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Should Babies and Toddlers Watch Television?

From Gentle Baby Care by Elizabeth Pantley

  • Hold off introducing television - even videos - to your baby as long as possible. If you wait until your child's second birthday, you can consider yourself incredibly successful in starting your little one off well and with the kind of real-life interaction that is so important for his development. If you decide to allow TV before your child turns two, choose programming carefully, limit viewing time and skip days when possible. (Daily viewing easily becomes habit.) The less watching time, the better! Set a goal, such as no more than 30 minutes or an hour per day, or one favorite show, so that you'll not be tempted to turn the TV on too frequently.

  • Watch programs yourself before you allow your baby or toddler to watch them. Just because a network markets a show to young children doesn't mean it will reflect your own family's morals and values. You will be amazed to discover that many programs aimed at children contain violence or topics that are inappropriate for your child. Don't assume that your baby can pick out the moral message from a program that features violence or conflict on the way to an important lesson.

  • Pay attention to commercials - surprisingly, an excellent children's show will sometimes feature commercials that depict the exact things you don't want your little one to see!

  • Choose programs that are developmentally appropriate for your child. For you, this means shows that are slow, boring, and probably somewhat goofy. But choose programs from your child's perspective, not your own.

  • Invest in a collection of appropriate and educational videos for your child so that you won't be confined to network programming schedules when you are ready to let your little one watch something.

  • Watch along with your child when you can so that you can monitor your child's reactions to what he's seeing. Invite questions and discuss what you are watching so that you can understand your little one's take. Point things out and talk about what is being taught to get the most of out of educational TV. You may even follow up with some lessons afterwards.

  • Avoid keeping the TV on when no one is actively watching. Many people do this and are used to the background noise the set generates, but your child will almost surely be exposed to programming that is inappropriate for her.

  • Make a conscious decision about how you will use television in your family; don't watch it by accident or default.

Excerpted with permission by McGraw-Hill Publishing from Gentle Baby Care (McGraw-Hill 2003) by Elizabeth Pantley www.pantley.com/elizabeth

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