Any TV Is Too Much TV Under Two

Last week came word that Baby Einstein videos marketed to parents wanting to brain up their children were a fraud and complete refunds were to be offered to parents who bought the product.

This week is news that not only were those videos not helping your infants get smarter, they were probably having the reverse effect.

Physicians are signing on to a recommendation that no television be watched by children under the age of two. Zero screen time. None.

Dr. Tom Warshawski, who is head of pediatrics at Kelowna General Hospital, said repeated studies have shown the problems linked to television viewing, including obesity and an increase in violent activity.

Warshawski, who is member of the B.C. Pediatric Society, said a typical two-year-old is awake about 12 hours a day, and two hours of screen time will cut their development time by close to 15 per cent.

“It’s somewhat artificial, but we do know that the first two or three years of life are periods of rapid brain growth,” he said.

It is widely believed the passive act of watching television interferes with this normal development, he said.
[CBC]

Which is getting more and more difficult for parents to control. Kids aren’t consuming less media, they’re consuming more.

More than an entire day — that’s how long children sit in front of the television in an average week, according to new findings released Monday by Nielsen.

The amount of television usage by children reached an eight-year high, with kids ages 2 to 5 watching the screen for more than 32 hours a week on average and those ages 6 to 11 watching more than 28 hours. The analysis, based on the fourth quarter of 2008, measured children’s consumption of live and recorded TV, as well as VCR and game console usage.

“They’re using all the technology available in their households,” said Patricia McDonough, Nielsen’s senior vice president of insights, analysis and policy. “They’re using the DVD, they’re on the Internet.”
[LA Times]

I have to admit, we exposed Zacharie to television as an infant, falling for the Baby Einstein marketing. I would guess he’s up around 21 hours a week when you factor in morning and evening playtime as the tv fills noise in the background churning out Sesame Street, CBC Kids, Max and Ruby and Dancing With The Stars (all programs he loves).

And it’s not just the TV that he’s riveted to.

Zacharie loves watching videos on YouTube from my iPhone, on my lap at the computer or cranking out his own media on a portable video player like the Creative Zen Vision.

I’m in serious violation of all of the above. We still get into his playroom and run around with trains, we read books and escape to the park as often as possible, but that tv still acts as a pacifier when we as parents need to get something done.

Are we being selfish by using that tv to get a few moments to ourselves? Is it possible to achieve that zero hours of screen time?

 

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Buzz

Buzz is married to Jennifer and has 2 sons. Zacharie was born in May 2007 and Charles in January 2010. Buzz is a radio guy who enjoys building bridges between old and new media. Follow buzz on Twitter @buzzbishop and check out DadCAMP on Google+

17 Comments

  1. So I guess videos count in this number? We were planning on have a few French vids in our DVD collection to supplement our efforts to get them used to the language.

  2. the reports I see/hear refer to screen time, not necessarily tv. anything that has them drooling at a screen is supposed to be offlimits.

    i'd invest in some cd's to help your petit enfant parle francais.

  3. we do zero screen time. Our kids have never used the computer. What's the deal? It's easy…at home. It is darn near impossible on vacation. Finnegan spent most of the flights to Europe glued to the screen, and any hotel room has a TV….so we let him go nuts on holiday and boy does his behaviour suck! We dropped cable at our house because we hate paying for ads and realised we could not police our own horrible screen habits (Laguna Beach anyone?). When kids came along time to watch anything got scarce so we haven't missed it at all. We watch movies in the basement (a place the kids rarely go anyway – out of sight out of mind) once the kids are in bed. Our son attends a Waldorf preschool where zero screen time is encouraged… right down to the dress code of no characters on his clothes. He doesn't know who Spiderman or Barney are…..and he could care less. He'll know them soon enough when he hits public school. Do I disagree with TV? NO – I believe whatever works for your family is a victory!!!

  4. “whatever works for your family is a victory!!!”

    amen. no need to judge, just dont hurt anyone and you're a winner.

  5. Thank you for the non-judgemental tone of all your comments – I've been aware of these recommendations since my daughter was a baby and she's 4 now. Both of us watch too much tv and I feel guilty about it when I see these articles. However, I also feel defensive, because the reality is that I rely on tv to entertain my daughter – as a single working mom, it's a necessary evil for me to get things done and yes occasionally steal a moment to myself. I used Baby Einstein when she was a baby, but I certainly didn't buy into the notion that it was good for her, so I don't support that lawsuit – those pediatric recommendations have been around for long enough and Disney's marketing used words like 'help, encourage, and support' – that is all typical advertising doublespeak. They didn't invent advertising, and if parents bought those videos (no offense Buzz), thinking it was anything other than entertainment, it seems to me they were buying a justification in the face of all the negative press tv gets. TV, movies… it's entertainment, that's all. And entertainment has it's place – it gives us respite from our busy, stress-filled lives. Children, babies, pre-schoolers especially deserve a break from all the 'educational' toys and games. What the heck is so wrong with a little mindless entertainment?? Everything in moderation is the balance I try to find in my life and that's what I'm trying to pass on to my daughter. And by the way – my daughter is an exceptionally bright and developmentally advanced girl who reads, draws, counts, plays, builds, creates, socializes, laughs, sings her own made up songs, dances, skates, swims AND watches tv and movies.

  6. I was recently at a workshop on technology and it's affects on children, put on by Zone in and in addition to the points you mentioned, she was saying that kids, by the time they hit kindergarten, aren't able to properly track a finger moving back and forth because their eyes aren't trained to do that, because of all their focus on a screen. They've got a ton of info on their website (zonein.ca)

  7. zero screen time is possible if you choose not to watch any tv yourself or have a computer at home….as you can see I have a computer, which means my kid gets screen time. We use skype to talk to all the grandparents (as we live overseas). It is interactive screen time. We also watch Baby Einstein max 30 min a day. I don't think that Baby Einstein teaches our daughter more then we would, but it gives us a break and the show is at her speed. It is important that the timing of the show is slow. We play and go outside, massage, do flashcards, card and build…but even I need a minute to wash my hair and feel like a human. TV isn't great, but it is a modern day Grandpa. We used to have grandparents that lived with us and they simply held the child while we got things done. I don't know about you, but my parents live far away. I have no one to hold my child. TV is my modern day grandpa rocking the baby to sleep. If we try and be super parents…we will go super crazy.

    PS: and we don't have cable (that helps our temptation a lot).

  8. We did the Baby Einstein videos…I never really bought into the fact that our son was doing any learn'in. It was a pacifier and we knew that. We just chose to have one that was mellow and entertained quietly. The most important thing about TV and other screens comes down to the quality time spent with your child. Connect at a deep level on a regular basis and everything will work out fine. Too many parents just plunk the kids down for hours in front of a screen and spend very little time actively engaging them. To be honest our son much preferred Pee Wee's playhouse and yes he did watch them before the age of 4.

  9. 32 hours?? that's alot more than I watch. Having said that, I was parenting solo this week witha very ill 2 year old and I think she watched Finding Nemo A LOT. I was grateful to have it to be honest. very very grateful.

  10. My wife and I did not have a tv before we got married, somehow there never seemed time for it. When we started having children we got cable thinking it would be entertaining for them. This lasted all of three weeks and we cut it off because we were exhausted trying to monitor the ads. nHowever we did institute a weekly movie night during school and this stretches to three or four per week during vacation times. At least it did until the older boys became teenagers. That is a different kettle of fish altogether and we are still trying to work it out with them.nWe think the primary purpose of times out for the children is for them to play. This can mean they sit quietly in a corner of the house somewhere reading a book or playing alone with some toys. Or they are out on the trampoline together or digging and building something in a corner of the yard. They can be drawing, painting, or at some craft. And sometimes they are helping me with yard work or a project for the house.nSometimes they complain they are bored. I always point out, to their annoyance, that boredom is something they create and must remedy, not me or their mother. The older boys rarely come to me anymore with that complaint. When the younger ones do I go through the list of things they could be doing and when they, inevitably, say they donu2019t want to do any of them I tell them they are choosing to be bored then. nMostly, though, they are agitating to watch movies. It amazes me how strong is their desire to watch the screen. We donu2019t have regular television stations so they are not following characters or a story. Often they will watch the same movie three or four days in a row if that is all that is available.nWe experimented with letting them watch movies in the morning so we could have a ‘lie-in’ together. Some of them were very bad-tempered and badly behaved when the time came to stop watching and move on to other things. So we now have rule that TV watching only happens in late afternoon or after dinner, and that it does not happen every day. nThey are able to live with these clear expectations. Once they know there is no chance of movies happening until later or the next day they move off and find things to occupy themselves. But they do regularly try to get us to change them u201cjust this once.u201dnMy impulse is to organize their lives along the lines I think are best for them based on my experience. But my parenting philosophy is that my job is to provide the opportunities and space to enable them to discover themselves. The former means more of me working out how they should spend their time, the latter means more of them. And fundamentally I believe it is my job to let them emerge rather than push them into being.

  11. My wife and I did not have a tv before we got married, somehow there never seemed time for it. When we started having children we got cable thinking it would be entertaining for them. This lasted all of three weeks and we cut it off because we were exhausted trying to monitor the ads. nHowever we did institute a weekly movie night during school and this stretches to three or four per week during vacation times. At least it did until the older boys became teenagers. That is a different kettle of fish altogether and we are still trying to work it out with them.nWe think the primary purpose of times out for the children is for them to play. This can mean they sit quietly in a corner of the house somewhere reading a book or playing alone with some toys. Or they are out on the trampoline together or digging and building something in a corner of the yard. They can be drawing, painting, or at some craft. And sometimes they are helping me with yard work or a project for the house.nSometimes they complain they are bored. I always point out, to their annoyance, that boredom is something they create and must remedy, not me or their mother. The older boys rarely come to me anymore with that complaint. When the younger ones do I go through the list of things they could be doing and when they, inevitably, say they donu2019t want to do any of them I tell them they are choosing to be bored then. nMostly, though, they are agitating to watch movies. It amazes me how strong is their desire to watch the screen. We donu2019t have regular television stations so they are not following characters or a story. Often they will watch the same movie three or four days in a row if that is all that is available.nWe experimented with letting them watch movies in the morning so we could have a ‘lie-in’ together. Some of them were very bad-tempered and badly behaved when the time came to stop watching and move on to other things. So we now have rule that TV watching only happens in late afternoon or after dinner, and that it does not happen every day. nThey are able to live with these clear expectations. Once they know there is no chance of movies happening until later or the next day they move off and find things to occupy themselves. But they do regularly try to get us to change them u201cjust this once.u201dnMy impulse is to organize their lives along the lines I think are best for them based on my experience. But my parenting philosophy is that my job is to provide the opportunities and space to enable them to discover themselves. The former means more of me working out how they should spend their time, the latter means more of them. And fundamentally I believe it is my job to let them emerge rather than push them into being.

  12. My wife and I did not have a tv before we got married, somehow there never seemed time for it. When we started having children we got cable thinking it would be entertaining for them. This lasted all of three weeks and we cut it off because we were exhausted trying to monitor the ads.
    However we did institute a weekly movie night during school and this stretches to three or four per week during vacation times. At least it did until the older boys became teenagers. That is a different kettle of fish altogether and we are still trying to work it out with them.
    We think the primary purpose of times out for the children is for them to play. This can mean they sit quietly in a corner of the house somewhere reading a book or playing alone with some toys. Or they are out on the trampoline together or digging and building something in a corner of the yard. They can be drawing, painting, or at some craft. And sometimes they are helping me with yard work or a project for the house.
    Sometimes they complain they are bored. I always point out, to their annoyance, that boredom is something they create and must remedy, not me or their mother. The older boys rarely come to me anymore with that complaint. When the younger ones do I go through the list of things they could be doing and when they, inevitably, say they don’t want to do any of them I tell them they are choosing to be bored then.
    Mostly, though, they are agitating to watch movies. It amazes me how strong is their desire to watch the screen. We don’t have regular television stations so they are not following characters or a story. Often they will watch the same movie three or four days in a row if that is all that is available.
    We experimented with letting them watch movies in the morning so we could have a 'lie-in' together. Some of them were very bad-tempered and badly behaved when the time came to stop watching and move on to other things. So we now have rule that TV watching only happens in late afternoon or after dinner, and that it does not happen every day.
    They are able to live with these clear expectations. Once they know there is no chance of movies happening until later or the next day they move off and find things to occupy themselves. But they do regularly try to get us to change them “just this once.”
    My impulse is to organize their lives along the lines I think are best for them based on my experience. But my parenting philosophy is that my job is to provide the opportunities and space to enable them to discover themselves. The former means more of me working out how they should spend their time, the latter means more of them. And fundamentally I believe it is my job to let them emerge rather than push them into being.

  13. Hello Buzz, great Blog you have going here. If you want to do a dad camp this summer we could meet up at the Bow River and do some fishing. That’s a great way to get kids into the outdoors and doing something other than watching the television. I am a fishing guide in Calgary and would love to offer my time (for free) to help kids learn how to get outdoors and catch some fish.

    Thanks,

    ~Mike.

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