Discuss: DVDs for infants, toddlers, preschoolers or kindergartners?

Here’s a question for everyone outraged by yesterday’s DVD baby stroller revelation.

I agree with Thinga-readers who repeated the claim that video may harm neural development in a growing brain. There is also a belief that video negatively impacts vocabulary and social skills.

We decry babies being shown videos, but not for long. At what point does video entertainment become acceptable, and why? Or is the venue the concern?

Longtime readers know my family is inching closer to that 1 percent of the population that doesn’t own a TV. We have one (always will), but it’s mostly for DVDs. My daughter has maybe 2 hours of DVD exposure at age 4 (more details in the parenting manifesto from a few months ago), so I’m really curious where the other 99 percent of society draws the line on showing videos to babies, toddlers, preschoolers or kindergarteners.


15 Responses to “Discuss: DVDs for infants, toddlers, preschoolers or kindergartners?”

  1. BusyMom says:

    Well, I do have to admit that both of my children, nearly 2 and 5, do watch som television. With my eldest, we started allowing him one “episode” a day, probably around 21 – 24 mos. We used our DVR to record from Noggin and Disney – no commercials. Initially, we alternated between the Wiggles and Blue’s Clues. (I will never forget the first time there was a commercial and my son being so confused as to what this was interrupting his episode – we had recorded the special Blue’s Baby Brother on Nick and they have commercials.) He has since expanded to include, Curious George on PBS, Imagination Movers on Disney and My Friends Tigger and Pooh. We still limit the number of episodes a day, but this year, he is in kindergarten and doesn’t leave for an hour later than he used to, so we allow him an episode in the morning and one in the evening. At 5, I’m not too concerned about this.

    What was different for my son, is that the TV was never on, except when he was watching his episode. Sure, I watched TV when I was home on maternity leave, but after that, not until he was in bed. Sports are the exception at my house. My husband gets the baseball package on cable every year and watches football on Sundays in the fall/early winter. Now, my daughter has had the tv for 1/2 – 1 hour most days since she was born during her brother’s episodes – but she never paid attention until about 2 mos ago, which is when we let her start to watch. Even now, she watches the first couple of minutes of Elmo or Wiggles and then just goes about playing (she won’t let you turn it off until it is over though).

    To me, the power of DVR and DVD, is no commercials and you can time shift the shows to when the kids watch them. Generally, they are watching while I make dinner so that I can get dinner on the table.

    Do I think that kids should not watch TV, no – I grew up with Saturday morning cartoons. Do I think that kids can watch too much TV, yes – but I think that with proper parental control, the amount of television watching can be limited.

    September 16th, 2008 at 3:23 am

  2. thordora says:

    Mine watch TV, in moderation, My oldest, who loves anything media related, can talk the ear off anyone and has had a fairly substantial vocabulary since about 2. My youngest, who really doesn’t care much aside from the odd movie or Backyardigans, has never been very verbal at all.

    We live in a world that’s increasingly saturated by all forms of media, and I find it important to sit with them as they watch and explain things to them instead of shutting it all off and not talking about it. Would I prefer to have no cable? Hells yes. I’ve done it before, and if I ever win the argument with my husband, it will go away.

    Many times, I think we make too much of the evils of television, and miss a lot of learning opportunities. My oldest has loved Animal Planet from day one, and Discovery, and has learned a lot from those shows along with any internet or book research we’ve done. It’s a tool.

    September 16th, 2008 at 5:07 am

  3. Karen says:

    WE have TV but no cable service at all. We let our son watch TV mostly during weekend and even that is limited max to 2 hours and DVD only. We like the fact we have no cable and that the kids can turn on the TV anytime, but chances are they only find white noise. SO really our TV is never on (unfortunately my in-laws doesn’t like this since they have nothing to do when they come from out of town). Anyway, we use TV as rewards. If they do well and behave they get to choose to watch something on the weekend. I love that they don’t watch commercials and tempted by all the materialistic things that they may want. We know we can’t shelter them from no TV forever, esp if they go to friend’s house BUT just setting the habit for them of not watching TV all the time is a good start. Alot of time TV is a waste of time and holding you back from being productive.

    September 16th, 2008 at 6:52 am

  4. Bob says:

    we’re still trying to figure this one out for our 11 month old, and our 2nd baby who’ll be here in April
    So far we’ve let him watch 10 or 15 minutes of Nick shows, here and there, but he mostly doesn’t stay interested and goes back to chasing our dogs.

    We only watch tv every so often anyway, so his exposure is pretty slim, but I know that will probably change a bit as he gets older.

    My plan, is to try to introduce our kids to hobbies (or the possibilities of hobbies) at a young age, so that they have a place to funnel their free time, if they so choose..

    A bit element to that is music (at least that’s what I’m planning)
    I was forced to take piano lessons at age 6 and after a few years, it became a passion, I’ve been playing music ever since.

    Long and short of it, is that I personally barely GET to watch tv because of my limited time and huge list of interests.. so I’m hoping to pass down that to my kids, so that they have so many things that they want to try, or to learn, or whatever, that tv/video games become a VERY low priority.

    I, personally, LOVE movies and video games and have a couple of game systems, but actually playing them has become almost non-existant because of my new priorities and my new favorite interest, my son.

    September 16th, 2008 at 10:41 am

  5. Jen says:

    Oh, TV viewing… one of the most polarizing issues in parenting.

    I’d venture a guess to assume that most people within the arena of this blog are not rampant TV watchers.

    We allow the 2.5 year old to watch some shows here and there. Specifically, when I’m alone in the house with both the 2.5 year old and the 4.5 month old and trying to put the baby to sleep. There are days where I do everything I can to keep her busy and from startling the nearly sleeping baby, to no avail. A brief stint with a show helps most times.

    Other than that, she’s allowed a few shows when sick and sometimes TV as a treat if I’m feeling completely battered by the day and she’s been good.

    We read a lot, do crafts a lot, etc. I try not to stress the little she watches.

    However, I have noticed that on the rare occasion that the TV was on while the baby’s awake, the baby’s head instantly swiveled to the screen and she was fixated. That freaked me out.

    My question: my oldest spends A LOT of time at her cousins’ house and they tend to watch a fair amount of TV. How can I suggest limiting that without causing my sis-in-law to feel judged or hurt? More importantly, (and I’ve spoken out on this a few times to them), I really don’t want her watching things I haven’t pre-approved. Lots of apparently harmless kids shows and movies are absolutely dreadful and traumatizing. I don’t want her exposed to that stuff, especially before she’s ready.

    All in all, I think that so long as I’m trying to maintain an active role in my kids’ lives and so long as their imaginations and speech are flourishing, I’m not going to stress over it much.

    I’ll limit it if at all possible, but I’m not going to kick myself for letting the big one watch a show now and then.

    September 16th, 2008 at 10:52 am

  6. K G S says:

    As some other parents mentioned, my daughter wasn’t at all interested in TV/ videos until she was about two; everything else around her was much more exciting.

    Now that she’s a toddler (2.75) she watches a pre-recorded Sesame Street episode or a Scholastic book DVD once every few days. We do this at two times: A) only one parent is home and is doing something she can’t be involved in (taking a shower or cooking on the stove), if she can’t be distracted in another way; or B) occasionally when she’s so tired and grouchy that everyone in the family needs a break. To me, a little commercial-free TV is less harmful than family-wide grouchiness– she calms down and enjoys the program, and afterwards we parents are refreshed enough to have good interactions again.

    I’m lucky to have another parent in the house. I think if I were a single parent, I’d turn to the TV for “babysitting” a lot more often despite my best intentions–I can’t imagine the sheer exhaustion of trying to work and raise a child alone. There are worse things than some controlled television, and every family’s situation is different.

    September 16th, 2008 at 11:13 am

  7. Nancy says:

    My kids watch TV, but only what we record on the DVR or that we have on DVD. They sometimes watch TV at night – we have dinner as soon as we get home, and then there’s maybe an hour before bed. Some nights we go for a family walk around the block, other nights my oldest has soccer, or the kids need baths which take a long time as they like to play. But there are times when it’s raining, or they’re not dirty, and they watch 1 or 2 shows. All are either Noggin, PBS Kids or Playhouse Disney, which means no commercials.

    While the show they watch may not be educational, per se, they do learn. My 21 mo repeats the Spanish and English words in Dora. My 5 yo has learned about many things from Curious George. They get up and dance to the Wiggles.

    We do limit the amount they watch, much to the 5 yo’s chagrin, and we rarely have the TV on as background noise, unless it’s Sunday and football is on. The 5 yo is showing more of an interest in football, wanting to know which color team we want to win. At least he’s not calling it baseball anymore…

    Anyway, I think TV in moderation, when the parent controls what and how much is watched and it’s age-appropriate, isn’t always a bad thing.

    September 16th, 2008 at 12:50 pm

  8. Sandy W. says:

    As a parent of a child with high-functioning autism, there is much debate over this topic in my circle of people. Is television partially the cause of autism? I honestly don’t know the answer to that.

    Sometimes it’s the chicken and the egg debate. Does the child seek TV because of his autism (fascinations with lights/sounds/sensory input from TV) or does the TV cause the child to have autism?

    Looking back, we did let our son watch TV occasionally. And yes, he even watched it before the age of 2. In fact, I was given a set of Baby Einstein DVD’s at my baby shower and at the time thought it was an educational tool. Never did I think that it would alter that state of my child forever. Whether it did or not, I do not know. But, with our second child (another boy, which puts him at higher risk for autism) we did not allow him to watch the Baby Einstein DVD’s just out of basic caution.

    Now that our oldest son is 5 (diagnosed at around 2) we still let him watch TV occasionally. Ironically, if I sit down and try to teach him a concept that he might learn from a TV or computer, he often times doesn’t learn it as well from me. I don’t know why that is but we have observed that on many occasions. Even our speech therapist uses the computer to teach our son some basic concepts. She also noticed that he learns better that way.

    That does not mean that we plop him in front of a screen all day. Quite the opposite. Most days he is playing directly with me or his brother. He is involved in many floor-time activities with us. We are very interactive parents that seek out educational toys and life experiences as teaching tools for our children.

    But back to the issue. Is TV bad? It can be. Especially if it’s not monitored and is just being used as a babysitter. But I think, if used correctly, it can also be a good educational tool. For some kids (depending on their learning style) it can be an effective way to get through to them. There’s probably nobody that will back me up on this one so I guess I’m out there on a limb.

    September 16th, 2008 at 2:07 pm

  9. Jessica G. says:

    It is funny – I swore I would not let my little ones ever “veg” on tv but I admit that I have become rather lax. I am guilty of plopping my eldest (4) down with an episode of the Backyardigans. Not frequently, but it does happen.

    Our solution has been our Tivo. We select certain programs that meet our basic requirements (entertaining, imaginative, does not drive parents nutso) and record them. We tend to stick with PBS or Disney shows with the occasional Nick show. No commercials. I think my concern lies more with commercials and how our kids are slammed with a culture of consumerism from day one.

    We use it as a treat. Books are first and foremost in our home, but occasional snuggle time with a fun tv show is not unheard of.

    September 16th, 2008 at 6:08 pm

  10. Mary says:

    Our son, 2 1/2 years old, does watch some TV; however, it is very limited. We don’t have cable and prefer it that way. My husband and I don’t watch TV, hardly at all. In fact, our TV is used as a computer monitor. Early on, we had a Baby Einstein video. We sat down with him and pointed out the things on the screen and what colors they were. He didn’t watch it blindly and unsupervised. We did what we could to interact with him. Currently, there are a few shows he watches on PBS, most of which I find educational – again, we interact with him, ask him questions, and so on. Our favorites are Super Why! and Mama Mirabelle’s Home Movies. The first deals a lot with letters, words, and spelling. Sitting with our son and watching this, he can point out the correct letters, attempt to make the phonetic sounds of letters, and anticipate the next letter (if they are singing or reciting the alphabet). The second show we like has something that my son has an affinity for: animals. It is mostly animated, but has live action footage of animals. My son, in part because of this show, can name many animals, even lesser known ones or specific names instead of general names (i.e toucan instead of bird, chimpanzee instead of monkey).

    I think that TV isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It mostly depends on how it is used and how often it is used. In our case, it is used in moderation, supervised, and involves interaction from us as well. When TV is used as a baby sitter, it is definitely not good. When TV is not supervised and monitored, it is not good. I like to screen the shows before letting my son watch it.

    September 16th, 2008 at 9:10 pm

  11. Rex says:

    I’m the parent of a 3 1/2 year old boy and exposed him to TV from about the age of 4 months. We’d watch together. But we only have 1 TV in the house and it is a cabinet with sliding doors so it can be out of sight (out of mind). He likes his shows, but he also likes his books (over 200).

    My best advice to all is to try and never have the TV going as background. When it’s time to watch, then watch. Otherwise, the TV is off.

    September 17th, 2008 at 9:49 am

  12. STL Mom says:

    I watched TV as a kid and I’m just fine. I love to read, have hobbies, and don’t watch TV all that much. But I do have fond memories of my favorite childhood classics: Little House on the Prairie, Emergency!, Masterpiece Theater, and Three’s Company. I always had eclectic taste.
    I try to teach my kids how to moderate their TV watching and to only turn on the TV to watch specific shows. The Tivo helps a lot with that. Some of what they watch is educational and some is trash, and sometimes we talk about that. It’s a world full of media, and I want my kids to enjoy it without being sucked into it too much. They are five and eight, and we’re still working on what the limits should be.

    September 17th, 2008 at 3:43 pm

  13. Janis says:

    For our family video entertainment is acceptable (movies only for the most part) when us as parent are totally wiped, or our son (2 years) is sick and should rest. Even then, that often consists of time spent reading, not watching movies.

    I don’t doubt this will evolve over time; my husband grew up watching a lot of television and I grew up watching very little. For now we compromise by only having one tv, located in a basement rec room with a separate family room with toys and books in our main living area of the house.

    I realized the impact TV can have on kids at a young age when my son first entered a home daycare – we were told they watched little to no TV, yet he was able (at one year old!) recognize tv and movie characters when we saw them on products in stores. When the daycare had to close, our son went through a bit of tv with-drawl and would actually cry and ask for tv – meanwhile we were watching none at home! I was shocked at the with-drawl and annoyed that someone would let him watch movies that I might not approve of (don’t judge me too harshly for keeping him there, it was a great atmosphere otherwise and any daycare at all is very VERY hard to find in our province).

    September 18th, 2008 at 9:41 am

  14. anjii says:

    I’ve never commented on any of the tv related articles here, because I’ve been ashamed to admit our dirty secret. But since others here have outed themselves, I will come out of the boob-tube closet. We love tv! Since our first was born, we’ve made a concerted effort to be conscious of only watching when we’re really watching, and not do the “background tv” thing, and we are VERY careful about what we will watch when they’re awake. What usually happens is, we watch 3 year olds DVDs for the allotted time when they’re awake, as well as the occasional show for me and hubby that is kid friendly. (Jon and Kate plus 8, Little People Big World, etc.) But the rest of our shows are recorded and watched during their naps and bedtime. And the kids shows he watches are approved (and loved) by us… Blue’s Clues, Backyardigans, Sesame Street, etc. I think it really is just a matter of moderation and content. And balance with the rest of our day, which includes LOTS of books, outdoor time (weather permitting), crafts, games, experiments, dancing and singing, etc….

    September 19th, 2008 at 7:16 pm

  15. Jen says:

    Hi! I’m not sure if I’ve ever commented on here before, but I just love this blog!

    anyway, I was pretty strict about no tv when my daughters where infants. When my first was around 1.5 years, i started to let her watch some of those baby shows (like baby einstein, but different brand). Now I record a few shows that I find somewhat educational and entertaining, while not trippy (what are these people on when they make some of these kids shows?!!!). Our favorites are Word World and Super Why on PBS.
    Every chance I get I take the girls out to the park, or the zoo… we are very active. Unfortunately, I have to work, and so while I’m there, my husband has them or my in-laws, and they don’t seem to have my energy. They do play, but my husband lets them play at the house while he watches sports news… thankfully I don’t think they find that interesting.
    My problem is with the grandparents… they let them watch moves that I don’t approve of, and its frustrating!!!!! My dad is the worst!!!!!! But, I try to make myself feel better with the fact that they are with me for a majority of the time, and we are out doing stuff.
    I would LOVE to have no tv… but there’s no way my husband would get rid of it. He talks about not wanting to watch it as much, but the first thing he does when he walks in the living room is turn it on. does that even make sense?

    September 22nd, 2008 at 3:23 pm

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