At least, it might not. We really don’t know. That’s because, according to blogger Jessica Gottlieb, most of the science showing harmful effects of TV on kids is junk. In a long post on her blog, she lays into the University of Washington research team that has done the bulk of the research on kids and television.
Why does Gottlieb care so much if kids are being warned off watching the tube unnecessarily? It’s not that she loves her screen time so much. It’s that she hates having massive guilt trips laid on moms. Doubly so if the guilt is grounded in false fears.
Gottlieb focuses on the University of Washington because they just settled a lawsuit with Disney over their research on the Baby Einstein products, which were pulled from production after they were found not to be beneficial to babies after all. She also has some choice words for the AAP, which advises parents to strictly limit the screen time their kids get, and to allow babies no TV at all.
As Gottlieb puts it:
Telling parents that they aren’t permitted to allow a child to look at a screen until a certain age is ludicrous, particularly when it’s based on junk science.
Parents know intuitively what’s good for kids. Also, what’s good for the parents is good for kids. The first two years are special, sacred even, but when parents are being screeched at that everything they’re doing is wrong, bad and going to make the kids less intelligent we end up with a crew of frazzled and misinformed families.
Frazzled parents abuse children.
I think it’s a bit of a stretch to argue that a healthy dose of TV time can save a parent from descending into abusive madness. But only a bit. The toddler years are intense, and every Mommy needs a time out sometimes. If TV is what works for your family to get that break, more power to you.
I never thought I’d be writing an article in defense of TV for kids. My little ones watch more cartoons than I’d like, but I basically consider it junk food for the brain. Letting them veg out on the couch after school is a parenting fail in my mind. One I’m happy enough to live with, just like I feel OK letting them eat sweets sometimes. Perfect Mom wouldn’t do it, but I do, and I don’t think they’ll be forever damaged as a result.
Gottlieb has a pretty compelling point, though, about the mommy guilt trip. If a little TV isn’t all that bad, why are parents being so sternly warned against it? It reminds me of the absolute ban on alcohol during pregnancy. Yes, excessive alcohol consumption will hurt your baby. No, a glass of champagne at New Year’s won’t. Rather than trust women to exercise good judgement, though, the medical establishment urges a blanket ban on all booze. In this case, rather than trusting parents to know how much is too much and regulate their kids’ media consumption, they’re telling us to just turn off the TV and making us feel guilty when we don’t.
On the other hand, most kids get way too much screen time as it is. Some studies show kids are consuming media most of their waking hours. We really don’t need an excuse to expose them to even more.
What do you think? Should parents relax about kids watching TV? Or is Gottlieb’s message dangerous when kids are already soaking up so much screen time?
Photo: Leonid Mamchenkov
A little screen time is fine, but consider these 7 Ways to Reduce Kids’ Tech Use!