Read No TV for Children Under 2 Doctors’ Group Urges, in the October 18, 2011 New York Times. This isn’t a new recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), just a reminder of how seriously they believe in their media literacy recommendations.
I don’t mention this often, but 30 years ago when our television broke, we had a new baby and not enough money, so we decided to put off the purchase of a new TV. The delay went on for six years until our daughter was seven years old. Originally we did not make a decision out of any deep philosophical principles — and back then there was a lot less research about the effect of TV-watching on young children — we simply did not have money that we wanted to spend on a new set just then (or we had other things we wanted to purchase — I really don’t remember). However, gradually we forgot our plans to purchase a new television because we liked what happened in our family.
We read more, we listened to music more, we ate less junk food, and during the times we were at home, we played lots of games and went to the park almost every day after we returned from work. By age 2-and-a-half our daughter could beat both of us at any memory game we put out on the table. We also read aloud, all the time. In fact, we read so much that sometimes we needed to go to the public library twice a week. Listening to the radio, sometimes NPR and at other times classical or oldies was a regular activity, and we went to movies.
Until she was over five years old, our daughter never asked why we did not own a television. After she was five when she did ask, we shook our heads sadly and said that it broke down and cost too much to purchase a new one just then. Oh, and we never told her that she could not watch if she was someplace where others were sitting in front of a set.
Eventually, we did purchase a new TV around the time our daughter was in first, or maybe it was second grade. A Summer Olympics was coming up, and we all wanted to watch the gymnastics, soccer, and track. On an exciting shopping trip, we purchased a new, but small television, and we really enjoyed those Olympics.
But we had settled in with our viewing habits, and we had way too many things to do to make much time for television. We did not need to limit our daughter’s TV watching — she enjoyed a few programs, but she too had lots of other things to do. She especially enjoyed Sesame Street, and she got all of the inside jokes, word plays, and clever comments, not because she was especially brilliant, but because she was so well read.