Is it Okay to Let My Baby Watch TV? Comments on article

The article, “Is it Okay to Let My Baby Watch TV”, found on, gives some interesting insights on the disadvantages and also the benefits of educational television programs for babies.

Madeleine, the managing editor at Brillbaby, reports on the latest statistics and research about how no TV watching is better than unsupervised television watching, and adds that the American Academy of Pediatrics has advised that the under-two’s should not be allowed to watch any TV.

BUT this is the comment I found most interesting: “Many parents and teachers find, however, that high-quality educational TV programs complement interactions with their babies and facilitate learning. Robert Titzer ‘s Your Baby Can Read! and Rachel de Azevedo Coleman ‘s Baby Signing Time! are good examples.”

Looking through the Signing Time testimonial page, there are several parents who have commented on the benefits of introducing and watching Signing Time to their children who are at least three months old. Rachael N. said, “My son. Luke, has been watching Signing Time since he was 3 months old and now at 22 months, Luke can sign over 250 words. Through Signing Time, Luke has learned his alphabet, the days of the week, 10 colors, how to count to 10 and much more. I can’t wait until my newborn daughter is old enough to start signing with her brother!”

Many parents share this same sentiment, but I am sure there are still some who feel that early TV watching can be damaging to early education.

Here is a copy of the article that I wanted to share:

Is it Okay to Let My Baby Watch TV?

There are two schools of thought on this. One says that babies under two years of age should not be allowed to watch any TV; the other says that limited amounts of high-quality educational TV accompanied by adult interaction are fine – and may even be beneficial. When DVDs are used correctly, the repetition and familiarity they provide can actually aid learning.

However, no TV at all is better than unsupervised watching. No TV at all is also better than any watching of entertainment-based programs – and that includes shows such as cartoons, which may be designed for kids, but are really not suitable for babies.

What can happen to babies who watch the wrong sort of TV, or watch TV unsupervised?

Child Experts in the US have noted a correlation between high TV exposure in babies and toddlers, and the incidence of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. It ‘s possible that watching TV ‘s rapidly shifting images could have a negative impact on brain development in the very young (high-quality educational programs should not have rapidly shifting images though).

Parents should note that even DVDs marketed as educational may be harmful to babies; if they are watched without supervision, that harm is multiplied. In August 2007 Dr Dimitri Christakis and Frederick Zimmerman of the University of Washington published a report on the effects of popular programs such as Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby. They found that for every hour per day spent watching the DVDs, babies learnt six to eight fewer new vocabulary words than babies who had never watched TV. Many of the programs were devoid of language content. But even when it came to shows designed to enhance language acquisition, Christakis says, “Videos of native speakers of languages fail to teach children as well as live speakers do.” That ‘s why it’s important for an adult to speak or sing along to the DVD being shown.

In October 2007 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) – which advises that the under-two ‘s not be allowed to watch any TV – published a report on the effects of TV exposure in early childhood. Consistent exposure to two or more hours of TV per day, the academy found, was correlated with a greater incidence of sleep and behavioral problems, as well as less developed social skills. Notes the AAP, “Under age two, talking, singing, reading, listening to music or playing are far more important to a child ‘s development than any TV show.”

Shouldn’t I follow the advice of the American Academy of Pediatrics to the letter?

Yes – if that ‘s the decision you’re most comfortable with. It ‘s worth noting, though, that the type of exposure the academy looked at in its study was unsupervised exposure to entertainment-based programs. We, like the academy, would advise you to spare your baby this sort of TV exposure for at least the first two years.

Many parents and teachers find, however, that high-quality educational TV programs complement interactions with their babies and facilitate learning. Robert Titzer ‘s Your Baby Can Read! and Rachel de Azevedo Coleman ‘s Baby Signing Time! are good examples. The Titzer DVDs show parents the best way to read, repeat and talk about words; parents can also read along with the narrator and talk to their baby about the pictures onscreen. For parents teaching sign language to their baby, Coleman clearly demonstrates how to model signs – a big help and confidence boost to parents learning sign language along with their baby. The songs that accompany the lessons are fun and catchy, with babies’ enjoyment of the DVDs increasing as they get to know the music.

How can I be sure I’m getting the balance right?

Interacting with your baby while watching is key. Besides that, you should ensure your baby watches no more than one hour of TV per day. To start off with, you might like to keep it to 15 minutes at a time – your baby will probably find it hard to pay attention for any longer. You can increase the duration later, when your baby starts to recognize and understand the program – and especially, when interactions become a two-way affair

4 thoughts on “Is it Okay to Let My Baby Watch TV? Comments on article”

  1. It is all about balance, when our daughter was very young(0-9 months) we always sat with her and did the signs with Rachel (plus we needed to learn them to) We would reinforce the videos by singing the songs through out the day, we used it as a learning tool not a “babysitter”. We have enjoyed using them our now 2 ½ yr old ask for them by name. We have every volume and she can do all the signs we think that is proof enough that it is a worth wit product

  2. I am definitely a follow the AAP kind of parent. No crib bumpers or walkers for my Kalen! But, I did let her watch DVDs with us. I bought several Baby Einstein signing DVDs, but I decided they weren’t that good! They didn’t show the signs nearly enough for her to be able to catch on. I spent hours looking for a better alternative. I found Baby Signing Time! and what a difference that made! She learned so quickly, and so did we. It was amazing. But, I was very involved while watching the DVDs. We signed on each other’s bodies (I would sign CAT on her face, etc.) We danced together, and we talked with her about what she saw on the screen.

    I must admit that I felt a little guilty doing it–who was I to abandon the AAP’s guidelines? Was I causing my daughter to be ADD? But, my mom assured me that I had the intelligence to make up my own mind on Signing Time’s impact on my daughter. (Can you tell I was a nervous first-time mom?)

    Anyway, we bought more DVDs and Kalen is doing amazing at 2. (She’ll be the June Signing Time Star, so keep an eye out for her.) She’s energetic, but definitely not ADD. And she constantly amazes the adults around her with her abilities. So, thank you Signing Time, and thank you for reassuring us that quality programming with adult interaction isn’t going to ruin our children!

  3. I also agree that it’s about balance. However, I work in a Special Ed. cooperative with many psychologists, social workers, speech pathologists, ot, pt. A couple of years ago one of the bilingual psychologists came to me concerned that her daughter was not speaking according to developmental norms. Granted this is what we do for a living, DIAGNOSE children, so I thought she was perhaps being hypersensitive. I informally evaluated her daughter, found she had average receptive language skills. She’s the psychologist….so we knew cognitive was not an area of concern….I thought perhaps apraxia. I suggested sign language thinking at least the little girl won’t get frustrated. She understood everything in Spanish/English. Both parents are from Uruguay but they separated the languages, dad/Spanish, mom/English. Mom introduced her to sign language and that seemed to help. I suggested Signing Time and she refused. No DVD’s…no TV until daughter was at least two years old. We got into a long discussion and you know I was so torn. As a speech path. diagnosing kids with so many different issues I can’t help but consider whether television does actually affect neurological wiring during that very sensitive period (0-2). Sometimes when I evaluate children in the home the TV is on and it’s mindless….just turned on at all times of the day…the kids viewing it six inches from the screen….all kinds of scenarios. A friend (early childhood teacher) then brought up the fact that she notices a physical response when her kids are exposed to more than thirty minutes of T.V. at one time. It’s probably true. Even when it’s television produced for kids they have way too many frames/per minute and I imagine it does do strange things while the brain is developing neurological wiring at those young ages. I’m torn. I suppose (as much as I like Signing Time) I would have to agree with the psychologists and say very limited television exposure ages 0-2, limited viewing ages 2 and up, and even then we would rather have parents engaging simultaneously (not just Television for the sake of television).

  4. Given that there are numerous studies that show that babies under 2 are unable to learn from TV programs, I can’t help but wonder if all the anecdotal experiences of “my child watch signing times and can now sign” are really indicative of the PARENTS exposure to the signing. A parent who knew little or no ASL prior to seeing the DVD would, one would expect, after seeing the DVD, be able to teach the child more signs, sign more fluently, and even think to sign on more occassions than a parent who has not seen the DVD. Maybe it is this, rather than the baby watching TV, that accounts for these anecdotes. Just a thought!

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