Q. My toddler is fascinated by television. He loves to watch it. Should I be concerned about any possible ill effects?
A. There is significant evidence that toddlers have a great need to explore their surrounds and manipulate objects in order to nurture their curiosity and stimulate their intelligence. If you are willing to allow your toddler to explore and manipulate each button on your TV, he or she will probably quickly learn how to operate the machines. There’s some real learning value in that-but the question is, do you want your child to be able to turn on the TV at will? On the other hand, children who spend time sitting and watching rather than moving and doing are likely to be slowed in their cognitive and physical development. They also will be more likely to become sedentary (and often overweight) physically as they grow older. But most important, television simply offers a toddler very little in comparison with firsthand interactions with people and objects. Real life is a hands-on experience that teaches far more than TV, no matter how highly-touted the “educational” quality of a show.
If your child must watch, limit your child’s exposure. Do your best to make viewing a special event done with an adult (complete with a time to talk about the show), rather than using it as an electronic baby-sitter.
The following comment from a parent, Jack Wiens, puts another light on the subject: “The thing that nags at me when I watch a lot of television is not so much what TV does to me and my family, but what it keeps us from doing. Things like….
- talking and listening to each other.
- looking at each other
- hugging, holding, tickling, dancing
- reading, thinking
- painting, building, creating
- exercising, playing, singing.