Is a little TV really that bad for your kid?

10/19/2011 9:50 PM

10/19/2011 9:50 PM

I admit it. I felt a sense of relief when I read Farhad Manjoo’s article on Slate last week, where he argues (successfully, in my opinion) that a letting your children have a little screen time really isn’t the end of the world. Hopefully I’m not just buying into his argument because he’s saying what I want to hear, contrary to what the American Academy of Pediatrics is always saying: children under the age of 2 should spend no time in front of the television.


Manjoo breaks apart some of the most popular studies on children and television, pointing to major shortcomings, which include their not distinguishing between kids who are watching MTV and those who are watching Sesame Street. An excellent point. 


But I think he has it all right for a much simpler reason: in many cases, and especially in the case of screen time, parenting advice has become too extreme. 


My doctor has actually told me, on more than one ocassion, that my daughter should not have juice until she turns 18. And I think she’s serious. What she’s really trying to say is that childhood obesity is a problem. Don’t feed your kid sugar through a straw. But it’s just another example of advice you receive as a parent that you need to take with a grain of salt. If you end up somewhere in the middle, you’ll probably be OK. 


Three days a week I’m a work-at-home parent. And sometimes it works out that my daughter is home, and I need to work. So I turn on Yo Gabba Gabba. Or Sesame Street. Not for hours on end, but maybe for an hour. 


And even worse, when I was home all day by myself on maternity leave, I watched TV while I nursed. I may have just gone crazy if I didn’t have at least this little touch of the outside, adult world. And one more thing. I’m a little bit of a news junkie, too. So there’s no doubt in my mind that my kids will grow up with cable news playing in the background maybe a little more than “the officials” would recommend. But I’m willing to take the bet that, despite all this, they’re going to turn out just fine. 

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