Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Background TV not good for kids

In my seven months of motherhood, I have spent a lot of time thinking about whether or not I will allow my son to watch TV (movies and videos included), and if so, what limitations will I put on this privilege. Well the time has come for me to get serious about this decision. Just this morning I had my son in my arms, and as he fussed, I switched the TV from the Today show to the Disney Channel. I kid you not, my son was so enthralled in Handy Mandy that within minutes, he had fallen asleep. 
I was somewhat shocked by the effects of one program, but more than shocked, I was feeling guilty. I had used TV to put my child to sleep. And he's only a baby! And though I hate to admit it, this wasn't the first time that I have turned to the TV to entertain my son. 
Because I realize how easy it is to use the TV as a babysitter, child-calmer, and baby-soother, I decided to start thinking seriously about the issue and making some decisions. I imagine that I will allow him to watch some TV, but how much, I am still not sure. I am finding that it is not simply about what he watches. It's equally important that I consider what I am watching when he is present. Not only because of the PG-13 rated content of many shows and commercials, and the link to childhood obesity, but also because of the exposure to constant background noise.
According to a recent study, leaving the TV set on disrupts young children while they are playing and may be detrimental to a child's development. The study found that background TV disrupts the toy play of young children, even when they paid little attention to it; "when the television was on, the children played for significantly shorter periods of time and the time they spent focused on their play was shorter, compared to when the TV was off." According to the study's lead author, "Background TV is potentially a chronic environmental risk factor affecting most American children. Parents should limit their young children's exposure to background television."
Hhm. This complicates things. I not only need to consider limitations to my son's TV exposure but also for mine. And my husband's. Fortunately we only have one TV (and we plan on keeping it that way), but our house is small, and when the TV is on, it nearly fills the entire house with background noise. And I can't help but wonder if the constant background noise is a factor in the attention deficit disorders suffered by so many of our youth.
This recent study leaves me with more to think about as I decide what is best for my son. But more importantly, it leaves me with a challenge. Am I willing to sacrifice my own entertainment for the health and well-being of my son? I hope so (though easier said than done, I am sure).

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