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Why We Limit TV

I grew up in a great era of TV. Blues Clues. Gullah Gullah Island. Bear in the Big Blue House. Zoom. Crocodile Hunter. I don’t remember my mom ever “limiting” tv per say. I was the weird kid that wanted to watch Animal Planet anyway. Or happily made mud pies outside.

My mom talks about living in Germany, putting me in the playpen, and letting me watch Beauty and the Beast 3 times over, while she attempted to get stuff done. Like Athena, I too, was a handful. And I turned out great!

In 1970, the average age at which kids started watching TV was 4; today it is 4 months.

Another article I read pointed out that in decades prior, we did not have access to children’s programming like we do today. Sesame Street came on, then the news, and that was it. Even when I was a kid, child-only networks like Nick and Disney were fairly new. Nick Jr. ran until lunch time, then it switched to more “mature” content, ending with Nick at Night. If you missed Little Bear at 9am, you waited until the next day. This means kids didn’t have much choice but to find something else to do. They couldn’t endlessly sit in front of the TV. We didn’t even have search or guide options ON the TV. You had to get a paper TV guide, or watch the channel hoping they’d share a commercial list of what was going to be on that day. Have I dated myself yet?

As many children before, and after, Athena enjoys Moana and Coco. Among plenty of others. Earlier this year I discovered Wild Kratts, a half animated half real-life show about animals. I was all for it and she loved it! I love the Kratts brothers (Zaboomafoo all the way). I soon noticed that she would throw a FIT when I turned them off. Behavior as a whole was taking a nose dive. We were coming off of a winter of survival- days where sometimes I just let her watch TV all day while I tried to just get through my first trimester.

I started with cutting out TV totally. It was hard. I was pregnant. But my sweet child came back. And after a few weeks we tried a show here or there. Her behavior would tank, and we’d pull back again.

We spent most of the summer doing some trial and error and this is what we found works for us:

Athena can’t handle a lot of animation. There is something about the colors, the movement, etc, that just does not do very well with her brain. We have almost completely cut out all animation. Once in a while we may watch a Veggie Tales, Brave, or a treat movie before bed.

We have found that shows like The Zoo and Doc Pol do not garner the same reactions. Live, real people/animals, TV do not affect her brain the same way. The plus side, I too love animals and don’t mind watching them myself.

She loves music. We often have Spotify or Pandora playing through the day. Sometimes she sings along. Sometimes she bounces on her trampoline when a fun song comes on.

Here are a few quotes and additional articles about tiny humans and TV. And before you get offended, I highly recommend reading full articles. Many of which help differentiate “quality” screen time like video chatting family, vs endless TV watching. As I mentioned earlier, parenting is sometimes survival; and that’s ok. If dinner needs made and an episode of Kids Baking Championship is what makes that possible, then so be it. This is not about parent shaming. It’s about informing what I’ve learned myself.

If “you are what you eat,” then the brain is what it experiences, and video entertainment is like mental junk food for babies and toddlers.

Babies younger than 18 months should have no screen time at all. The exception to this rule is video chatting with grandparents or other family friends, which is considered quality time interacting with others.

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