In the Loop

Now I'm really confused: There's a TV network specifically *for* babies?

Posted at 12:31 PM on November 11, 2008 by Jeff Horwich (5 Comments)

The Dow is down, American automakers are screwed, a new president is facing the biggest challenges in a generation. But I'm still thinking about my kid and TV. Really long-term priorities, you know?

For some reason Sanden got a mass PR email the other day celebrating two years of "BabyFirstTV." It's an ad-free cable network with non-stop programming intended for babies six months and up.

I've written about this twice recently: The debate over how much TV, if any, is OK for my infant son. He definitely seems to like it -- but some of you have made the rather sound point that this could be a bad thing.

BabyFirstTV is kind of mind-blowing. On the one hand, their central argument makes sense:

[With studies showing] up to 90% of children under two are watching TV, BabyFirstTV addresses this reality by providing quality programming developed under the guidance of nationally recognized pediatricians and child development experts.
(Black & White -- though BabyFirstTV advises us there's some other stuff in this clip as well)
When I see shows like "Black & White" (basically cute, high-contrast stuff moving across the screen -- see the video) and "Peekaboo - I See You" (which pretty much needs no explanation and looks to be just about as annoying as it sounds -- in other words, perfect for babies) it's clear this is not a sham. It's also notable and truly laudable that the network is entirely ad free.

On the other hand, WHY ARE YOU TEMPTING ME? One of the things that has been handy for keeping me from using the TV much for my boy is how very little out there applies to him. Some of the comments on my earlier blog posts helped me understand this. Even something like Big, Big World, which seems to appeal to him, is still probably too sophisticated. (I now have a bunch of recorded episodes of BBW that we save for very special occasions, like when company is coming in half-an-hour and we need to clean up the house.)

Now here comes this option with stuff that is temptingly "baby-safe." Is a half-hour of TV for my six-month old OK now, if it's this stuff? Is this a "life saver" (see the comments on that YouTube video) or the first step down a slippery slope that looks eerily like me watching Thundercats and eating junk food after school 20 years ago?

What am I to make of their "advisory board of child development experts?" Have these expert ostracized themselves from their field by signing on to an organization that asserts TV is OK for babies? (Should be worried that Doctor #1 holds a professorship at UCLA that is endowed by Mattel?)

Any BabyFirstTV users/fans/haters out there? What's your experience?

Comments (5)

We don't have cable & thus can't offer input on BabyFirst. But what I have noticed, with our 21 month old, is that after first introducing the TV as a break for mommy and daddy, she now is asking - demanding TV. That is an unanticipated and unwelcome development.

She'll now walk into the room saying TV! TV! TV! if its not on. Or, having learned the name of one of the morning PBS shows Caillou! Caillou! Caillou! (what kind of name is that, anyway?)

So now our efforts are focused on diverting her from the TV to toys - dolls, books, etc.

Posted by bsimon | November 11, 2008 4:16 PM

Baby TV? Talk about the ultimate pacifier. This is an old idea, though, and it's surprising in our hollow culture that it hasn't come sooner. I guess for those looking to more fully abdicate their parental responsibilities and actually spend time with their kid, it's just the ticket.

For a great visual take/social commentary on this, check out the cover of The Tubes' Remote Control LP, issued in the mid-1980's:

It may be a little hard to see, but the TV tube has a pacifier affixed to it, and Hollywood Squares is playing.

My only question is, if baby decides Baby TV is just so much pablum, who's gonna change the channel for him/her?

Posted by Bob | November 12, 2008 10:53 AM

I don't think that a little BabyFirst TV or Big Big World put on while you spend 30 minutes getting ready for guests is a bad thing at all, but let me tell you, it is very hard to stop there. It is not only a slipperly slope for you because it is such an easy fix to crabby or bored kids, but it becomes a huge temptation for the kids too because as soon as they are bored they start begging for TV instead of taking out their toys or crayons. My oldest watched much more TV than I would have liked as I figured out the whole parenting thing, but now that i'm on my third I have it down pretty well and i'll share with you what works for us. We have the rule of "no TV on the weekdays" which helps people get into bed on time, helps homework get done on time, and stops the endless begging to watch TV - I can just say "You know our rule, no TV on the weekdays, you can watch on Saturday". I know this isn't quite the stage you are at now, but it helps to establish rules BEFORE you need them, so that once your kids get to that point, they already know the expectations and there isn't a big battle. So maybe "no TV on the weekdays" is a good one for you, or maybe "no TV before dinner" works better, but even though the rules are really only for yourself right now since your child isn't old enough to turn the TV on or even to beg for you to turn it on, you will thank yourself in a year or two that you decide the role TV will play in your house BEFORE it became a big issue.

Posted by Elizabeth | November 12, 2008 1:34 PM

Oh, and yes, the doctors who have signed their names to the devil's contract saying that TV is okay for babies are not ones I would take my kid to. The biggest and most respected pediatric organization - the AAP (American Association of Pediatrics) - says no TV for kids under the age of 2. Period. These are the same people who brought you "breastfeeding for at least the first 12 months of life is best", "lay babies on their backs to lower the incidence of SIDS", and "babies should ride backwards as long as possible and then keep 'em in a carseat/booster until they are large enough to properly fit the adult seatbelt". They generally know what they are talking about IMHO and so i'm going to go with their recommendation over a cable television marketing ploy personally.

Posted by Elizabeth | November 12, 2008 1:43 PM

Elizabeth writes
" now that i'm on my third I have it down pretty well and i'll share with you what works for us. We have the rule of "no TV on the weekdays" which helps people get into bed on time, helps homework get done on time, and stops the endless begging to watch TV - I can just say "You know our rule, no TV on the weekdays, you can watch on Saturday". "

that was the rule when I was growing up. Oh, what a bitter child I was, when the other schoolkids talked about what happened on CHiPs, or Mork & Mindy and I couldn't contribute. The way its looking right now, we'll do that to our kids too. Funny how that works.

Posted by bsimon | November 13, 2008 1:29 PM

Post a comment

The following HTML tags are allowed in your comments:
+ Bold: <b>Text</b>
+ Italic: <i>Text</i>
+ Link: <a href="http://url" target="_blank">Link</a>
Fields marked with * are required.

Comment Preview appears above this form upon pressing the "preview" button. Edit your comment and press "preview" again, until you are satisfied with your comment.

Your comment may not appear on the blog until several minutes after it was submitted.

November 2008
2 3 4 5 6 7 8
9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
23 24 25 26 27 28 29

Master Archive

MPR News

Listen Now

On Air

Morning Edition®

Other Radio Streams from MPR

Classical MPR
Radio Heartland