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TV & Toddlers

It’s one of those things many parents say they’ll never do- let the TV babysit/ entertain their young children. Before Roen was born, I used to watch in horror when I was working as a server and saw parents playing a cartoon on their phone for their baby or toddler while they enjoyed their meal. I judged so hard, something I’m not proud to admit, and swore to myself I’d never be that lazy of a parent. Now here I am, writing my blog with Little Einsteins playing in the background to keep Roen entertained while I get some things done. That isn’t the only time I put on TV either, another thing I’m not too proud to admit. Roen gets screen time during breakfast, lunch, and occasionally, when Matt isn’t home, dinner. Family dinner has taken on a whole new meaning since television became a common household item. Instead of sitting around a table, many families now sit around a TV. I’ve read about how kids have poor imaginations nowadays because they sit inside all day in front of a screen, but is this really true? I remember watching a fair amount of TV as a child and I came out alright, but now as a mom, I want to make sure I’m doing everything in my power to set Roen up for a bright future. So what’s the deal with TV and toddlers? Well, I guess it depends who you ask.

The facts are that 43 percent of children under the age of 2 watch TV every day, while 88 percent of children in the same room while their parents watch TV, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Speech and language expert, Dr. Sally Ward, states how kids who have constant TV noise in their homes have trouble paying attention to voices when there is also background noise. Furthermore, children who heavily watch TV spend less time reading or playing outside. The American Academy of Pediatrics state that “Pediatricians should urge parents to avoid television viewing for children under the age of 2 years. Although certain television programs may be promoted to this age group, research on early brain development shows that babies and toddlers have a critical need for direct interactions with parents and other significant caregivers (eg, child care providers) for healthy brain growth and the development of appropriate social, emotional, and cognitive skills. Therefore, exposing such young children to television programs should be discouraged.” There is also some research that connects obesity and excessive TV time, and that children who watched more than 3 hours of television per day had a higher chance of conduct problems, emotional symptoms and relationship problems by age 7 than children who did not (Millennium Cohort Study,2013).

While some experts say there is are no educational benefits for children under 2, other sources suggested that some TV doesn’t have a bad effect on toddlers IF it is educational and geared toward that child’s age group and if the parent is watching it with the child, interacting with what is occurring in the show. Additionally, educational shows, like Dora and Blues Clues have been shown to help children over the age of 30 months with speech. Kids who watch informative and educational shows as preschoolers are more likely to watch more informative and educational shows when they get older.

So does putting the TV on for toddlers make you a bad parent? No. But some might say it makes you a better parent if you limit TV time to an occasional occurrence, and put on educational and age appropriate shows. Do the best you can to wait till nap or bed time for your adult shows, and limit background noise for your little human.

*Since I started writing this blog (3 weeks ago), I have cut down Roens TV time and he no longer watches any TV during any of his meals, and I sit with him at the table instead. Moving into a house with a yard has also helped because there’s always yard work to do, so we’ve spent a lot of time outdoors lately, and it’s been great! I also wait till after Roen goes to bed to watch my grown up shows.

**UPDATE: Roen is almost 4 now, and although he watches TV nearly everyday, he is thriving socially and cognitively. We don’t allow shows on our phone or tablet, only at home or at Grandmas. It’s a struggle to only show educational shows when he sees all the options on Netflix, but we at the very least try to start with an educational show, like Leapfrog.

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