The Thinking 

Is TV all Bad for Kids?

November 3, 2009


ANNIE writes in response to the post The Cheapest Babysitter in Town:

Do you think that any TV at all is bad for a two-year-old? I am really wondering what your personal opinion is. I was in agony when my little boy started watching TV around the time he turned one! I wanted to fight my husband on this to the bitter end. He was raised watching LOTS of  TV which I believe is what caused his habitual drug use as a teenager. He thought I was crazy until we did a little experiment; no TV for the baby for a whole week. And what results! He went from being an aggressive, mean, crying baby to a happy, sweet, easily contented baby, like the one I knew before the TV watching began.

I read most of a book about the effect of the “television experience” called The Plug-in Drug.It was aimed at destroying the lie that “educational television” was actually teaching the children anything, and explained clearly how the brain reacts to the television just as to a drug. And sure enough, when my son has been watching TV, he wants more, more, MORE! He becomes a little addict quickly, and it can fill me with anxiety. I just do my best by refusing he get his TV “fix” on my watch. Thank God, I am with him most of the time because I’m a housewife. He watches a little at night with Daddy as he goes to sleep. I’ve recommened reading books to get him to sleep, but I get an angry response. I do understand that he needs to relax a bit when he gets home, and our son is so excited to see him that unless he’s watching TV, he won’t leave dad alone. But it feels like there is a crucial lesson that is not being learned in my husband’s ability to deal with him. He never says “No” to him. I just don’t know.

I think that most fathers who watch the kids tend to use TV more quickly than moms. They panic when the kids begin to cry, because they haven’t experienced the breastfeeding relationship that teaches a mother to relax. I have a relative who is a househusband, and his kids are zombies. It’s sad. He plays videogames on the computer while they watch hours of TV. They cry a LOT, and are not easy to console. And big suprise, now his wife wants to leave him to finish school and secure her career. She wants him to keep the kids. She wants nothing to do with any of them. It’s a strange world we live in. The “good that is common” is supposed to be the housewife, isn’t it?

Laura writes:

I think having a father who enjoys holding his son in his arms at the end of the day is one of the greatest possible things a baby can have. You are lucky. It is not worth making this a major battleground between you and your husband.

However, I do think it is worth trying to persuade him slowly and respectfully to your point of view. He may eventually come to see your point. He may someday take pride in having children who are not addicted to TV and in the time he spent with them doing other things. This will be an issue for years to come so it’s worth patience and understanding on your part. Your husband is tired at the end of the day. He wants to relax and TV is a part of his life. You can express your dissatisfaction without trying to destroy his little pleasures. If he loves you, he will listen and consider over time.

The important thing is to teach your children that TV is a controlled substance. It is not there for them whenever they want it. They can only have it with parental approval and when parents are in the room.

Possibly men do use TV more as a pacifier because they are less familiar with the ways to deal with a bored child. Babysitters habitually resort to TV because they are often bored themselves and don’t want to bother with discipline. Some people shell out a lot of money to pay nannies who watch the kids watching TV.

It’s true this is a highly addictive activity, especially damaging to young children. Once they are in the habit, it becomes difficult to break and to protect them from popular culture later. “Educational TV” is not harmless. It encourages mental and physical passivity too, as well as the general habit of  TV watching. TV generally makes people, not just babies, more irritable and encourages family disharmony. Each person becomes a cell, absorbed in the flickering screen and yet filled with an unacknowledged boredom. That’s the bottom line: Even hard-core TV addicts are often bored to death with it. 

But, we live in a TV world, more so every day, and that makes it exhausting to fight. You need to pace yourself. The ideal thing is to have no TV at all with children in the house, but this isn’t realistic in all homes and there are higher priorities than this. I would advise you to relax and think of the long term.


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