Friday, September 16, 2011

Toddlers and TV

If you would allow me to digress from my regularly scheduled post on healthy food, there’s another topic that’s been on my mind…

Before I had my Lily, I always felt that I would not let her watch TV until she was at least 2 years old, and then it would only be select shows (like Sesame Street) and for a very limited amount of time. Back then, I was thinking 30 minutes a day MAX.

But, then I found out just how much work it really is to raise a toddler and how draining it can be, and furthermore, how difficult it can be to find any time to do anything but look after said toddler. Being a work-at-home mom, most of the actual work I do gets done when Lily is napping; if I am not totally pooped by the time she goes to bed at night, I work until I am ready for bed myself. My point being, I had no (and still don’t seem to have any) down time.

We don’t have cable, luckily, but we do have the internet- obviously –and know what YouTube is. So, one day I allowed her to watch a couple of short videos of Sesame Street songs. At first she was intrigued, but not completely absorbed by it, and lost interest rather quickly. She was around 14 months old then, and since I noticed that it did capture her attention for a period of time, albeit a short period of time, I decided to reserve “YouTube time” for desperate situations, like when I was cooking and she wouldn’t get out from under my feet or if I had an important phone call I absolutely had to make and could not risk it being interrupted.

Eventually, 5-10 minutes turned into 20-30 minutes, then up to an hour, now Lily is 18 months old and I sometimes allow her to watch Elmo videos for over an hour! During those hour+ periods, it has been because she was sick and it was the only thing that would actually distract her from the pain or because I needed her to calm down to go to bed and just put the TV on in the background while she played. Often, when that has happened, she does more staring and less playing.

It bothers me, but at the same time I get so much done! It is quite a temptation that I am becoming increasingly less able to resist. Of course, I make sure that she gets plenty of actual TV-free playtime and I take her to the park and for walks regularly, but I still worry that I may be causing her to get into a routine that I will not be able to reverse. 

Image courtesy

We all are well-aware that watching too much TV is bad for our health; mentally because it causes our brains to become prone to ADHD-related conditions as well as zombie-like conditions, and physically because it makes us- children especially –fat and lazy. Also, at least 90% of what’s regularly on TV these days is total CRAP! I feel dumber after watching less than 5 minutes of any of the frighteningly popular reality shows that are on just about every channel. I DO NOT want Lily to think that watching them is okay!

I will also, of course, teach her that there’s a difference between educational programming and junk television when the time comes, but until then, I still wonder if it’s still unhealthy no matter what I allow her to watch.

Dear readers, what do you think? Do you let your young children watch TV, and if so, just how much is allotted? How do you handle situations when your child is in daycare or at a friend’s house? What are your thoughts on the subject overall?

Thanks in advance! I really look forward to hearing from you all!


  1. I really think it depends on what your child is watching. We have a great example of this in our family. 8 year old nephew was able to watch "his shows" whenever he felt regardless of what the show was, when it was on and if anyone wanted to watch anything else. I mean really since when does Santa bring a TV to a 2 year old for Christmas for his bedroom!

    Now, he overweight and hates to play outside. My almost 2 year old does get to watch TV. However it is during the day only and once Daddy gets home, he gets to choose what is on the TV. There is no Sprout (a cable PBS station) after dinner and there is especially no Wiggles after dinner. At this point I am not too concerned about the TV being on. The TV shows she likes have a lot of songs and dancing, which she gets right in and mimics along. When it is not a show she likes she is playing or under my feet.

    She is starting to ask for specific TV shows, and I tend to make her wait until it comes on, even though I could just turn it on at anytime because of the onDemand channel we have or the DVD's. Never to early to start teaching about patience right?

    I know growing up we had the TV on all the time. My parents still have their TV on all the time - background noise is their excuse. We lean on music for that more than just the TV. But I understand your concerns being a work at home mom myself. The whole "I will work when she is in bed" concept worked for awhile, but then when did I get to spend time with my husband? I have found for our house it helps when I am working in the same room she is playing in. I can get things done work wise and she can play without needing to be under my feet. But yes, the TV is usually on.

  2. I personally keep Nick JR or Sprout on during the day when we are home, and both kids (3yr old and 1 1/2 year old) will only watch certain shows. Mainly it is just a background noise until they hear/see something that interests them. The only shows they really enjoy watching are shows with singing and dancing.

    There are some shows that I turn off when they come on, just because I don't like them watching it. Max and Ruby for instance. I dislike the show, how it always portrays Max as doing something wrong, even though he's told not to do it. There are also no parents in the show, and only on occasion are there adults (the main being the Grandma, but she always goes along with Max)

    Other shows I will let them watch, even when asked for. The number one, being Sesame Street.

    My kids are both active, they run, they play. We get outside a lot; go to the park. I'd say, that even though the TV is on while we are inside, they only spend maybe 2hours total ACTUALLY watching it. That's a maybe, too.

    I, like you, though, save the super favorite shows, for when I need to get something done. Kaelynn's favorite movie is The Little Mermaid, and the both of them enjoy Toy Story (1, 2, or 3) so when I really need something done, I'll pop one of those in, or a new episode of Sesame Street, and that will keep them busy, along with a snack. I don't do it often, because I got lucky, and they tend to let me get things done.

  3. Hi, ladies! Thanks for weighing in on this subject, and sorry it took weeks for me to respond. I think I am getting better at finding the TV balance I wish to achieve with Lily, and hearing your opinions as well as others really helped.

    Thanks again and thanks for caring!


Thanks for stopping by! I love comments and always want to know what you think :)

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