No surprise: kids watch too much TV

No surprise: kids watch too much TV

Not exactly surprising to anyone paying attention these days, but researchers have found that 90 percent of under-2-year-olds are watching too much TV. In fact, by the age of two, 90 percent of them are watching 90 minutes a day. Forty percent of 3-month-olds watch 45 minutes a day.

The researchers say that what makes it worse is that parents are doing it not out of convenience, but because they think it’s educational.

Despite nearly a decade of warnings by pediatricians to the contrary, parents believe that the content of programs aimed at babies is good for brain development.

“I wouldn’t be so upset about this if I thought parents were doing it because they needed a break to take a shower or make dinner,” said Dimitri Christakas, the University of Washington pediatrician who co-authored the study. “What I’m troubled by is the notion that parents think it’s good for their kids. That’s more likely to lead to excessive viewing rather than occasional viewing.”

The article quotes parents who claim, despite experts’ evidence to the contrary that the videos and TV is educational and making their kids smarter.

What parents identify as attention and learning scientists say is a primitive reflex known as the orienting response.

“Yes, the baby is staring at the screen, but it’s wrong to think the child likes it,” said Christakas, the study’s co-author and himself the father of two young children. “He or she has no choice in the matter. He’s hard-wired to pay attention to anything that is fast-moving, brightly colored, or loud. It’s a survival response.”

I think this is part of a wider trend among parents who have become completely focused on the goal-oriented parenting. By that I mean that parents have set up worldly success as a primary virtue in raising children and in order to meet that goal, the child must receive a top-ranked education. This education must start at (or even before) birth. I’ve heard of achievement-based pre-school application processes in which the 4-year-olds are tested on how much they know!

But is educational achievement the highest virtue? What about morality? What about faith? What are we losing when we’re always looking so far in the future that we can’t appreciate our children where they are at this very moment?

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  • I must have a very strange child; he’ll be two in a few months and there’s no way I could get him to sit still in front of the television for more than about ninety seconds, let alone ninety minutes. (He likes the pictures, all right, but he likes fiddling with knobs and pressing buttons much, much more).