Relax about babies watching TV

Margot

From the archives: Posted on 7th February, 1996

Dear [Poster],

I think you are overlooking something critical when you write:

“I would say that if you regularly place a TV within your baby’s field of vision, you are steering them into a habit, because the more time they spend at it, the more (generally speaking – there are doubtless some children who would be exceptions) they will want to spend (and I realize that this is true of other habits, like reading, as well). Children rapidly develop an amazingly long attention span for TV.”

Unless you are speaking in the general form on purpose, I assume that you are looking for information that can help you when your baby comes. Therefore, the thing you are not including into your calculations is this: I recall you mentioning that you are on an Attachment Parenting mail list. This means that you would at least like to try it.

I can tell you from experience, then, that this will dramatically color your child’s relationship with the TV, and with everything else. [D.] was what people like to call a “High Needs” baby. He was pretty colicky (he had a milk allergy which went undetected for a few weeks), he was very alert and wakeful, he was very attached to me (especially after my emergency surgery)…in short, I wore him in his baby-sling at least 18 hours a day until he started to crawl and cruise. So, any TV I watched, he watched too. Any books or papers or magazines I read, he saw too. He was there, he was a participant (only sometimes passive) in everything. So I explained things to him. I read him pieces of what I was reading, unless it obviously bored him. If he was really disinterested, and did not want to play while I was reading, I’d stop. If I was watching something, I’d talk to him about it. Tell him what was going on, or make up a game or silly story or joke about something that just happened.

Don’t underestimate your baby. She or he will be way more interested in you and what you’re doing and what you’re saying than in that ol’ box, no matter how pretty the pictures are. Unless that’s what you are more interested in (which, judging from your posts, is highly unlikely).

I have also found that the more relaxed I am about anything, the more relaxed D. is, and visa versa. I’m not trying to paint a sweeping overview, or use him as a standard, but there still may be something you can use here. If you can avoid giving TV the cachet of a “forbidden fruit,” you may be able to help them avoid the addiction you fear. It’s natural that, someday, they’ll want to know what all the fuss is about if you never expose them to it (I don’t think it pays to retread all the pros and cons posted to this list about that). If, however, you can be levelheaded about the thing, and tell them about your point of view, for surely they will see it eventually if they go over to someone else’s house, they’ll be able to figure out that its just another fun thing that some people have more access to than others, and that some people enjoy more than others. Since you’re on this list, I can only trust that you will reason with them intelligently if their opinions on the subject differ substantially from yours.

So, lighten up! 🙂 Trust yourself, and trust your baby. You can’t plan for every eventuality, so enjoy things as they come to you. You’ll know what’s right for you and your little one when the time comes, even about TV, if you just trust the process, and pay attention to your needs and the baby’s.

Margot, 1996, ‘Relax about babies watching TV’, https://www.takingchildrenseriously.com/relax-about-babies-watching-tv/