Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Little Vindication For Children's TV

Who says TV is bad for kids? It's an issue I've given a lot of thought to since becoming a mother. I recently read an article in The WSJ about a new study that says TV for kids may not be as harmful as some experts think. Apparently, in the years after TV was introduced in the U.S. (1940s-50s), children who had TV in their homes performed better on tests than their non-TV-watching counterparts. I've been waiting for a study with a result like this one! It confirms what I've always believed to be true--that for the vast majority of children, watching TV in moderation is not going to hurt them and might even help them in various ways.

I watched TV when I was a kid. Not a ton of it, but enough to have some favorite shows and fond memories of them. I lived for Pee Wee's Playhouse on Saturday mornings, and I loved the Disney Channel, Sesame Street, and The Smurfs. And I turned out fine. Heck, I went to college at an Ivy League university. TV couldn't have rotted my brain too much, right?

As for my 3-year-old son, John, he watches some TV almost every day, usually in 30-minute blocks about three or four times a day. He enjoys it, he learns from it, and sometimes we both need that break. He's actually watching the PBS show Curious George right now because he's tired, I'm tired, and it's late afternoon, the worst time of day in our house to get anything productive or constructive done. TV tends to be our best friend at this time of the day.

John watches good-quality shows that I DVR, and I certainly don't think it hurts him. If anything, they help him learn. A recent example: we are a family of book-lovin' readers, so we've been in the habit of reading lots of books with John ever since he was a baby, and as a result he's become a little bookworm himself. But it was the "ABC Animals" episode of Dora the Explorer that he was obsessed with for the whole month of August that got him really into the alphabet. Because of that he's now learning how to read and can spell and recognize simple words. The show got him excited and ignited his desire to go beyond just knowing the letters to the next step of learning each letter's sound to now learning how to read. Awesome! Gracias Dora!

I do think it's sad and harmful when kids just sit and watch TV for hours each day, day after day. That is where TV for kids (and adults too) can definitely become a bad thing. But when used in moderation, it's fine. Hey, it might even help your kids do better in school!

What do you think about this issue? Are you pro-TV or anti-TV or somewhere in between? I'm curious as to what other people's TV habits are for their kids. Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts!


Me said...

I think TV can be a great thing, taking content into consideration and in moderation. Having said boys watch more TV then I would like them too..but so do I.

I do limit them to things like Curious George, Signing Time, and the more educational shows like Sesame Street.

I can't declare myself either Pro or Anti-TV. But I believe it can be as good as it is harmful. (Like just about everything else) Unfortunately, I watched too much television as a kid, but I think I turned out okay, aside from not having enough sense to better limit my boys tv watching. (Horrible, I know)

Jessie Adams said...

I don't have kids but I am all for television in moderation. Educational television can only help children while providing entertainment. As long as caregivers don't use t.v. as a replacement for learning and playing. I watched t.v. as a child and I grew up fine. :)

Peter said...

I think that the danger comes because it is simply so much easier to let your child watch TV than to channel his activity. TV entrances almost every child I have seen and keeps them quite and entertained. That becomes a slippery slope as it allows the parent an easy way to keep them out of trouble without much involvement. I also believe that a little TV is ok, it's just when parents use the TV as the babysitter that it becomes a problem.

rachel said...

I'm with you- at the end of a long day Curious George is a must!! I always swore that I would never use TV as a babysitter, but when my husband has to work late, I'm getting dinner ready and helping my son with homework, my daughter will happily watch a PBS show and life's a little easier :)

Corina said...

hey you! love your blog!!! (and i miss you too, so i hope to spend some time with you soon, as well). as for your inquiry, i think a little bit of TV in moderation isn't all that bad, so long as it is educational. and i think another thing that plays a factor is how much TV is working in tandem with PC (or MAC) time. 30 minute blocks of either TV time or Computer time isn't bad. the problem that we (as adults) will have to tackle is making sure we don't see TV interaction and Computer action as 2 distinct forms of engagement, and therefore allow too much of both in a child's day. 30 minutes of Curious George, followed by play time in the backyard, and then another 30 minutes on the computer is fine, but 30 minutes of TV followed-up with 30 minutes of computer is where we can run into trouble. it would be interesting to find a study where both are factored into the out-come of a child's development.

Rachael said...

Hi! Just for the record I am pro TV. My boys love Mickey, Dora, Diego, ect. But I try to limit their TV time. It was SOO great to see you guys at TOFW! We kept talking about how wonderful it was to meet up with you guys and I am so happy you have a blog so we can keep in touch. It is Adam and Alison that are the Ashley's on my blog! Alison was one of my comps on my mission. I absolutly LOVE her. I am so happy you know them as well. They are moving back to NY. Did you know that? Lets keep in touch!

Donna said...

No, I didn't know they were moving to NY, although I asked my hubby about it today and he knew but had forgotten to tell me. They just moved to Houston! Alison must be so bummed! I'm going to e-mail her and tell her of our connection, and wish her luck on the move to NY. See you later!

Karolynn said...

I love TV, my 17 year old was practically raised on TV and she turned out great, is very smart and gets good grades. I do think you should do other things throughout the day, but I have no problem with TV being one of them. I loved Pee Wees play house too, too bad Pee Wee turned out to be so naughty.

Alyson said...

TV is great! TV is my friend! Seriously, I see no problem in having the kids watch tv, and I don't think it always has to be educational (Adam loves Scooby-Doo and that sure as heck isn't educational). I mean, do we adults only watch tv that is educational? Absolutely not. Sometimes they just want to turn off their brains after a hard day and be entertained. Nothing wrong with that, though I do want them to watch some educational programming.

As to what Peter said, I guess I can see that with some kids, but my kids have never been able to sit for hours in front of the tv. They naturally like it in small doses and move on to something else after a little bit of the boob tube. They get bored with it after a little while. I think I'm blessed to have kids that don't zombie-out in front of the tv.