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When I was a kid…
When I was growing up, my parents allowed me and my younger brother to watch 30 minutes of TV per day. No more and most often less. This was considered to be a torture tactic by many of my friends, but my brother and I didn’t mind. It was just the way it was.
Now that I have a child of my own, I’ve had to start thinking about all sorts of things, including TV time.
I allow my 20-month-old daughter to watch TV once a week. On Saturday mornings I put on an Elmo DVD that’s about 30-40 minutes long (she loves Elmo). She doesn’t usually watch the whole thing and most often toddles off before it’s done. She’d much rather be outside.
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Too much TV
I also found this: “The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids under 2 years old not watch any TV and that those older than 2 watch no more than 1 to 2 hours a day of quality programming.”
I think I'm doing pretty good at less than 30 minutes a week.
My daughter also doesn’t eat candy, fast food, or drink pop. And no, I’m not one of those parents who plan to shelter their child from the evils of the world (like sugar- Grrrr).
There’s going to be a time when my little one starts asking for junk food and TV and until then, why introduce or encourage it? I'm not planning to forbid any of it because that will just backfire eventually. Plus, it’s just not realistic.
This past week I was feeling mighty fine about our TV restrictions when my brother sent me a link to an interesting article about the effect of TV on kids under the age of two. The article read:
“Toddlers could be screened for speechproblems after evidence that many are so addicted to television and video gamesthat they are failing to learn basic communication skills.”
It goes on to say that “barely a 10th of children in some areas can repeat even one nursery rhyme and, in extreme cases, some do not even know their own name” and that the problem is “now more prevalent than dyslexia or autism.”
My daughter can sing her way through Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, Row Your Boat, and likes to add her own twist to the end of Skinamarinky (her version ends in “I love me”). She also knows a few Wiggles songs (including the actions) and can make her way through the whole alphabet song, adding in a few mumbles of “next time won’t you sing with me” to the end.
She can recognize and say around 10 colours (my mom taught her “aqua” as a joke, but she knows it!) and knows her names (both her nickname and her full name), along with Mommy, Amma, Grandpa, Auntie and Uncle. Oh yeah, and all the characters from Sesame Street including Prairie Dawn and Abby Cadabby (she learned about them from books).
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She knows the names of several animals and the sounds they make in addition to other words in her growing vocabulary. She often wakes up and “reads” to herself and practices her ABC’s for up to 45 minutes before wanting to get lifted out of her crib.
As you can see, I could go on forever… And no, she doesn’t pronounce all the words or letters clearly, but she’s definitely got the sounds and the rhythm down. I’m not listing all of this just to brag about my daughter (okay, maybe just a little bit).
Cause and Effect?
Does any of this have to do with limited screen time? Who knows. All kids are different and each develops at his or her own pace, but I can’t help but wonder. I’m not judging other parents’ choices and think there are some great educational programs out there… but again, I’d rather teach my girl how to count by reading a book or playing with her than have her see it on TV. The TV has its place, but I think it’s something that can easily get out of control, especially considering “children who consistently spend more than 4 hours per day watching TV are more likely to be overweight”.
Food for thought
So, I am going to try and stick with the Saturday morning TV tradition and lead by example. The only TV she sees me watch is the news at 6 pm. In fact, when she hears the TV being switched on, the first word she says is “news”.
I think it’s also important to take the lead from my daughter. Who knows, maybe she’ll never want a chocolate bar or want to watch TV… yeah right.
But a mommy can dream.