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In defence of TV - is it really that bad?


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#1 AmityD

Posted 03 October 2012 - 09:02 PM

Another day, another study released that makes me feel guilty. This one, published in the journal Pediatrics, focuses on the effect of TV exposure in young children.

I think it’s safe to say we all know too much TV isn’t great for our kids. And I’d guess that most of us make a bit of an effort at least (successfully or otherwise) to limit the amount of time they spend sitting in front of one.

However, in the new study published in Pediatrics, researchers looked at the overall time children spent exposed to TV, including when it was on in the background, and found it was much higher than they expected.

"The sheer amount of exposure is startling," said study author Jessica Taylor Piotrowski, assistant professor with the Amsterdam School of Communication Research at the University of Amsterdam.

The study found that on average a child in the US is exposed to nearly four hours of background TV per day, a finding that experts say could take a toll on their development. Which is where my guilt kicks in. Because, to be honest, that amount doesn’t seem starting to me at all. In fact, it’s not even mildly surprising. When I counted the hours in a day my kids are exposed to TV, either directly or indirectly, I’d say 4 hours would be a GOOD day. And definitely not a cold and rainy weekend day.

Look, I know there are people out there who don’t watch any TV, or who limit their kids to 30 minutes a day and I respect that. But for me, the thought of going without TV makes me just as edgy as it would make my children.

I love TV. I like to get my news from it, be entertained by it, learn things from it and veg out and not think in front of it. Most mornings it will be switched on as soon as we get up, to get the news headlines and watch The Today Show. We have banned kids shows on school mornings, but on the weekends there will be cartoons. It then goes off for a few hours, while we go out or do some activities, but after lunch it will often be back on again in an (often futile) attempt to get my 2-year-old to fall asleep in front of it.

It will then go off for a while again, but by late afternoon my son will be tired and looking to relax, so on it will go. And most likely there it will stay, for the news and then a family friendly show, until the kids go to bed. And then we will have it on, usually in the background as we work, til around midnight when we go to bed.

Looking at it, that’s a lot of TV. But I don’t think we’re all that unique.

In fact, I would say many mothers with newborns would have it on even more, as they look to TV for company, to escape the monotony and isolation of being home all day. However, according to this study, that’s bad too.

Dr. Rich, an associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and director of the Center on Media and Child Health, said that background exposure distracts both children and parents.

"If you look at breastfeeding, for example, it's not just nutrition, but also the intense bonding that is really, really important," Rich said. "If a mom is watching 'Oprah,' she's not looking at her kid."

Ok, now hang on a minute. Watching Oprah has gotten millions of new mothers through the first few months of endless feeds, nappy changes and lack of adult stimulation and making us feel guilty about that is taking it too far.

I guess we should be staring at our babies dreamily for their entire 40 minute feeds, approx every 2-4 hours, but honestly – how much can you look at a person, even one you’re obsessed with? If it wasn’t for TV keeping me awake (and sane) during the many months of night feeds I would have gone mad. Where is the study that praises TV for saving mothers’ sanity?

I believe everything in moderation, including TV. If your child is sitting in front of it for 8 hours a day, without going outside, reading books, playing sport, doing puzzles, baking cakes, listening to music, or going to school, childcare or playgroup then yes - it’s going to be detrimental to their development. But if they are watching age appropriate shows, as part of a well-balanced and physically active life, can it really be that bad? And if us mums are watching our shows for a while, amongst staring at their lovely faces, engaging with them and providing them with all their needs – how does that hurt them?

The study did not collect information about what type of programs children were exposed to, although with direct exposure it was found that, unsurprisingly, educational shows can have a positive effect, while violent or sexualized content has been tied to negative outcomes. Leading me back to moderation and age appropriate content. I’m guessing no child has ever had negative outcomes from watching too much Play School. Well, except from feeling slightly wrong watching a topless Noni Hazelhurst in a dramatic role, but that could just be me.

So this is one study I’m going to take with a pinch of salt. I could be wrong, but I think there are other more pressing issues demanding my guilt more.

How much TV does your family watch? Do you limit your kids screen time or are you relaxed about it? Do the findings of this study surprise you?


#2 DM. 2012

Posted 03 October 2012 - 09:46 PM

I tend to agree with you. I'm sure that most people watch more than the 'recommend' amount of tv. During the day, I feed my baby in front of the tv. Lately though I have been having the radio on instead and turning the telly on later in the morning (I like watching the repeats of friends on Gem).  It is good to wind down at the end of the day (baby and stepson in bed, no housework to do) by just relaxing in front of the TV. I don't let my stepson (aged 9) watch TV before school and after school and homework he is usually outside with other kids in the street.


My step son watched far too much when I first met my husband. They had a DVD player in the car and he would throw tantrums over it. When we bought a car my husband agreed that it would not and will never have a DVD player.

I do not think that TVs should be in bedrooms.


#3 Emma7

Posted 04 October 2012 - 10:28 AM

Oh my goodness - My girlfriends & I were just discussing this form of "Mother Guilt" & concluded that we are sick to death of "studies".
My son gets absolute enjoyment from some of the programs on ABC4 (22) & I love dancing around with him to the songs on Playschool, or watching his face light up when Timmy Time comes on. He's picked up on many words, actions & has become interested in drawing & painting. I believe TV has helped develop my sons skills. There's only so much mums can do, sometimes we are "boring" to our kids. It adds an extra element of learning to our days.
It's not hours on end, but whenever he's in front of the TV the back of my mind has guilt plastered all over it. It's not fair!
Let's all look at our kids & think - hey, we've done a bl**dy good job. Look how they've developed from newborns into walking, talking, dancing, giggling little people. Let's not feel guilty!

#4 HerringToMarmalade

Posted 04 October 2012 - 10:36 AM

Its not the TV itself, its what it is replacing. So plonking your kid down in front of the telly isn't going to be as helpful as if you were talking and reading together, but you might not be doing that anyway.

#5 HerringToMarmalade

Posted 04 October 2012 - 11:55 AM

QUOTE (T.J. @ 04/10/2012, 10:48 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
And I agree with the playschool comment. I get a lot of craft ideas (or ideas forced upon me) by playschool. I am not overly creative, and it does get the kids interested in it. Nothing more annoying than spending half an hour setting something up for craft and having the kids sit for 2 minutes and then ask to go and do something fun.


Does anyone remember Art Attack? It used to be on weekend mornings, we'd spend the day trying to recreate what they'd made on the show. So fun.

#6 GoodGollyMolly

Posted 04 October 2012 - 01:13 PM

I don't think telly is that bad.

But I did find that in those newborn months the TV was terrible to have on. Daytime TV honestly made me feel depressed. It's so mind numbing, when having a newborn is mind numbing enough. After a few weeks I found myself so much happier when I never put the TV on all day till about 6pm.  

DS is only very little still, but I do like to keep the TV off all day till maybe about 5pm when ABC2 saves the day as I start dinner original.gif

DS just gets 12 hours of triple j instead original.gif

#7 BeachedAsBro

Posted 06 October 2012 - 09:41 PM

We don't watch much TV during the day, just Sesame Street, Play School & then again in the evening we'll put the Giggle & Hoot show on from 6pm. The TV is often on in the background with music or news channels.

I'm an 80s kid, we were often plonked in front of the TV. Raised on a steady diet of Astro Boy, She-Ra, Care Bears, Play School & Sesame Street. I've still managed to get through a couple of degrees & didn't develop square eyes. I'm going to take this study with a grain of salt too.

#8 Guest_Sunnycat_*

Posted 06 October 2012 - 09:49 PM

Tv is always on in this house. DS is nearly one. He isn't glued to the tv and still plays with toys and stuff. We only have the one living area. Ive started turning it off, but I really like having the tv on. I've been thinking about getting a radio instead. I just like the noise and "company" from tv.

We still go to the park and playgroup and shopping and stuff. When DS gets older I hope to do more activities with him.

I also have a tv in my bedroom but have started turning it off when feeding DS to sleep at night (he sleeps in our bed) as he falls asleep quicker without it on.

I do confess that I love tv.

Eta: I don't put kids shows on or cartoons on for DS.

Edited by Sunnycat, 06 October 2012 - 09:50 PM.


#9 Keepleft

Posted 10 October 2012 - 10:40 PM

Daily Tele tells us Nine is close to administration.  A long way from its glory days.

#10 katniss

Posted 13 October 2012 - 05:39 PM

QUOTE (lololololol @ 04/10/2012, 08:36 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Its not the TV itself, its what it is replacing. So plonking your kid down in front of the telly isn't going to be as helpful as if you were talking and reading together, but you might not be doing that anyway.


We read and talk together but none of us want to do that for 12 hours straight during the day.

I think if you keep an eye on the amount the kids are watching and ensuring they are getting physical activity, and doing other things like reading and playing during the day then sitting them down in front of the TV while you cook dinner in peace or tidy up quickly from the days events, isn't going to be a big deal.

Once again, it's all in moderation.

#11 dynamitee

Posted 13 October 2012 - 05:50 PM

I remember wishing that DS who is eight would just sit down and watch tv for longer than five minutes when he was little.  Even now he doesn't spend that much time watching but he's better at occupying himself now.  He's more of an active child but not very good at playing by himself.

DD however is the complete opposite.  Has always loved the tv and often we've found it's settled her when she's been agitated.  She's always been high needs emotionally and she seems to be able to zone out when watching (even when a baby).  But interestingly she is also far better at playing by herself and can spend vast periods of time in her imaginative play world.

I'm probably the biggest tv tragic in the family.  Always have been and I think I'm ok. biggrin.gif




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