In the Loop

Babies 'n' TV: Part II

Posted at 12:45 PM on October 7, 2008 by Jeff Horwich (3 Comments)

I'm awfully glad I posted a couple weeks ago about the appeal of TV to a new parent. While it wasn't the most commented blog post we've ever had (a distinction that goes to Sanden's post on Amy Goodman) it was probably one of the most thoughtful, substantive discussions. Definitely useful to me.

On the one hand, you had the experienced parents who know that the sound and moving images can keep the kid quiet and -- seemingly -- engaged for a while. Some with older kids assured me their kids watched some TV as babies, and no harm apparently done.

Snook the stoner sloth from "It's a Big, Big World"
(Image via
On the other were people who had seen some of the research, which suggests TV watching in young babies can lead to ADHD. Whereas it seemed to me my son was enjoying the characters on the screen, it might just be conditioning him to be unhappy or uncomfortable if his field of vision wasn't filled with swift-moving jungle creatures or colorful Teletubbies. (My 42-inch screen seems especially captivating to the little guy.)

I have noticed how, if the TV is on in the room, he will often turn toward it even if he's not set up directly in front. Scary! (Not a good habit. I do the same thing...not good, especially when I'm supposed to be eating dinner with my wife.)

So I've dialed it back. He's four months now, and I admit did put him in front of an episode of Big, Big World yesterday morning and I rushed around to get ready to take him to a pediatrician's appointment. But for now we're done using it as a tool if one of us is available to tend to him. He has also, fortunately, gotten a little better at grabbing for toys and entertaining himself.

I've also cut Sesame Street out of the mix -- too advanced. At this stage, it can't be anything more to him than confusing, I think. Not sure about the Teletubbies DVDs...they're shelved for the moment.

Which leaves "Big, Big World," the show about a bunch of buddy-buddy animals who live in one giant tree (a proxy for earth) in some jungle somewhere. S. still loves it, and I think the big, distinctive, consistent characters might give him something he can kind of follow.

I still think the main character, Snook, is a stoner (I'm clearly not the only one, either). Maybe that's just what sloths would sound like if they could talk.

Either way, I'm comfortable with him being a small part of our son's existence for now.

Comments (3)

Our pediatrician said "no TV until after 4 (years)." This seemed a little draconian. Our daughter did watch a little TV while she was 3-ish, but after 4 we stopped allowing almost all exposure. Not to brag, but compared to her peers, she seems to have a better attention span. She is very sensitive to any sort of violence and reads several years beyond her peers.

I can't but conclude that her very limited exposure has been good for her. I wish that I had been raised with the same view.

Posted by Bruce | October 7, 2008 1:26 PM


May I suggest that you pick up some kids' music CDs? A couple we've liked (that didn't make me want to kill myself) was Ralph's World and Laurie Berkner's BUZZ. They're probably available at your Hennepin County Library - or ordered to get there.

I've always been amazed at how a little music can make playing with the toys hanging around so much more interesting.

And of course, you're music guy.

Posted by Lucie | October 7, 2008 4:03 PM

I think the most important thing about any activity with your little one is to be really involved with them while they are doing the activity. I agree that using any TV just to keep the kids out of your hair for a few minutes is not quite right. I found that my little ones loved the Teletubbies and I never agreed with anyone who said they were wrong for little toddlers to see. What they loved the most was that we sat down together for the 24 minutes or so (whether the TV show or the DVD's) and I played along with my babies and what the Teletubbies were doing. My children loved to see my reactions to what the tubbies were doing and I'm no shrink, but, they really remembered things such as the colors or the counting or what Po or Laa Laa just did. For what my two cents are worth, making the time to watch things together and get involved in what is on the screen along with your baby makes it a wonderful bonding experience and the added benefit is that you have more control over what they are seeing and doing. And you know when to turn the set off. Teletubbies are not the enemy. Parents not staying involved in their babies activities is what makes for problems down the road. ENJOY THOSE TUBBIES! P.S. I'm with you about the stoner thing.

Posted by Susan | October 7, 2008 11:22 PM

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