Monday, October 31, 2005

The Great Television Debate

Should you let your baby watch television? Will a little Baby Einstein be a problem? There is no bigger debate in the world of parenting today. What exactly do we know?

First, we know very little about the actual impact of television-watching on very small children. The American Academy of Pediatrics warn that children two and under should not be permitted to watch any television, but other research shows that we do not know the real effects of television.

People who support permitting television-watching for small children argue that children can watch educational television. While plopping them down in front of the TV for the day is not a good idea - regardless of the child's age - allowing an occasional stimulating video with classical audio for baby cannot be harmful.

In fact, by the end of the baby days, your little one will be able to learn from television and can begin to pick up on colors and numbers gained from the television. This group of parents argues that the problems with too much television are there because parents permit their children to watch television anytime they want and for as long as they want. Instead, limiting television to a reasonable amount of time, about half an hour for babies, means that children will not see any negative long-term effects.

The other side of this argument is that television is the source of many of the problems in today's society. Indeed, many an overweight child sits and whiles away the hours in front of the boob tube. These kids do not get any exercise. They would rather watch sports than play them. Television, of course, is not the only factor at play here. Poor diet and other lifestyle choices add to childhood obesity.

These parents also argue that the rise in attention problems among this generation of children can be attributed to television. Children are required to pay attention in small spurts. They may have to watch only 10 minutes before commercials come on. The commercials themselves can be a problem as children find that they are being sold items fast and furious by marketers. Many teachers, too, believe that they have to alter their lessons because of the television generation. Teachers claim that they can teach only small five to ten minute lessons because the children cannot pay attention for longer.

The truth about television probably lies somewhere in the middle, and the reality is that while large numbers of parents eschew the idea of television, children are watching it. And they are by and large watching too much of it. While half an hour may be okay for a baby or toddler, hours of television everyday are not acceptable, but many babies spend their early days mesmerized by the television screen. Parents should relax on this issue as it will blow over and a new debate trend will take its place. Instead parents should focus on the important underlying message - encourage your children to pursue their own imagination, not one handed to them through television shows.

By Julia Mercer

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