totally soporific effect on kids. I deploy it judiciously myself when my little ones are bouncing off the walls and I need a few minutes to make a phone call or write an article.

Do your kids watch TV? How much do you think is too much?

Photo: treehouse1977

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About Sierra Black


Sierra Black

Sierra Black lives, writes and raises her kids in the Boston area. She loves irreverence, hates housework and wants to be a writer and mom when she grows up. Read bio and latest posts → Read Sierra's latest posts →

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3 thoughts on “TV For Toddlers: Tempting Trouble, Or A Useful Tool?

  1. Micky says:

    I am going to guess that this string goes something like this:

    One group of moms tells everyone to just chill-ax because hippie moms are all so uptight and who cares about all this research about screen time anyway-they grew up watching hours of TV a day and they turned out fine. Another group vehemently decries all TV-owning parents as mindless consumerists. A third, and largely silent, group will roll their eyes at both sides and fruitlessly beg for moderation and civility.

    Let the self-righteousness games begin!

  2. Anna says:

    Having my 15 month old distracted by the TV is pretty much the only way I can get her to sit still long enough to cut her nails. I do make sure it is the commercial-less kids channel (ABC Kids here in Australia) but I figure a few minutes of screen time is better than having to hold her, screaming, in a vice like grip that upsets us both, or scratching herself with those long nails!

    For me I try to be really careful not to set it up as a habitual thing though. I notice myself habitually turning on the TV in the evenings, even if there isn’t anything in particular on I want to watch. And I usually feel better when I gather up the will power to turn it off and do something else, like read Strollerderby!

    I was brought up in a house with severe restrictions on TV, to the point of not having one for a while. I don’t think it has served any of us kids well, we all tend to have a little trouble turning it off now. I don’t want to forbid TV, but I want to make watching it a DELIBERATE act, not just a habitual one.

  3. Micky says:

    Anna, that was a thoughtful and interesting response to this post. Thank you for proving me wrong.

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