I grew up without cable. “There are better things to do than watch TV,” said my mother. So I read books, did arts and crafts, and found a lot of ways to be constructive without 790 channels standing in my way. Sure, I watched movies and the occasional TV show (I have babysitters to thank for the latter), but television was never a priority, and I think it’s been pretty beneficial in my adult life.
However, more and more often one hears, “My son/daughter LOVES [insert TV show]” and less and less often I hear “My son/daughter LOVES [insert book]!” What the hell? Where’d all the books go? They turned into educational DVDs, that’s where.
Even infants zone out in front of the television, and it turns out this translates into less time interacting with parents and possible lags in language development, a new study finds.
“We’ve known that television exposure during infancy is associated with language delays and attentional problems, but so far it has remained unclear why,” said lead researcher Dimitri Christakis, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute and professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages television watching before the age of 2, a time when critical development, such as language acquisition, occurs. (Christakis said a baby’s brain triples in size during the first two years of life, so there’s a lot going on in that little noggin.)
Not popping in DVDs doesn’t mean you have to have a ton of time to spend with your kids, either. My mom was a single mom, and we got along just fine. Just let the kids do what you do! If you’re reading, read out loud and follow the words with your finger. Or let them read with you. If you’re cooking, let them stir. You’ll find that you have more time to spend with your kids than you thought, and eventually they might prefer a good book instead of another episode of Spongebob.