Saturday, February 24, 2007

Young Children and TV

Jen Robinson's Book Page posted a link to a study written up in icWales about the risks involved in letting kids watch too much TV. Here are the problems listed in the study:

"The report also notes these research findings:

Early childhood television viewing may be a trigger for autism;

Permanent eyesight damage has been 'strongly linked' to television watching;

Viewing television may be a bigger factor in causing obesity than diet or exercise;

The risk of developing Alzheimer's disease increases with each extra daily hour of television viewing among people aged 20 to 60;

TV viewing is associated with irregular sleeping patterns among infants and toddlers;

Watching television significantly increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes."

They said more than half of kids today have TVs in their bedrooms. We only have one TV and I used to keep it in the attic so it would be less used. Now it is in the living room so I can cook dinner with only one child hanging onto me at a time. Buddy loves those late afternoon pbs shows, but Punkin is too young to have much of an interest in it. I am glad about that because he is not yet two and pediatricians say under two there shouldn't be any TV viewing. I know they learn so much more by messing around entertaining themselves... even if they are just playing with empty boxes or trying to help stir the soup pot. I have read before that the combination of fast food, soda and watching TV is very damaging to a child's health. Here is more evidence that it is even more harmful than I thought.

The thing is, for young kids there are a lot of shows on pbs. But once they get a little older their tastes change and then they want the shows that have the worst commercials... not to mention all the violence and mature themes... I am really trying to shield my boys from that as long as possible. I am sure by preteen years we will be talking about how to deal with all that is in the media, but if I can keep it out of their brains for a few more years and give them a change to develop a creative intellect I think that will be a life long advantage. I am going to try to cut back on what we are watching. It really is hard, isn’t it?

How do you manage TV and media in your house?


Anonymous said...

The best thing I have ever accomplished as a parent was to not allow any TV or videos. My dd is 3 years old and we are adopting a baby this summer so I might change my tune when there are two wanting my attention. Thanks for the reference to this article. I need to read it. You wouldn't believe the flack I get from family members that we don't let our daughter watch television.

My only advice is to stop all tv watching. It is extreme but may be the only way to protect your youngest from wanting to watch what the older child is watching.

Just my two cents. TV is the one thing I'm doing right. I feel like I am failing at so many other things.

Anonymous said...

We don't have a tv. I spent most of my growing up years without tv and so it is natural for us.

We do, however, watch shows and dvds on your computer. We download the shows we want but watch them without commercials. Small Sun loves Curious George. I like that we are in complete control of what our children see. It's not like something comes on and you can't jump up quickly enough to change the channel.

I think tv and movies have a huge impact on children. So many parents think it's not really a big deal but for me it is. I'm not against watching anything at all, I just think that there are much better ways for children to spend their time.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for taking time to read through and summarize the key points in this report. I had enough time to mention it myself, but didn't have a chance to go through it in detail. I was especially struck by the statement: The risk of developing Alzheimer's disease increases with each extra daily hour of television viewing among people aged 20 to 60. Scary stuff!

I don't have any kids, so I can't address how I would handle TV watching for them, but from everything I've read, I'd have to think that the right thing to do would be to limit TV-watching as much as possible. Thanks!

MotherReader said...

I find that statistic about half of all kids having TV's in their rooms hard to believe. I mean, I've seen it somewhere else (was it the Post?), but from my experience, it doesn't seem right.

My girls are 7 and 10. They watch a 1/2 hr Disney Channel show while they eat breakfast before school. They often watch something from Nickelodeon or Disney Channel at 6:00, when their homework is done. I watch the shows with them to get a sense of them. There are some shows I nix after seeing them. But with the advent of children's channels, I haven't had a real problem with the kind of shows they're watching. The commercials can be a little much, but they give us a chance to talk about what happens when a company wants you to buy something.

I think TV, like all things, has benefits and disadvantages. There are some educational and simply entertaining programs out there. Generally, I think TV is another thing that caring parents have turned into an "issue". The warnings about TV are meant to impact parents who put their kids in front of the TV all day. The ones who end up worrying are the ones who let the kids watch SpongeBob once in a while.

Shelley said...

One of the first things we did when we moved from our little apartment to our bigger (though still small) house was to banish the television to our (finished) basement. We congratulate ourselves on this decision fairly regularly.

It's not that we don't like television -- for one thing, my partner is an avid sports fan, so some events MUST be seen live, in her book -- but more that we wanted to try to avoid that kind of opportunistic watching that can creep in when your TV is in the center of your livingroom (or whatever). In our house, if you want to watch television, you have to really want to.

We don't combine eating with TV watching, partially because we don't want crumbs downstairs (thus-far unfounded rodent worries), and partially because we have this instinctive feeling that it might create "static on the line" over time when it comes to the natural connection between hunger and eating.

We were all about Chex Mix and hot wings during the partial portion of the Superbowl we watched, though. (Rules are made to be broken?)

We tell D that most TV shows/movies are kind of like dessert for your brain, as opposed to growing food. Some TV is fine; too much, not so much. He now watches virtually no television during the week at home (we don't offer, and he doesn't ask), but he sometimes ends his long schoolday with an episode of his much-beloved Cyberchase, and starts most Sundays with a movie he has agonizingly selected from his Netflix list (curently Spirit, Stallion of the Cimarron, which was pretty good).

We start a lot of sentences with the phrase, "In our family, we..." because we know that down the line he'll have friends from families with very different ground rules, and we want to emphasize the intentionality behind our rules and help him understand that when rules are different, ours are the ones that count for him.

I think "staying out in front" on the requests for media is important... we had a rule that one or both of D's moms need to see a movie before we approve it, and the one time we broke that rule, we regretted it. We won't do that again, I think. So... transparency, consistency, and modeling are the things that seem most important to me.

I have a friend with three (older) boys who she somewhat reluctantly agreed to let computer games, in part because the older one was having some social troubles and they thought his complete lack of exposure might have been a contributing factor. So her rule about their computer use for games is that they must adhere a time limit that she establishes, and not whine or fuss when it's time to move on to the next activity. When she tells them they're done, they're done, because the alternative is losing their privileges for the next day. It's a compromise that seems to have worked well for her. (And in fact the older kid DID experience a strengthening of some of his friendships because he could "talk games" with his buddies.)

Anonymous said...

Ahh, yes. The television. Having grown up on TV, myself, I have found it a difficult one. I have friends that don't watch TV at all, aside from the occasional video. And I have friends that allow their kids to watch anytime they want, and even have TVs in their rooms. I'm somewhere in the middle, I think. Although I probably allow a bit more than our pediatrician recommended, we try to set and keep limits on TV watching for all of us, but espceially for our son. I don't know what I'll do when he outgrows the preschool shows. There isn't much I'd want him watching aimed at older children. My inlaws think we're a bit strict with TV - go figure! But I also think the "content" of TV has changed a LOT since my husband and I were kids.
It seems I'm rambling through the haze of my headcold and may not actually be making a point. :-) I do think that just thinking and being aware, as a parent, is a whole lot and means you'll make purposeful choices with your kids.