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Friday, July 22, 2005

Set parents up for success instead of failure

We all know that we should be spending as much time interacting with out kids as possible and that television is the anti-Christ. But let's face reality: sometimes we need our kid to sit still and be quiet for 15 minutes so that we can make an important telephone call or empty the dryer without having all the clean clothes tossed on the floor. And the TV is just the trick.

There are always studies and warnings telling us how bad television is for little kids, like the one that Maggie Jackson wrote about last week for the Boston Globe. Her article entitled, "Don't let TV be the baby-sitter" was about a warning released by the American Academy of Pediatrics that said children age 2 and younger should avoid all screen media.

I watch Sesame Street when I was a kid and I turned out okay. I even secretly watched "The Price is Right" when I stayed home sick from school. And I turned out okay. And I doubt that my mom stays up late at night fretting that my SAT score might have been 10 points higher if she had spent every waking moment interacting with me instead of letting me experience life on my own from time to time. Even if those life experiences weren't always on the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommended to-do list.

We also know that kids shouldn't eat sugar and fat or drink soda. And I cringed when I saw a woman giving her infant Coca-Cola out of the 16-ounce bottle at the airport last week. But I'll bet her kid will turn out okay too. My father-in-law drank nothing but Coca-Cola when he was a kid because he was living in the Philippines and the water wasn't safe. And he turned out okay too. Maybe that mom always gives her kid a sip of Coke and maybe it was because her kid was thirsty and that's all she had handy when we were sitting on the airplane for an hour before take-off. I'm not condoning kids drinking soda (because I think that soda is poison for everyone). I'm just saying, that sometimes we do things, just because it gets us through the day.

So instead of telling us that exposure to kids television (or any television) "disrupts young children's focus, possibly setting them up for later attention issues," or that it "may hurt their developing attention spans, their ability to play, and interactions with parents," why don't we get some realistic guidelines that parents might actually be able to follow.

Sure no television with full parental interaction might be better for little kids, but perhaps half an hour of Blue's Clues or The Wiggles won't hurt them. Perhaps recommend the kind of programs that are least harmful for kids and a maximum recommended dose of television per day. Let's set parents up for success instead of failure.

These kinds of warnings remind me of the no-condoms-to-be-distrubuted-in-school rules. Let's just acknowledge that parents are going to let their kids watch some TV, just as everyone should acknowledge that high school kids are going to have sex. Instead of pretending that they don't--in both cases--let's provide solutions that will enable the best outcome.


  1. but... but... don't we live in a fear-based society? isn't there only one way to do things? the right way?

    when i was pregnant i fretted that i might have to take antibiotics during delivery because at some point in my life i'd been diagnosed with group b strep. while i tested negative for it during the pregnancy, i ended up on antibiotics in labor, anyway, because my water had broke and i was in labor for 2 days.

    and now ... my son's spent 5+ weeks in the hospital completely knocked out by a vicious virus. he's been on more drugs that the FDA, Nancy Reagan, Dubya, the works would shit God-sized bricks about... and _I_ was worried about a little antibiotic??? my god! because i read some alternative-you-must-mother-the-natural-way-eating-right-breastfeeding-until-your-child-is-four-attachment-parenting -is-the-only-way-you-can-raise-your-child magazine that completely scared me about using any sort of antibiotic...

    anyway, as we all know, as moms... we do what works despite ideals.

    besides ... i've never found ideals to serve much purpose anyway.

    Here's to coke and tv and antibiotics!!!

  2. Oh yes, the whole tv issue. For a new parent, all of these guidelines can be a bit unnerving. Now that I have an older child who seems to have turned out okay, I know that a little bit of tv and sugar isn't going to do any harm. Back when she was younger though, I found myself constantly freaking out.

    Then again, there are some things I've seen or heard that make me wonder about people. Like there actually are parents who allow tv watching all day long, and think nothing of letting their babies and toddlers eat junk food all the time. But then, I suppose those are things based on one's lifestyle. It's just that with all the information out there, being ignorant is no excuse.

  3. while it's true that i've tackled this topic on my blog before (HBO had a special targetted at babies and i tend to agree with the AAP's recommendations of no TV before age 2), i feel that the statement - all things in moderation - applies to so many aspects of parenting. i think setting your child in front of the tv briefly here and there so you can get things done (or so that you don't lose your sanity) are ok, though my kid won't sit and watch tv to save her life. ;)
    the thing i have a problem with is when people use tv to babysit their kids on a regular basis.
    i know someone who regularly parked her little one in his infant swing directly in front of the tv. in fact, that's often how he'd fall asleep. he had no ability to move away from the tv if he wanted - he was strapped in his swing! anyway, i found that rather unnerving. that doesn't seem like the "right" way to do it. and it doesn't seem like it's about moderation either. it's stuff like that that i disagree with.