Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Are We Harvesting a Couch Potato?

This is Cole's guilty pleasure. He gets to sit in Mommy's bed and watch Curious George while I take a shower and get ready in the morning. It is his favorite program, and I get the security of know I have 20-30 minutes that he probably won't climb on something and hurt himself.
My kid is allowed to watch T.V. Sometimes I need a moment and forbidden fruit being what it is, I am not opposed to television watching by toddlers (in moderation, of course). This is something I think about quite often and bring up as a discussion at dinner.
Cole has learned to turn the television on and then climb in the recliner or my bed. We are learning when we may or may not watch television at the moment. This morning Cole turned on the Today Show (he is not good at navigating the channels). Before I turned it off (I do not like that show on the account of their segments on the war and completely biased reporting), I saw they were going to do a segment on toddlers watching television, so I decided I wanted to see what they had to say, hoping they had good research to end my eternal interal struggle of such a medium. Here is a link for the segment: Lauch the video clip to the right of the page.
After watching it, I had some of my own thoughts. I am not normally an emailer to big companies like that, but I disagreed with several of their comments and the way it was presented.
So here is what I wrote back to them. It is lengthy, so feel free to skip or skim, but I thought I would add my two cents in the Great Television Debate.
Dear Today Show:

I am writing in response to your report on the amount of T.V. that toddlers watch. I appreciate the topic, as it is something that I am concerned about myself as a stay-at-home mother. It is nice to see your interest in bringing up well-educated, well-rounded children. However, there were many problems with what you reported. I know in you want to be successful in your efforts to bring effective and correct information to the public.

In your report, you presented several useful facts, such as the amount of television parents allowed their children under two to watch (90% of children allowed to watch an hour and a half a day). These facts, while interesting, were simply that: interesting facts. You provided no research as to what these programs were, if they were educational or somehow helpful to the children, or what the long term effects of these programs might be.

The overall tone of the report seemed to view television as a guilty pleasure parents (specifically mothers) allowed just to have a “babysitter,” while you offered no facts to determine if this was harmful to the children. Television has long been viewed as negative in our society, and you allowed that to speak for you instead of providing research, examples or any information that could truly be of value to us as parents raising the next generation.

One of the most problematic parts of the segment included the people that spoke about their child’s television viewing habits. You interviewed a few mothers and one father. The mothers all had their children with them and were apparently on an outing with their children, either a park or a zoo. They admitted to letting their children watch television so they could take a shower, make a phone call or even have a couple minutes to themselves. The one man you interviewed spoke from an office with no kids in tow. Although you later showed a clip of him playing with his children, from your report it seems that he probably leaves the house most of the day and might possibly get to take an uninterrupted shower or go to the bathroom whenever he would like to do so.

It seems that there is so much judging of parenting going on and this was another vessel in which to do it. Although we are a highly competitive society, as parents, we should not be competing, we should be helping. We should want every parent to be the best possible caregiver, instead of feeling good because we compare ourselves to other people that we feel are doing a poor job. For example, we feel better about ourselves because we don’t let our kids what T.V., or we are better parents because we stay home with our children and others take their kids to a day care.

The future of our children greatly depends on parenting, so instead of pointing out that some parents allow their children more television time with a mental slap on the wrist, increasing the guilt we naturally feel as parents, it would be more helpful for you to run stories on effective use of time with our children. What does research say we should do instead of watching T.V.? How can we support each other as parents to raise kids in the best way possible?

I do appreciate your interest in family life and our values. I look forward to hearing ways to raise our children to happy, productive and well adjusted adults.

Thank you,


Amy said...

That's video clip really annoyed me too. JG doesn't get to watch more than 1/2 of a sesame street show and now I feel terribly guilty. I'm glad you wrote to them...they didn't give any actual data on how it hurts kids to watch t.v. occasionally. uggh.

Jesse said...

Amy pointed me to the AAP report. I found it interesting that in the REUTERS (msn) report that they quote the American Acadamy of Pediatrics as saying "They [AAP] recommend that children under age 2 should not watch any [TV] and older children should watch no more than 2 hours a day of quality programming."

However, when I went to the AAP report the actual quote is "Until more research is done about the effects of TV on very young children, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend television for children age 2 or younger. For older children, the Academy recommends no more than 1 to 2 hours per day of educational, nonviolent programs."

Call it a subtlty, but "not recommending" is not the same as
"recommending against". It sounds like the AAP acknowledges that there is not enough research and they don't want to endorse it as helpful yet. I think this is the case because in the context of the AAP report, the previous paragraph states the benefits of TV for pre-schoolers "Studies show that preschool children who watch educational TV programs do better on reading and math tests than children who do not watch those programs. When used carefully, television can be a positive tool to help your child learn."

I'm with you Lauren, this is not only slanted toward guilt, but it makes you think the AAP is saying something that it is not.

Here is the link to the AAP report:

If you want to write another email with this new info, go for it.

Christy said...

I also thought thier statistics were pretty weak. Something like 12% vs 22% getting distracted in school. Pretty close margin really. I know I feel guilty when Katherine watches TV too. Really she mainly is in the room when we are watching our shows which is probably worse than just putting on a video for her. She does not pay too much attention to it though and knows when it changes to a kids show and all fo a sudden is interested.

Christy said...

Also, you do not have a couch potato. I have seen your very active boy.