The Evils of Television… Or Not

10 12 2011

There is a great rift in our household.

It is caused by one simple appliance: the television.

If I had my way, I would only have the television on when the baby is in another room.  If Jason had his way, well… the television wouldn’t be on all the time, and certainly she shouldn’t be left to entertain herself with it, but he sees no problem with watching a show while holding the baby.

As we’ve experienced the realities of child-rearing, I’ve had to rethink my position, as much as I hate to do so.  I got the baby this crib toy for Christmas: it’s a box that attaches to the crib and flashes lights and plays music.  Basically, it’s a primitive television.  For the baby’s crib.  Then there are all the Christmas lights that flash colors that we encourage the baby to look at, and the flames in the wood stove and the flickering of candles.  And those are all accompanied at times by the loud rap music the baby really likes.

So what is a box that flashes lights and sounds?  A television?  A crib toy?  What’s the difference?  What makes television the enemy?

From what I’ve read, a lot of the studies point to language: if the TV is on, adults are less likely to talk, so the child is exposed to less language.  I totally buy that.

Then tonight: Jason had the baby on his lap, and the TV was on, and he was chatting with her.  I glanced over, and the baby was looking at the television.  I panicked, snatched her away, chastised Jason, and proceeded to walk across the room with her, away from that evil machine and the father who would expose her to it.

Here’s the thing, though.  I had already spent 12 hours walking around the house with her, talking about the dog and the cat and the wood stove and the Christmas decorations and the dishwasher and the floor and the walls and the windows…  Just like most days at home for the last 3 months.  And I was too tired to do it anymore.  So we just walked quietly back and forth.

So, what?  Had I really just pulled my daughter away from verbal and physical interactions with an adult and exchanged that interaction with the silent, weary pacing of a tired mother?


And here’s a dirty little secret of mine: sometimes, when the baby is in her bouncy seat playing with the toys on it, and I’ve talked to her about the toys and all the parts of her brand new body she needs to move to engage with the toys, and made encouraging sounds about her genius in grabbing said toys, well, sometimes, I pick up a book and read a little.  Silently.  While the baby plays with her toys.


There is a surprising lack of research on the language development of infants with parents who read while on the job.

I would still prefer that our TV remain off while the baby is awake.  But I was never much one for television to begin with, and that probably influences me quite a bit.  And there’s no question in my mind that both Jason and I have plenty to say to our daughter, and spend most of our time with her interacting with her.  And having Mommy and Daddy arguing in front of her about anything at all is probably more damaging than anything the TV might have to say.

So next time she’s sitting on her daddy’s lap with the TV on?

She’s probably going to stay there.




3 responses

10 12 2011

Our basic TV rule is that TV is off from breakfast time until after dinnertime. My daughter, who is 4, is allowed to watch some TV between the time she wakes up and breakfast and then after dinner/bath as a reward. Since I also have an almost 8 month old that means that he is getting some TV exposure with her, especially in the morning. I don’t sweat it.

11 12 2011
Sarah H.

In response to:
“sometimes, I pick up a book and read a little. Silently. While the baby plays with her toys. In other words, NOT DOING A DAMN THING TO CONTRIBUTE TO HER LANGUAGE-RICH ENVIRONMENT.”
I would actually say you are contributing to her print literacy development because she sees you reading a book. She sees someone she will love and respect doing something quiet with words on pages. You’re a great role model for reading! There are some families where the only thing to read in the house are the TV Guide and the backs of cereal boxes. Don’t sweat it too much. The fact that you have even thought about TV exposure and language stimulation and everything you already do pretty much ensures it will not damage her. You’re a great mom!

11 12 2011

Whew! I thought of you when I was reading/writing about language development… Glad you don’t think I’m doing serious damage… Isn’t it funny that Ana and I ended up as SPED teachers and you as an SLP??? We probably all know too much about “typical” child development to be normal parents…

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