Monday, August 27, 2012

TV or No TV? The guide to being a lazy parent... ;)



There were certain things I said I would “never” do once I had a child. This list includes many things, but 2 of them were brought to the forefront this past weekend. One of them was to give her the basic jarred baby food. Well since Charley is a little over 4 months old now and local produce is becoming ripe, my sister in-law and I decided we were going to make some baby food this past weekend. Here’s a picture of our successes! In a little over 2 hours, we made carrots, zucchini, apple, and beet cubes that we froze and will be ready for her in a couple months when she’s ready for food.

Now this blog isn’t and never has been about how awesome of an organic mother I am. So this post isn’t about how to be all “hippy-dippy” and make your own baby food. This is about the 2nd thing I said I would “never” do- let my baby watch tv.

Somewhere in the back of my head I can hear a voice from my pediatric training saying that kids under the age of 2 shouldn’t be exposed to any television because of the constant flashing of images. It was explained as this… as adults, if we’re exposed to a strobe light- it’s very distracting and can have a neurological effect on us (people susceptible to seizures respond strongly to strobe lights). If you ever take the time to count how many seconds a television is focused on 1 shot, you’ll notice quickly that it isn’t very long at all- and commercials are the worst. So although we have been desensitized to this and it doesn’t appear to have a blatant neurological effect on us adults- it is similar to a strobe light to a child. As a practitioner that knows a lot about the neurological system, this theory makes perfect sense.

For the past 4 ½ months, I’ve been lecturing my husband, sister, mom, dad, baby sitter, etc. anytime Charley is pointed at a tv and she is clearly watching it. I’ll simply reposition her so she can’t turn her head to look at it and stare at the tv. So far so good. I may have been a little annoying to my family- but I felt as though I was sticking to my guns in the sense that I wasn’t taking the easy way out. Because let me tell you, Charley would stare at a tv for only God knows how long self-entertained.

So last night my husband and I put some real effort into making a nice dinner and it became quite apparent as we started plating, that Charley was not in a mood to let us enjoy ourselves. So I did what I feel every exhausted and overly committed mother would do. I put on the tv, positioned her swing so she could stare right at it, strapped her in and turned the swing on. (Now in my defense- I put it on baseball because I feel the cut shots are much less in the slow moving sport). The girl laughed and stared at the tv, self-entertained for the entire time we ate peacefully. The whole 6 minutes I was eating, though, I was torturing myself, convinced I was ruining our child’s rapidly growing developmental system.

This guilt sent me deep into some research to find out if I’m actually ruining our child by letting her look at tv. Although the concept of the “strobe light effect” makes sense to me, I can’t say I’ve seen it backed up by any research anywhere. Maybe I made up this theory in my own head.  

I started doing some research and found over and over, repeatedly that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends absolutely no tv until 2 years old. The WHY is the important part, though. They claim it increases their chance of obesity and can decrease their cognitive development and language scores by 1/3 compared to 14 month old babies who had never been exposed to tv.

So at this point, I was ready to go back to my original statement of never letting her watch tv, but I looked a little deeper. Everything I read said that the reason is to do with time is better spent engaging your child and they will become smarter little people if you don’t just stick them in front of a tv to educate them- well duh.

One study is quoted, “Pediatricians widely believe the first two years of a child's life are a critical time because the brain isn't fully developed at birth. A majority of brain development is completed in response to the child's environment during the first 18 or 24 months of life. Time spent watching television takes away from activities such as playing, talking with caregivers and exploring the world around them, all of which have been proven to help development, says Dr. Donald Shifrin, past chair of the committee on communications at the American Academy of Pediatrics, which represents 63,000 pediatricians nationwide.”

Another one states, “Babies who watched 60 minutes of TV daily had developmental scores one-third lower at 14 months than babies who weren't watching that much TV. Though their developmental scores were still in the normal range, the discrepancy may be due to the fact that when kids and parents are watching TV, they're missing out on talking, playing, and interactions that are essential to learning and development.

When it comes to older kids, that’s a whole other can of worms that has negative side effects like brain washing from commercials, exposure to violence, decreased physical activity, etc…. but my baby is watching baseball, and only for a couple minutes.

I couldn’t find anywhere, any proof that the flashing of images is why television is bad. Study after study supports that it’s more an issue of the “type” of parent who would allow their child to watch tv at such a young age, is also the “type” of parent who won’t engage them and will let them be lazy and eat junk food. Since I know I’m not that “type” of parent, I feel that if I can get 5-10minutes of a peaceful dinner, or loading the dishwasher while my child giggles at the baseball game on the glowing box 10 feet away… I think I’m in the clear.


a few of my references...