Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rotting LO's Brain

Just in case you weren't worried enough about how you were screwing up your kids, the American Academy of Pediatrics (Motto: Causing Paranoia in Well-Meaning Parents Since 1930) has reiterated the statement that letting children under two watch television is the leading cause of socialism, bed-wetting and letting the terrorists win.

Okay, it's not quite that dire. Letting your baby watch television is only going to stunt their ability to read and become a productive member of society.

Back when LO was a tiny thing, I took this proscription against baby-TV watching seriously. To the point where I felt guilty for watching television while I breastfed LO. (You'll notice that my taking the statement seriously did not mean that I ceased and desisted the behavior. No, no--I just felt guilty about it.)

Then LO became mobile and my personal hygiene took a nose dive. Because when you have to choose between a shower while the baby is napping and doing some paid work so they don't turn off the hot water, you generally do the paid work. Then one day, J, who is the unofficial voice of reason in this household, turned on a Baby Einstein-style program for LO while the child was having a meltdown. LO dried his eyes and then didn't blink for the entirety of the program. He was entranced. We got a half hour of quiet. It was glorious.

Soon, we (and by we, I mean *I*) were sitting LO in front of Baby Class once a day so that I could get something done. According to the AAP, I am officially a BAD MOTHER.

If that wasn't bad enough, the article that is pointing its accusing finger at me came out while I was recuperating from the daycare plague that LO brought home to share with the whole family. What does one do while recovering from a snot-tastic head cold from hell? Watch as much Daily Show, Big Bang Theory (and shame of shames) 19 Kids and Counting as one possibly can. So not only has LO been getting his regular fix of his educational (ha!) baby show, but he's also been seeing and hearing lots of things I'd rather he didn't repeat. ("No, honey, you're not going to have 18 brothers and sisters. Because I said so, that's why.")

On the one hand, I wonder what world the pediatricians recommending this stuff come from. J suggested they must all have au pairs--and I posit that the au pairs park the kids in front of the tube when the parents aren't looking. Raising a kid without occasional TV time is next to impossible for any non-Luddite, non-hippy, non-it-takes-a-village-plus-a-regular-babysitter-to-come-over-daily-to-give-you-time-for-things-you-used-to-take-for-granted-like-two-minutes-to-brush-your-teeth.

On the other hand, I always feel I need to take these kinds of recommendations with a grain of salt. Or a salt lick. The AAP says that children watching TV are not playing with or interacting with their caregivers. And that's the one ill-effect that is touted for allowing little ones to suckle at the teat of the boob tube. So provided I play with LO and interact with him the other 23.5 hours per day, does that mean we're good? Because I'm not about to turn on the set and leave it going all day to entertain LO. (Not that it would even work. I usually get about 10 minutes out of any half hour baby show these days).

On the third hand (didn't know I was using Vishnu's arms for my points, did you?), I am most definitely a member of the TV generation and I don't see how it has harmed me. I grew up on a steady diet of MTV, Night Court reruns, rushing home to make sure I didn't miss the opening of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and watching my VHS of The Princess Bride so much that I literally broke the damn thing. And other than the fact that I know all the words to the Jem and Holograms theme song (Je-em is truly outrageous! Truly, truly, truly outrageous!), I don't feel that my juvenile TV watching has had a negative effect on my life. Yes, I can quote classic television and 80s movies with far greater accuracy than I can name Constitutional Amendments, but does that really detract from my ability to be a real grown up? (Don't say yes).

So I'm not going to stop rotting my child's brain. This article is another example of parents being told that they need to be perfect, where I'm just aiming for mostly good enough. And personal hygiene that doesn't have strangers giving me a 20 foot berth.


  1. I think the accusing finger is really being pointed at the companies that market their video "learning" products to kids this age. I fully appreciate the need to sometimes stick your child in front of the TV so you can get something done. What I don't like is parents being told, or telling themselves, that this is "educational". Maybe it's my own perspective but I think that is more what they are addressing.--EO

  2. Don't worry, I'm worse than you. Our TV is on a lot... HOWEVER, it's usually children's programming and Sam and I interact while watching videos - we talk about what's going on, play along with the games, etc. While research doesn't show a correlation, I think my child's vocabulary and experiences have improved immensely through Blue's Clues, Sesame Street and other shows, particularly because we constantly connect what he sees with what's going on around us. So yeah... not all negative.

    And I'm convinced with most recommendations that the experts have never had or never taken care of kids on their own.

  3. @EO, I'm sure you're right. The problem is that the articles and the proscriptions are written in such a way as to make parents feel bad for what they do. It's the common denominator problem--the experts want to reach those folks who let their kids watch "educational" (and crap) programs for hours on end, but end up making the parents of occasional TV watchers feel guilty. You see this kind of thing all the time in the What to Expect books.

  4. I feel also compelled to add that we didn't own a TV set with our daughter, and we are not super-parents by any stretch. I think we manage not to smell bad most of the time, but we have a very messy house, and at any rate mobility was never our daughter's priority. Just to say that it can be done and doesn't always take a miracle. But then, I think I might also come under the "Luddite" category (she says as she responds to a blog post).--EO

  5. Baby Kai loves Dancing With The Stars. Big smiles.
    But, I dance with him, or pat the steady beat of the music on his tummy, or explain the difference between a waltz and a jive (which goes over his head, but still...) and a good time is had by all. No guilt here! - Erika