Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Think Outside the TV box, Part II

Great article at Babble about TV or No TV for infants. There are the usual AAP recommendations. I think this piece about interactivity is right on.

"But the infant brain is unique in that it is not fully developed — it is particularly malleable, plastic, under the age of two. Early infant brains develop in response to stimuli from the environment. If their environment is a screen, their development will be different than it will be if a human can interact with them. If in the future you can talk to your screen and it can talk back, maybe what I'm saying will not apply. But we're not there. Babies need interaction with live, in-person human beings. There is more and more research that says exactly that."

Little Man and Boo are both learning from every person they come in contact with. We coo, we make faces, we giggle and laugh and kiss them. We model responses to their behavior. We use words and change what we are doing based on what they do. And it's not just mom and mom doing this. But when strangers say, "What a beautiful baby!" Little Man knows EXACTLY how to be coy and to dip his chin and make the stranger smile.

In fact, we are blessed with beautiful babies who prompt a ton of interaction. Sure, I'm biased. But I have noticed how often people stop to talk to Little Man and how often the nurses play with Boo versus other babies we encounter. All of that interaction helps them socialize and learn. TVs can't do that.

Finally, the concluding paragraph of the essay is right on:

I've come to the conclusion that television is neither enriching nor evil. It's reasonable to view as suspect the claim that a video can turn a kid into an "Einstein." But it's also reasonable to let your kid watch a little Sesame Street without flagellating yourself to death with a peer-reviewed journal article. Just let go of the guilt — either by letting go of the quest for parenting perfection, or by letting go of the remote.

And I've done this to a certain extent. While the TV might be on when we are with Little Man, he rarely is "watching" TV. Sometimes he's lying across my lap drinking milk while I am checking out the weather or catching up on Project Runway. Or sometimes hockey is on and Katie is watching, while I am sitting on the floor making dino noises at my son who is chewing his dino book and looking at me.

We haven't yet started plonking him down in front of the TV while we do something else. Instead, we plonk him down in his exersaucer or on the floor with a plastic basket of toys.

I've accepted my lack of parenting perfection AND I've also really stopped to analyze how much TV he actually watches and realized we have let go of the remote. He encounters some, but it's like contact TV, not primary encounter TV.


Julie said...

I agree, but some shows like Handy Manny and Backyardagins are fun for everyone to watch. Singing tools and Bugs are cool for me. When he watches a little TV I've found he is able to expand his role playing and imagining world a little more than when he just had real life to deal with.

Norah said...

I pretty much agree with everything you've said here. Most days my kids watch 1/2 to an hour of tv, but as babies the tv was pretty meaningless to them.