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Comments

ALG

I'm not a parents, but I just wanted to add something about the socialization thing--my parents got rid of our TV when I was 15 (because we were all watching too much), so I missed Friends, ER, NYPD Blue, and a bunch of other shows that my friends in high school watched. In situations where that bothered me, I got pretty good at saying, "Yeah, yeah, that was a great episode!" even when I had no idea what they were talking about.

I was 15 and my younger siblings were 12 and 9 when my parents got rid of the TV. It had a tremendously positive impace on our family. My brother got really into computers and now he makes a living doing digital photography, and my (dyslexic) sister got really into reading both novels and the newspaper and now she really wants to go into international relations. I got really into crossword puzzles, but now I don't have time to do them!

11 years later, I haven't had a TV for a few years, so I still don't really know what this Amazing Race thing is, or Grey's Anatomy, and the only Lost I watched was once in a hotel room. I sometimes watch stuff at the gym. So, yeah, I sometimes don't know what people are talking about, but now I feel comfortable enough saying, "Sorry, I don't know what you're talking about. I don't have a TV" and then we talk about books or something else that I know about. And, yeah, maybe they think I'm weird, but I can live with that.

So I'm in the anti-TV camp, although my parents didn't let me watch any commercial television at all until I was 9, and I don't think all those years of watching one episode of Sesame Street and one episode of Mr. Rogers a day really hurt me. Later on, I loved Square One and 3-2-1 Contact and probably learned at least something from them.

Kate

We are absolute slaves to Signing Time. Not only was our daughter signing to us beginning at 11 months, but she did not really begin to say words until 18 months--a big gap. It was an amazing way to communicate with her in between. And now volumes 5 & 6 in the series (of 9) have taught/reinforced the entire alphabet, numbers 1-10, and colors. There are 3 catchy songs in every video (with the exception of Volume 1). I just can't say enough good things about these videos--the kids who star in them are our equivalent of rock stars.

That being said, I desperately try to limit her to one a day. But late pregnancy can do funny things to willpower.

We also do Sesame Street. Same sort of reinforcement of letters/numbers/colors/shapes. I don't really like the "Elmo's World" section of it, but I am a purist and would prefer the whole thing to be like it was in 1975-6, when I was originally watching.

It was the days before cable TV, VCRs, and DVDs, but I was only allowed to watch PBS (no cartoons or commericial tv) until I was 5 or 6. No harm done, I just was a pretty well-read six year old. Oh, and I suck at TV trivia from the late '70s/early '80s. Sue me (my mom, actually).

Kate

Maybe I should add for the non-Signing Time obsessed...it's American Sign Language for babies/toddlers/kids, grouped together in bunches of about 30 words per video, usually with a theme or two each, e.g. "Playtime Signs," "Family, Friends, and Fun," "ABCs."

Sherry

Moxie, thank you SO much for this post. With twins, the TV is almost an absolute necessity during the day, when we're home alone. Of course, it's not as though my kids are watching Jerry Springer, ONLY PBS or Noggin. No commercials, no mainstream media, no news, nothing of the sort. I admit, we do use Baby Einstein videos sparingly, especially when I need 20 minutes of uninterruption. And, yes, I too feel like a horrible mother for doing it, but it's a must around here.

Thanks for letting us know that we're all in the same boat.

AmyinMotown

Moxie! You've just made me feel a little better about our sudden infatuation with Elmo around here. And our PBS station has just started running Signing Time--while the happy signing lady creeps me out just a little bit, it helps both Maggie and I learn new signs (I try to make her practice them with me after the show them on the show). What I am trying to do more now, since she has started getting a jones for the TV, is force ourselves out of the house more often, to the park, community center playroom, etc. so she doesn't associate the only "wow" moments in her time with me to the TV. I share your feelings about TV replacing "real" relationships.

When we were nursing/bottlefeeding, a lot of that took place in front of the TV and we watched "Gilmore Girls" and a fair amount of Food Network as well. She LOVED Good Eats. Now, we only really watch Sesame Street and Signing Time, mostly because cartoons irritate me. And she watchs sports with her dad sometimes, which he counts as educational because she's quite tall and he has dreams of her being the first female to win an NBA championship.

It does freak me out to watch how she just zones in front of the TV. Which is why we try to limit it, but not as much as I'd like.

Ariella

I'm not a parent, but I'd like to pipe in here. I grew up with no cable, but with a TV on which to watch movies. We eventually got TV when my parents divorced, and I enjoyed being in the "mainstream" for once and knowing what everyone was talking about.

When I went to college in 1998, there was no TV in our rooms (that came a little bit later, but not while I was there). And then, when I went to law school, I refused to have a TV in my apartment because it ate up my studying time.

My fiance and I moved in together in January of 2005 and had no TV at all until we had a bunch of guests coming for Christmas and New Year. We got one -- I hate it. We sit around watching it all the time.

Now we finally bought a house and I am implementing a "no TV" rule in the new house. We can have the TV for movies, but not for cable at all. When we have kids, the TV will go for good. I think it has a really negative effect on kids, especially in terms of desensitizing them to violence. It's funny -- I don't care about violent video games for older kids, because I think they can discern the difference between reality and fantasy, but I have a HUGE issue with letting younger kids watch violent TV. In general, I think TV rots your brain and I just don't "get" people who watch shows like Survivor religiously. The only channels we watch are TNT, Comedy Central, the Food Network and HGTV. I'll step down off my pedestal now.

Linda B

I have kind of a different approach/experience to the whole tv thing. In the beginning, I wanted to try and keep the tv off during the day so that E would be stimulated by other things, like learning toys, books or even my voice. But during my maternity leave, I started keeping it on as a means to keep some noise in the house. It was a strange comfort to me to have the background noise on. I noticed around age 9 months E would stop and stare at the television, whatever was on. Since my MIL was watching her at the time, it was mostly the Korean language channel or the news. She went through a phase where she would stop to watch but then would move along and play with her toys again.

Now at 18 months, I notice that she doesn't really have a great interest for tv, whatever the program. Even the Wiggles! I.KNOW! Mostly I just keep it on the Food Network so she's not very interested anyways (although she really should start learning to cook soon-heh)

On a side note - friends of ours were very strict about tv when their two boys were young. They would limit the tv time to 30 minutes a day. The boys would crave the television so much that they would sneak it on when their mom was in another room. Depriving them of television time made them want it even more. They got in trouble many times for breaking the tv rule, but it only made them yearn to watch tv even more.

I think that by keeping the tv on, E was able to go through her "TV phase" without becoming obsessed with it because it was always available to her. Even now, if I wanted to plop her in front of Sesame Street so I could take a shower, she'd pop right up and follow me. She seems to be interested in other things rather than the tv, like empying every shelf on the pantry. I think the bottom line is that it all comes down to moderation. While I agree with you that it probably doesn't help so much in the areas of linguistic development and social skills, tv in moderation is sometimes necessary, especially when the parent needs to go to the bathroom or tend to another child.

Cecily

My mom and I had a terrible black and white TV that died in the middle of an animated Easter Special. I was five, and it KILLED ME. By then I was already reading, thanks to the Electric Company and Sesame Street (with a little help from my grandmother, the former first grade teacher and her reading workbooks) so I had books to fall back on.

However, I do feel like I am missing a huge amount of basic American culture; when people my age discuss their favorite shows when they were younger, I missed them completely. I don't feel left out, exactly, but you don't want me on your Trivial Pursuit team.

The only real torment was in Elementary School. TV Tag was very popular. You had to shout out the name of a TV show and freeze when whoever was "it" came at you--and I knew exactly three shows; Mash, Charlie's Angels, and Rockford. So I was "it" A LOT.

I'm addicted to TV now. I watch it a lot. But I also read 2-3 books a week (um, sometimes I do them at the same time or read during commercials), and I don't think I would have that habit if it weren't for not having a TV at home.

I'm almost six months pregnant now and am really, really torn about what to do about the TV when the kid is older. Sigh.

-Blue

My view of this is based on my feelings about telly. I hate it. I mean I HATE watching it. I find it dull. The adverts drive me mad. I havent watched commercial telly in over 10 years and then I watched PBS and BBCA almost exclusively.

Now having said that ... I and Evil Genius Husband LOVE films. I do think that there is a much less detrimental impact on wee brains from film.

So we do no telly and limited films. The rule for films is that it must be something that we all sit down and watch together. I don't ever just park 'em all in front of the screen (I have 4 under 5 ... they're a disaster waiting to happen when together, lol!). This way it's a special time and we can discuss what's on the screen if nessessary.

Our faves are: any Pixar film, Nick Park's stuff (we also are waiting on the Were-Rabbit because of content), Best of the Electric Company, and because EGH and I are comic geeks: the old Spider-man and JLA cartoons from the 70s.

We usually veiw one or two a week.

lb

My kids are 3 and 5 and watch no TV at home. But I notice that they seem to be able to pick up enough pop culture references from other TV opportunities (friends' houses, weekly visit to Grandma) and just from books and T-shirts etc etc that they are able to join in with whatever TV-themed game the other kids are playing. And if it ever comes up, I have hear my daughter say "We're not a TV family." Brings a tear to my eye, I tell you!

In the early days, we used to do what the questioner suggests and just wait until kiddos were in bed to watch anything. But in the last couple of years we've found that we hardly even do that. We've lost track of all the shows we used to watch so mostly we just read or surf or do dishes or whatever until it's bedtime. And movies - well by the time we get the kids to bed and get one started, we are usually too tired to watch the whole thing. Generally the TV only comes on a couple times a week for the news or weather. And we are all a lot happier for it, I truly believe that.

laura

Some more ideas of films to watch with a little one around...

Sound of Music-- especially on DVD so you can just do the songs. My daughter has loved this since age 2, and this winter she was interested in the actual movie (a bit) (she's now 3)

Annie-- but watch it together, because there is LOT to talk about. 3 yr old is probably about right for this.

Use your TIVO if you have it to "edit" the Drew Barrymore Cinderella movie for any little princess-philes out there. There's a lot this is not really age appropriate or interesting to little ones, but then there are some fun scenes.

My husband and I have great memories of "event" television from our childhoods-- the excitement of looking forward to that annual showing of Sound of Music or Wizard of Oz. So, in that vein, we limit the full length movies to "showings" that *aren't* daily-- even though 2/3 yr olds are all about "again." Even if we own the DVD, we don't just show the movie any old time. We try to make it special, because I think that tv/ film/ video media of all kinds should have a specialness to it and not be a crutch for boredom. But reading? ANY time and every time and all the time.

Shelley

My husband is from Sweden and managed to program the DVD player to take European DVDs, so the only DVDs our 2yo daughter watches are in Swedish. Language reinforcement -- that's my justification! Seriously, though, she doesn't watch much kid TV at all, and I like it that way. My husband and I watch very little ourselves. We do like sports, though, and I was mortified when she toddled into the living room during the NCAA tourney and said, "Basketball, mommy, NOT football."

I'm not hard-line against TV, but there will never be more than one TV in this house, period. And I'm committed to limiting her exposure to it. That said, I do use it as a crutch in bad situations, and I can see how I'd use much more often if I had two.

Somehow, though, she knows who "Mick Mouse" is, although she doesn't possess a single Disney item, nor have we ever seen one of the cartoons.

Kate

Amy, I think were might be sharing a brain!

When my daughter was still taking a 3rd nap, I used to nurse her (and hold her while she slept) through Gilmore Girls reruns. And sometimes if I am going a little batty at while we are winding down to bathtime I turn on the Food Network. She has a thing for Rachael Ray. Actually, it's more Rachael Ray's kitchen tile.

I can't wait until we can replace some inside time with outdoor time. If she only watches Sesame Street or Signing Time twice a week, that would be great!

Kateri

The films of Miazaki are really wonderful. Many of them are too dark for most little kids, but Spirited Away is a wonderful film with a great female lead.

I hate TV, too, and I see it as a necessary evil in our lives. We watch a lot of Noggin. I do a lot of editorializing (Franklin didn't have to lie about that, sweetie...) I don't let her watch anything with commercials. I hate advertizing.

Jo

Oh man, I'm so glad somebody who hates it and thinks so ill of it is also a user of it.

That was cumbersome phrasing, but: yes, me too. Loathe it and watch it anyway, at least during the 5 pm-Daddy arrival period of the day.

MoMo

Moxie - any feelings about keeping the radio on all day if it's not music? Like, say, something more offensive...maybe Howard Stern or other shock jocks?

I never turn the TV on because I'm afraid I will never turn it off, but I really need to hear other voices so I find myself listening to talk radio a lot...and not the educational kind!

Jody

We don't watch much TV here. Maybe about an hour a week, unless someone is sick, when the rules relax significantly (to put it mildly). Although -- with everyone sick so much, I couldn't relax them for too long, so I suddenly find that we're reading chapter books. For hours at a time. Which is ... good ... but hard on my throat a little.

Anyway, we didn't used to be a minimal-TV family. We used to be a 2+ hours a day TV family. It's really very hard for mothers of kids UNDER the age of two to find distractions as effective as TV. I mean, short of hiring a nanny for your pregnancy and the new baby's infancy, how exactly were you supposed to distract El Chico anyway, Moxie? How was I supposed to get dinner on the table with three two-year olds pulling on my pants? TV's a TOTALLY necessary evil under a whole host of circumstances. It's foolish to pretend otherwise.

What I would say is, be very careful about advertising. Unless you're in the room with kids, it's pretty clear from research that they don't fully appreciate the difference between program content and advertising until around age SEVEN. So even the "what are they trying to sell us here?" dialogue won't work if there's no adult present to say, look, a commercial.

I'd also say that, at least at this age, although I do get the "I'm bored, can we watch TV" whine a few times a week, there doesn't seem to be any great obsession with it when I say no. No one asks to watch it at a friend's house, for example, when we're on playdates. Grandparents report (with some distress/disgust) that TV doesn't work as well as they'd like as a time-filler. So I think that whole "forbidden fruit is only sweeter" dynamic depends a lot on the kid.

And finally, in the world of kids' programming and being able to chat on the playground, obviously we're not at the "TV show EVERYONE is watching" stage yet, not in Pre-K. But it's certainly true that kids can read book versions of all the movies available (including the truly gawd-awful Barbie videos) and that the rest of the characters just soak right through their skin by around age four. I haven't noticed any sense of social weirdness at ALL. Which makes sense, when you consider that there are Nick Jr. families and Noggin families and PBS families and Disney Channel families and so, at least at this age, the idea of everyone watching that one special show is pretty laughable.

I'm really rambling. I guess my points would be, (a) TV is often necessary, and therefore not worth regretting; (b) it's entirely possible to cut back drastically on TV, so it's not as if we're doomed when we start watching a lot of it; and (c) uh. Why do these things have to come in threes, anyway?

I do wonder sometimes if we'd watch more TV if we still lived in the cold and wintery north.

liz

I'm with Moxie on the "hate it and use it" front. Used it just this morning so that we could sleep a little longer while Muffin Man watched Higgly Town Heroes! and Little Einsteins.

I ditto most of the films Moxie mentioned and add: Oklahoma (skipping some of the scary Judd parts) and Mary Poppins etal (early Disney, you just can't beat 'em)

Also, my favorite song on Potty Time with Bear in the Big Blue House is "Potty Time" - "Now you know there's nothing to it. Relax and put your tushy to it"

tracy

We have slowly accumulated the Pixar movies on DVD over time but Ethan isn't actually fond of them, aside from The Iron Giant which, although it has a good overall message, is quite violent. He asks for it constantly, probably because he knows I'm uncomfortable with him watching it. I need to "lose" it for a while.

The best, and most surprising, movie he likes is Singin' in the Rain. I imagine a lot of those old musicals would be good kids' fodder on a rainy day.

Dallas

Hi, just found your site via the MIM et al weight discussion and was drawn to this as I'm Getting Serious about cutting down t.v. time for my three boys. We didn't have one for a while, then brought ours out of my in-laws' basement to watch the World Series last fall, then joined Netflix and then last month got cable. Ahh, the slippery slope.

Some movies we've liked--our boys are 6, 3 and 1, are Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Music Man, Mary Poppins. A surprise was the Wallace and Gromit shorts that we ordered by mistake, thinking it was Were-Rabbit. The two Bigs liked them a lot and the dry humor grew on me quite a bit.

My objection to television is the undefined nature of it. A movie is a bit different in that you put it in and when it's over, it's over. No "coming up next" that even PBS kids succumbs to quite often. I have a hard time ending the broadcast t.v. watching without them fussing about it.

But, my justification for the television is the time it gives me to, oh, I don't know, take a shower and work on the briefs I'm supposed to be writing for my new WAHM endeavor. I've suggested that they use the time while I'm working to wax the kitchen floor or scrub the toilets (which is what I would do, had I the ability to do two things at once) but alas, no takers.

Anyway, a long winded way of saying, I'm right there with you and I'm glad to have found your blog for an addition to my daily click-n-read fix.

Kathleen999

With twins, I learned to use the TV early on so I could sneak out of the room and fix bottles, or take a shower. One of my boys LOVES tv. He also loves books. We watch Sesame Street daily and also Jack's Big music show on Noggin. If they are really going stir crazy and the weather's bad so we can't take them outside, sometimes we will use tv in the mix to distract them.

We also have a Laurie Berkner DVD that they absolutely love. THe tv-loving boy can do all the hand movements and he tries to sing along. I don't feel as bad that they are watching something as long as it has music in it, as I feel that is stimulating their brains. I still try to limit it as much as possible, and I sing the songs for them when the DVD isn't on as well and they stomp around like dinosaurs or whatever. Mine are 15 months old...seems way too young to me to be watching tv, but it's a crutch and when you have twins, you are happy to have a crutch. We make a real effort to spend actual time doing things with them, not just being in the same room with them. Our nanny does the same while we are at work.

My dream life with them would be to stay home with them and the nanny, and no tv except for the music DVDs!

Rosemary Grace

I want to add my anecdotal evidence that kids will still be able to relate to their compadres even if there's no tv at home: my cousin has no television in the house, when her oldest child went into kindergarten she wondered if A. would be the "wierd kid" with no TV, but quickly realized that they end up seeing TV at other kids' houses, and learn who the characters are as if by osmosis, almost as though they can pick up the signal without a tv reciever to interpret the message.

CathyY

I have no idea what "Noggin" is, does that tell you my stance on the TV-for-hire issue? My daughter is 14 months old and has NO idea what Baby Einstein is. Twice we've had friends watch her and both times we returned to, "She doesn't like Baby Einstein?!" She doesn't like TV, pays no attention to it, and we don't encourage it. I'm not a prime-time viewer, I've never seen American Idol, and I was raised on limited TV. Not insanely limited, but my parents certainly monitored our viewing time and edited what we watched. I'm thankful for it and will repeat the effort for my daughter.

Nopenname

So, I'm going to just admit it. I love TV. I let my kids watch way more TV than most people and I'd probably be a subject for ridicule on a parenting debate board because I just don't really find anything wrong with it.

Even if she watches all of Disney's Robin Hood, and then she's done for the day, or it's on from 8 to 12 (she's NEVER sitting and watching from 8-12 straight). At noon we generally turn it off and turn music on.

FURTHER I think talking to my daughter about what she sees (She's obsessed currently with the siamese cats in lady in the tramp) and THEN moving to the computer to look up stuff about siamese cats, or print out pictures of the higgly town heroes to color. AND THEN buying Disney princess story books or coloring books, to continue her ability to link story through multiple media. I think THAT is good learning right there.

She's started telling her own princess stories now. "When I was a princess, I lost my shoe, and then I had a tiger, who...etc."

I think if you don't want to have a TV that's great. But I just don't see any harm being done to my two and half year old who knows her entire alphabet and can identify all the letters, and can count to 20, and was taught by her father, myself, and copious amounts of sesame street.

I will say I don't put it on any channels that have commercials for products. So no Nick Jr. for us.

Melis

Oh Moxie...how I love your honesty about this! I too hate tv but we use it. We love Noggin (although Franklin and Little Bear are a bit advanced for my little fella) and Food Network. Little Man is all about stuff with music but even though we have some B.E. vids, they get very little playing time. So little, in fact, that a couple are still wrapped in the plastic. Laurie Berkner's new DVD was an instant favorite just because it had songs he already knew, but the little fella most of the time could care less if the tube is even on. For my own peace of mind, I'd rather have "safe" programming on so Noggin and Food Network it is. Besides, the little guy LOVES Alton Brown-who can blame him?

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  • My expertise is in helping people be who they want to be, with a specialty in how being a parent fits into everything else. I like people. I like parents. I think you're doing a fantastic job. The nitty-gritty of what you do with your kids is up to you, although I'm happy to post questions here to get data points of how you could try approaching different stages, because, let's face it, this shit is hard. As for me, I have two kids who sleep through the night and can tie their own shoes. I've been a married SAHM, a married freelance WAHM, a divorcing WOHM, a divorced WOHM, and now a WAHM again. I'm not buying the Mommy Wars and I'll come sit next to you no matter how you're feeding your kid. When in doubt, follow the money trail. And don't believe the hype.
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