Growing up, I spent just as much time playing indoors, setting up elaborate GI Joe vs. Transformers wars, as I did running around Wood-Ridge, NJ, with my best friend at the time, imagining we were...
Growing up, I spent just as much time playing indoors, setting up elaborate GI Joe vs. Transformers wars, as I did
running around Wood-Ridge, NJ, with my best friend at the time, imagining we were being chased by Jason from Friday the 13th. I also played sports, went fishing with dad, spent hours in front of a ColecoVision, knew the meaning of the word triskaidekaphobia, and designed Pac-Man cereal before it was on the market (damn you, General Mills!)
From a very young age, kids’ television shows and cartoons were also a regular part of my childhood. Ask my mom, and she’d say I learned to read by watching The Magic Garden and The Electric Company (and also from the books she read to me each night, of course). I watched animated programs and educational programming when I was a kid; later in life, it was evening soap operas (Dynasty was my passion for years, seriously). The point is, I watched plenty of television throughout my baby/toddler/adolescent/teen years, and I’ve managed to make it this far without any indication of ADHD or other developmental problems.
I bring this up because of study results published in the February 2006 issue of Pediatrics that supported the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) claim that it’s a mistake to let children under age 2 watch any television. The AAP also recommends no more than two hours of TV a day for children older than age 2. According to the study, kids’ time spent watching TV was “negatively related” to time spent with parents or siblings in other activities. Television viewing also was negatively related to time spent doing homework for kids age 7—12 and negatively related to creative play, especially among children under age 5.
Like Dr. Sanjay Gupta, I don’t follow the AAP recommendations. I don’t agree with them because, despite my love of all things TV-related now and when I was growing up, I didn’t have trouble completing my homework (even though I spent more than an hour in front of the boob tube each day), a negative attitude toward school, or poor grades. Furthermore, my 3½-year-old son—who has been watching TV since he was one month old—performs brilliantly in school and does what he’s told as much as a 3½-year-old boy can.
Like Dr. Gupta, I too enjoy the “blissful reprieve” of my kids sitting still for 30 minutes while they learn about color, sounds, music, animals, art, dance, spelling, numbers, and reading from a Baby Einstein DVD. Other programs, such as those on Playhouse Disney, PBS Kids Sprout, Noggin, and Nick Jr., also fuel their imaginations. My infant twins are just beginning to dance and sing during these shows, and by supplementing these diversions with reading every night, I’m sure they’ll develop a fantastic imagination, just as my oldest has.
The truth is these TV programs and movies—supplemented by a two-day-a-week preschool schedule—have sharpened my sons’ minds, storytelling, and vocabulary better than anything I could have imagined. The digital wonders of advanced animation and the vivid imaginations of the shows’ creators are simultaneously entertaining and educating our kids as never before. Embrace it!
How do you feel about this subject? If you’re a doctor with kids, do you follow the AAP-recommended guidelines? If not, what shows do you allow your children to watch? Whether you agree with my sentiments or you concur with the AAP regarding television’s negative effects on kids, please drop me a line at email@example.com, and I will feature your comments in an upcoming column.