There’s No Such Thing As ‘Educational’ Programming

My husband and I went out to eat two nights ago and ended up sitting across from a couple who had a Sesame Street on portable DVD player propped up in front of a kid in a high chair the entire time. I know some people have especially difficult children, so I try not to be judgmental. Sometimes you just have to do whatever works to calm your kids down, though I’m pretty sure my husband was disturbed to see such a young kid with a digital babysitter. I don’t let my kids watch much television, but I’m not a media Nazi either. In fact, after my husband and I were discussing the problems of kids and media, last night I ended up with a sick two-year-old on the couch next to me watching the game one of the World Series. Learning to be a Cardinals fan is an important and necessary part of her upbringing.

Almost as if the paper knew my husband and I were just discussing this issue, The New York Times ran a story confirming what you probably already knew here — television is really bad for young kids. (BTW, you have to love the photo the Times ran with this story.) Pediatricians have been hammering home that message for over 10 years, but they recently reaffirmed that warning again, and in the process, made an interesting point:

The recommendation, announced at the group’s annual convention in Boston, is less stringent than its first such warning, in 1999, which called on parents of young children to all but ban television watching for children under 2 and to fill out a ”media history” for doctor’s office visits. But it also makes clear that there is no such thing as an educational program for such young children, and that leaving the TV on as background noise, as many households do, distracts both children and adults.

That’s an important thing to keep in mind — sure, maybe watching Dora and Sesame Street is better than letting your kid hang out while you catch up on season three of Breaking Bad. But at the end of the day, there’s no such thing as good television for young kids, as much as I enjoy teaching my two-year-old to scream “GO RED BIRDS!”

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