Finally! An insidious product, cleverly marketed for over a decade to parents at the expense of our children, is being outed. But will parents wise up?
First, the good news: According to a recent article in the New York Times, “No Einstein in Your Crib? Get a Refund,” The Walt Disney Company is widely refunding users of its ”Baby Einstein” videos in response to challenges about the legitimacy of its educational claims. For years the “Baby Einstein” packaging included assertions that the videos would encourage language development, even “[teach] words to babies under 2 years old.”
The hero in this case is The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a Boston-based advocacy group that brought the DVD’s bogus claims to the Federal Trade Commission in 2006. It has been fighting ever since to take “Baby Einstein” to task for misleading consumers with false advertising on the product’s packaging and web site. Under FTC scrutiny and the added pressure of a threatened class-action suit, the company removed certain wording from the packaging asserting that the DVD has some positive effect on a baby’s development.
Obviously, these claims are not — nor have they ever have been — supported by scientific research. In fact, studies conclude the opposite: increased TV and video watching is linked to delayed language skills and learning disorders (not to mention obesity). Most parents are now aware that The American Academy of Pediatrics warns against media for children under the age of 2. Of course, this is “Baby Einstein’s” target audience.
Now for the bad news: recent studies show that decades of warnings against TV and video viewing for babies have had little effect on parents. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times entitled “Kids’ Eyes are Glued to TV” also covers the “Baby Einstein” marketing scam and reports grim findings: “The amount of television usage by children (has) reached an eight-year high…”
Why are parents hooked on getting kids hooked on TV? In the many papers I have read, experts assign guilt to parents without providing solutions. Studies that poll parents have found that the majority of those who expose babies to TV know they are compromising their child’s optimum health, but they see no other choice to get chores done or take a break. So, unfortunately, one can only conclude that parents would rather feel guilt about the way they are raising a child than feel trapped by a child who they believe cannot occupy himself.
Experts offer vague directives like, “Children should be playing outdoors. Watch TV with your kids. Read to your children. ” In the L.A. Times article, Susan Linn, psychologist and director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, clarifies the problem. “If we start children early in life on a steady diet of screen time and electronic toys, they don’t develop the resources to generate their own amusement, so they become dependent on screens.”
Bingo. But none of this information is particularly helpful, because it does not offer any specific alternative to giving a baby passive entertainment when the parents need a well-deserved break. No question, parents need breaks, and the last thing they need is guilt. But no one tells us how not to resort to TV. To my knowledge, no one other than infant expert Magda Gerber offers a viable plan to solve the TV issue. And while Magda Gerber’s non-profit organization (RIE) cannot compete with “Baby Einstein” when it comes to marketing dollars, Gerber’s approach to child care is the real genius.
Picture this: our week old baby is on the changing table after a diaper change. He is looking at the ceiling, calmly and quietly. He is content. Instead of picking him up because we’re done and want to move on, we wait and watch. Five minutes go by before he looks toward us. We then say, “Okay, now I will pick you up.” Our son has just enjoyed his first session of uninterrupted play time, and he has given us a non-verbal signal that he is ready to move on.
The key to guilt-free breaks: never interrupt a contented baby.
If we place our baby on his back in his safe bed or playpen so he is free to move, and if we resist the temptation to entertain him (which will over-stimulate him anyway, and wear us out), we can then relax, observe or take short breaks away from the baby while he takes in his immediate world. This personal ‘play time,’ a time when the baby may ponder a shadow on the wall or a solution to world hunger (to be shared in a dissertation years later), will begin with a few minutes here and there, and will later extend to long periods of learning, exploration and fantasy play as the infant develops.
An infant’s uninterrupted play time must be balanced with plenty of intimate one-on-one time with loved ones, and Magda Gerber encourages parents to provide focused togetherness each day while mutually accomplishing chores like diapering, feeding, and bathing. When we take advantage of these activities, rather than rushing through them to make way for ‘playtime,’ and when we give our baby undivided attention, slow down, and invite the baby to participate as much as possible, then both parent and child are refueled by the shared experience. A child who receives a parent’s full attention several times a day can then spend hours happily occupied with independent play, and give parents time for breaks.
Volumes could be written on the rewards of self-directed play and also on the negative effects of television, and I will address those subjects in future posts. But what parents must understand is that early exposure to media and other passive entertainment will immediately undermine a child’s innate ability to create play on his own and will perpetuate the very problem the parent is attempting to solve: a child who cannot occupy himself. Children are creatures of habit, and they quickly become used to a life of passivity when we expose them to media. TV and videos are harmful to a baby, period. There are no benefits.
TV and videos are a passive experience for an infant. They do not ‘learn’ from them because they do not understand them. The only way an infant does gain knowledge is by exploring the world around him with all his senses, in his own way and in his own time. This is active learning, and it is as simple as having the freedom to look around a room or examine his fingers and toes. Compare this to being strapped in a booster seat, mesmerized by meaningless words and images cascading from TV set. Surely, no sane or educated person could claim this as ‘educational’.
When we know and embrace a better plan, one that facilitates (rather than thwarts) our baby’s innate potential to explore, examine, create, imagine, solve problems and develop a long attention span for the rest of his life, we feel pride instead of guilt. Children want to actively absorb life — not pictures of life — from the moment they are born. The real baby Einstein would have known that.
To learn more about RIE parenting, check out these resources:
Your Self–Confident Baby by Magda Gerber and Allison Johnson
Dear Parent: Caring for Infants With Respect by Magda Gerber
My books: Elevating Child Care: A Guide to Respectful Parenting and No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame (both available on Audio)
An infant is born with needs, not wants. As they get older, they develop more wants than needs (Oh! do they have wants.) So, if you cart your infant around 24/7, your baby will come to want, expect and need to be lugged around. He won’t be comfortable alone, contemplating his own universe. And if, instead of giving your baby the privacy of his own thoughts, if you shake rattles in his face, place objects in his hands, or (gasp) sit/lie him in front of the TV… well, then logically your child will develop an inability to occupy himself. It’s kind of up to us parents, no?
“if you cart your infant around 24/7, your baby will come to want, expect and need to be lugged around.”
Not true. Both my children suffered from reflux which necessitated carrying them in a wrap on my body most of the day to help them cope with the pain and prevent excess discomfort by keeping them vertical as much as possible. Now I have a four year old and one year old who each happily play by themselves or together for decent lengths of time. My one year old has already been walking for a month, despite being carried a lot, and crawled at six months, and is already a very independent child who eagerly explores the outdoors. If anything, I think carrying them in the early part of their lives made them need “lugging around” less, not more.
I don’t believe you can just leave babies to play all day. They won’t feel loved, and they won’t think playing is fun if you don’t join in and show them interesting things to do. Babies left alone will think playtime is a lonely time! I think it’s better for babies to have some media stimulation to keep them company, than it is to leave them all alone.
I don’t think anyone is suggesting that anyone leave their baby alone all day to “play” – that’s abandonment – we’re talking about two hours of uninterrupted play per day. That’s what every child needs to better experience their capability for independence.
Of course an important thing to understand is that a baby will always want what you give them. So, if you’ve held them every moment, they’re not going to like you putting them down. It goes on from there.
A baby can be fully occupied with the most simplest things. Sometimes just staring at shadows on the wall can entertain a child for several minutes. A soft scarf – maybe even 30. I also check back in on my child while they’re having this alone time. I like to see what they are experimenting with – but I try not to let them see me… so I don’t distract them from their play.
A child won’t feel unloved if you leave them for a little while – this is an important quality we wan to teach – that they can be on their own and be just fine. Means you can do a few things on your own too!
Try it! What else makes you apprehensive?
Does anyone else agree? What have your experiences been?
I agree. My son is soon to be 9 months old. In the hospital, his first three days of life, I had an ‘Old School Nurse’ tell me to feed him, change him, talk to him, and while he is awake, put him down. it was hard, he is my only child, yet, I did. I am glad I did too. Right now, I am going to schoolon line, and he will play, roll, ‘slide’ on his belly as he is getting his crawling motion down, for at LEAST 3 hours! WITH his toys, and he will look up at me, ‘talk’ wink, giggle, and then, back to playing. sometimes, if I ‘bother his play time’ he will look at me and ‘fuss AT me’. I have him watch Seasame Street, yet, he is not paying attention to about 1/3 of it. Yes, let them play. One day, they will grow up and be ina college dorm room, and they maybe alone. I know MANY people who can NOT be alone. They have grown to be some sad, ‘lonley’ people.
I have found if I’m in the room while my 10 month old is playing, he rarely comes to me to entertain him. I usually read while he’s at play and he’ll occasionally walk over to me to get a hug or babble for a bit. Then he goes back to playing. It’s fantastic!
Uninterrupted play should continue beyond baby years also. I have a preschool and we allow children at least 40 minutes of interrupted play time in the morning. While they are playing, I observe them and take in what they are doing, what excites them, what challenges them and how they play with their peers. This time is so beneficial to them AND to me as their faciliator. I learn so much from observing them and they grow, both alone and in their play with others from this.
This article does not suggest neglecting your child. Simply to allow them to have play time on their own as well as together. Be involved in their education and play, slow down and enjoy the moment. How is sitting them in front of a tv making them feel like they have company, that is THE most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard and is plain and simply LAZY parenting.
I agree with you. I have a four month old who is very good at entertaining herself. I do not leave her for hours. She is usually up for an hr to an hr and half, in this she gets fed, has nappy change and play on the floor in play pen as well as cuddles with me talking with her or singing, she lies next to us if I read stories with the older two girls. my miss four months can easily entertain herself for 30 minutes, very happily, I walk past her and say hello, smile with her. or other times just walk past a peek. she is very content, and not lonely at all, she has been like this since birth, my other two are nearly two and three and half, so she often has to wait for her turn. ofcourse she cries to and wants to be picked up and I do, but I think it is good for babies to know that thye are very capable of entertaining themselves, I have done the same with my other two, friends never understood why they would lie on a blanket on floor happily playing for 30-45 minutes, whilst their children never would ( they were picked up a lot), even my middle child who had terrible silent reflux was able to play on the floor after about three months of age when we finally got meds sorted out to make her feel more comfortable and happy, she is the best at playing by herself, exploring her environtment and finding things to play with and do things Icould never imagine,
HI! I have a question. I would LOVE for my 2 1/2 yr old to play independently! Huge problem: she is glued to my hip, and I do mean glued. She gets tons and tons of one on one quality time with me (both pure, silly fun and also educational) she is extremely happy when I am involved with all her play but will not do any sort of play without me. If I try to do the dishes or laundry she is constantly saying “mommy sit down, play with me” and cries and throws fits. I would also like her to play in her room at some point but she is just refusing to be separated from me in any way. I would like to point out I absolutely adore the quality time I have with my beautiful girl! But sometimes, just sometimes I seriously need some space! Not to mention I feel it’s very important that she develop the life skill of being “alone and content”, learning to occupy herself and think of things to do on her own (without mommy every time) any advice would be tremendously appreciated!
Hi! Thank you for your question. My answer was so long that I decided to post it in the parenting section of my blog. Please check out Becoming Unglued. I hope this helps! I would love to hear any further questions or updates you have in the future! Warm regards, Janet
Thank you thank you thank you! I have been reading about the negative effects of Baby Einstein and TV in general on infants for years, but no one else seemed to be listening. I’m expecting my first child in January, and although I have not gone so far as to say “No Baby Einstein gifts” I have made it known that I am not a fan and if I do receive them plan on putting them away for a few years. It’s really just common sense – many hours of TV is not good for adults, so how can it be good for our babies. I plan to come back to your site often – thank you again!
Allison, thank you!
I was taught in my Family Science courses that tv under two is not appropriate…but as a nanny the baby einstien would calm the house down and help the 4 kids 2 and under (yes multiples!) transition from one part of the day to the next. And as a parent I have seen my daughter sit on her Grammie or Daddy’s lap and just watch the tv in contentment. Its actualy kind of cute. So yes I am a part of the statistic that even though I know better, I let me baby watch a LITTLE tv from time to time!
Thank you Thank you! I am a big believer in Magda and all she stands for. I follow RIE with my own child as much as possible. I even have my husband convinced. People rely too much on stuff to entertain their children when they could give them a few simple objects and they would be perfectly capable of making their own discoveries.
I agree, and I think it’s just a lack of information that keeps parents from knowing to set up a safe play area that will benefit the child and parent beyond measure in the long term! And also in the short term, because the baby quickly learns to self-entertain. Self-directed play is what a baby is naturally geared towards doing.
I am so glad to read this. Just reading some of the information in this makes my blood boil. I am a dad of 2 kids under 2 (22 months and 3 months) and I can’t tell you how much I HATE the idea of kids watching TV. My almost 2 year never watches TV. The most he may have ever seen the TV on is 5 minutes. The TV stays off whenever he is awake. Occasionally, he has watched 1 single DVD of himself where we videotaped him as a baby.
Why on earth do people think that thousands of years of parenting is going to be trumped by sitting your kids in front of a TV to make them learn better? CRAP!!! COMPLETELY CRAP!!!
I always said that my kid would grow up like I did. He could go outside and play or amuse himself in the house (which he does). He is creative, smart, and well behaved. Now that he is almost 2, I still don’t know that I want him watching TV.
Sorry to rant but this touched on one of my pet peeves here – kids and TV.
This is my kind of rant! I completely agree, and totally support your choice to avoid TV for as long as possible. TV use becomes a vicious cycle for parents. We want our child to be occupied so we can get a break, but then our child wastes valuable play time being passive in front of television. They end up expecting that more and more. It becomes more difficult to instill the habit of free play and self-entertainment.
You will be amazed when your children enter grade school and are stand out students because they have the ability to ‘tune in’, listen and pay attention. Sadly, that is not the norm. And your children will be sought out as companions because they know how to play.
I think you would love Jane Healy’s book, Endangered Minds – Why Children Don’t Think And What We Can Do About It. Check it out, and please come back and rant some more. You make me feel much less alone!
So true! I am a teacher and within 5 minutes of meeting my class I can tell who watches TV and who does not.
I’ve heard many other teachers say the same!
You are my hero. We fell into the baby einstein pitfall thinking that we were stimulating our daughter’s little brain. Now she is a TV junkie and
My husband and I discussed Baby Einstein a few months ago. He pointed out that, ironically, Einstein was not a genius as a baby, and we don’t want our baby to be anything like Einstein as a child (referring to his learning disabilities). Interesting how the company chose to use Einstein, meaning genius, but in reality their product can potentially cause in babies similar difficulties Einstein had as himself as a child.
A few thoughts from a mother of a 15 month old…
Many parents cannot admit that THEY are addicted to TV. It is difficult to go cold-turkey after having a baby. I certaintly didn’t realize that my husband and I HAD to have the TV on as background noise, until we made a conscious effort to keep it OFF all day (at least, until our daughter was in bed).
Parents will not stop putting their kids in front of the screen until they have faced their addiction. Unfortunately, many people just don’t feel they can do it. And therefore, pass the addiction along to the next generation. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by friends who do not let their children watch TV. They have been a source of inspiration and creativity for me. I see the benefits in their kids (older than my daughter) and it gives me reason to continue. I am seeing fantastic results, myself!
Like a child, I did not know what to do with myself when I took away the option of TV. It forced me to rediscover latent interests in reading, music, cooking, and art. It was painful at first. The instinct to reach for the remote instead of find a new activity was HUGE. I had to retrain myself, just as you would have to do with a child exposed to TV in the few months or years. They will have an adjustment period too. We are not a ‘zero’ TV household– but our daughter is not exposed. My relationship with my husband has strengthened and deepened, as a bonus!
It take COURAGE to say no to TV and set healthy boundaries for your child. Parents need more encouragement and support in this ongoing process. I think it would benefit society, HUGELY.
Kari, this is inspiring! I have never had a TV addiction myself (although I think I may now have a computer addiction!), but it was still a challenge to refrain from exposing my children to TV and videos in their first couple years. I believe our efforts in that regard have really paid off… Those first two to three years are such a short period of time in the scheme of things…and such an important time for beginning healthy habits, building the foundations our children need to function at their best physically, cognitively, creatively.
Kari, thanks so much for your honesty, and for sharing your insights! And I agree, it takes tremendous courage and restraint to do what you’ve done. What a lucky girl you have!
Wow Kari. You are absolutely right. I am ashamed to say that I am completely addicted to TV. Even if I’m reading I feel uncomfortable with having the TV off! I am also ashamed to say that as a result, my daughter is exposed to more TV (Nick Jr) then she should be. I want to drastically reduce her exposure, and mine at the same time. My daughter is 3 years old, and incredibly bright. I hope that we can reverse the effects of over-exposure, and find new and better ways to enjoy our precious family time.
When our daughter was born (she is now 6 months) we noticed within the first few weeks that she would glue herself to the TV, no matter what we were watching. We soon made the decision to take our TV out of our lounge and into our spare room. It was the BEST decision we ever made!
Not only does it stop us having to worry about our daughter watching TV, but, as you said, we found other things to keep us occupied that are more active and constructive. We never realised how much TV we watched until it was gone!
We now have our hobbies back (as much as you can with an infant in the house), and while we do occasionally show our daughter videos of her that we’ve recorded on phones and cameras, she spends the majority of her awake time actively exploring her world.
When my daughter was younger than 2 she never watched any TV…but after 2 she slowly started watching a Dora here and there…which has now snowballed into 2 hours a day of PBSkids! I am not a morning person or a particularly disciplined person, so it has been so hard for me to set limits here. She loves TV and as long as I am consistent with it being just in the morning, she doesn’t ask for it all day. And she can still occupy herself and play for long periods of time after the TV is turned off… I am just really confused on this issue and swing between major guilt and feeling like it is OK in moderation (not that 2hours a day is particularly moderate). But…PBSkids and Noggin claim that their shows are “preschool on TV” which I know is total bogus, but I wonder why they aren’t having to take back their claims and offer refunds. I think there are parents out there that truly believe that letting their kids watch Sesame Street is going to help their child be better prepared for school.
Amy, I certainly understand and empathize with your dilemma. We all need some time in those morning hours to wake up and gather ourselves together! And I think it’s great that you are being thoughtful about the effect the TV time might be having on your daughter, and that you’re setting limits. There is no way you are going to get me to add to your “major guilt”!:-) But, if you decide that you want to wean your daughter off the TV time (and I agree with you that Sesame Street, any ‘educational’ program is not only far less effective as preparation than independent play is, but also discourages the development of learning skills like ‘active listening’ ), I have some ideas. Thanks for inspiring me to post a complete list of suggestions and open up a discussion about “TV solutions” in a couple of days.
One quick thought: Mornings are when most toddlers have lots of energy to create play. It seems to me that mornings would be an easy time for your daughter to get involved with an independent project, or just experiment with blocks, crayons, puzzles, play, dolls, sand and water outside, etc. Maybe you could establish a new habit…she gets to use something special (like playdoh, and they have all those wonderful machines to squeeze it through) only in the mornings. Then you put it away until the next morning. Just an idea…
Amy, thanks so much for sharing your issue here!
I love this post! A few years ago I was a nanny and watched one of the videos. It was awful I found no value in it at all. I am also skeptical of the “My Baby can Read” series that is all the rage. I have always agreed with the no TV under 2 rule. The only TV my one year old watches is Signing times which is only 30 minutes and she is learning sign language. In fact she does about 10 signs regularly such as sleep, eat, milk and more. Instead of throwing a fit because I don’t know what she wants In most cases she can sign it. This cuts down on temper tantrums in our home. But that is it, 30 minutes a day. As for what we do instead of watch TV there are many books out there with activities to do with children under three. Also they need to learn how to play independently. My daughter can play for an hour by herself. Does that mean I just throw her in her room and do whatever I want? No that would be poor parenting. I follow toddler wise which has a great schedule. There are times for structured play, free play, naps, structured play with siblings etc. by following this book I have not only had time to get my list of chores done, but my daughter is learning to explore new things and learn in a safe environment. We have a very non stress home because of routine and structure.
I just think we are all taking things to extreme!
Why not a bit of everything we can offer?
Yes, nothing better than parental bonding and sharing every moment with baby, but…not so wrong to watch a video or two. Sure is better going outside and name things we touch, but…not so bad three or four flash cards about a thing we have allready seen.
Jus hold on your instincts and take the best of our modern life.
Do not exeed on anything!! Love,
San Jose, Costa Rica.
Laura, I appreciate your response and see your point about not being extremist, but I wonder… why do you want a baby to see a video or look at a flash card when there are a lot of better things he could be doing? What is the purpose? If it’s for an caregiver to take a break, there are far healthier and better ways.
I understand. I never had those things 30 years ago with my kids. It is just that I feel cant be so bad to watch some farm animals while we are next to them, or laugh with baby seen a few cards with animals or home things we already know, is like seen a nice picture book, never the same as real, but not harmful. I respect both ways, I dont think neither will harm seriously if “handled with care”. Love, Teacher Laura.
There’s a lot of good info in this post. I’d like to make a couple of observations about “Baby Einstein” (as opposed to the bigger topic of how old a child should be before it is exposed to video and how much video is appropriate for a child of a given age).
The Disney company has taken the name “Einstein” and turned it into a brand name. This is a marketing gimmick. Parents who are attracted to the Einstein brand or attracted to the idea of “genius” are often mistaken about what it was that made Einstein special in his time.
What set Einstein apart is very similar to what set John Lennon apart or Mahatma Gandhi apart or Martin Luther King apart. Einstein’s role was to bring forth a certain understanding. This task had something to do with mental capacity, but that was only very small part of it.
Einstein was an early example of what would later be termed “Indigo”. He was in essence the first indigo human on earth.
Today’s children are of a different vibration entirely. They are commonly referred to as crystal children. Whether this terminology makes sense to you or not, the point is that our babies today, as a rule, are born with innate abilities exeeding Einstein’s. What this means in terms of how we raise and nurture our children is a very big topic. The main point is this: Our children are not merely smarter than we were, they are more awake than we are. In this sense they are leading us through a shift in consciousness and not the other way around.
We are awakening humans. They are born awake!
Disney, through its Einstein brand, is appealing to the vanity of some parents who wish for their children to excel relative to other children, just as magic snake oil formula prays on those of us who feel a need to boost our hair growth.
There is no such thing as truth in advertising. Baby Einstein is marketed towards parents who want their kids to smarter than other kids. If we are perfectly honest with ourselves we will admit that many of us are vulnerable to this kind of negative marketing.
From the point of view of the Disney company, their products are “educational” in the sense that education is the stated intent of the manufacturer. But who in this day and age would ever buy a product based solely on the claims of the manufacturer? That notion is kind of comical to me.
Who would ever assume that Baby Einstein DVD’s have educational value merely because the Disney company is making this claim? Since when do we establish the value of a toy, a pedagogical tool or anything for that matter by looking at what’s printed on the box without considering our our personal values or the wealth of wisdom that exists in a community?
In this case the bigger problem as I see it is not the Disney company which (for all we know) may be sincere in its claims – the problem is either an indiscriminate or non-thinking consumer or a lazy or a vain parent.
As much as I applaud anybody’s efferots to hold Disney accountable for its claims, I would also like to see consumers taking a little more personal responsibility for the products they consume.
Incidentally, we never had any Baby Einstein DVD’s in our home but we did have a Baby Einstein CD with classical music on it. Our girls enjoyed listening to it and I don’t think it caused any harm.
Another aside – Einstein is still with us today:
Parents are so vulnerable to the bogus, aren’t they? We all want to do the best for our child, and that makes us sitting ducks for clever advertising.
We have a wonderful TV program in Australia called ‘The Gruen Transfer’. It explains, with great hilarity, how advertising tries to suck us in. It’s one of the very few programs I watch regularly!
Oh, and as a music and education professional I can say that there is absolutely no harm in playing classical music CDs while your baby is around!! Just be careful that the tempo (the speed) is appropriate for the baby’s or child’s current mood or activity, and the volume is not up too high (children’s ears are many times more vulnerable to damage than adults’).
“The Gruen Transfer” sounds interesting, Annie. You always have something good to bring to the conversation…. And I appreciate your points about classical music, speed and tempo. Thanks!
Another great report by the CBC about Baby Einstien done in 2005…
I must say that my baby who is one year old loves Baby Einstein and that it was a teaching material for her since she learned blue, duck and the sound of cow and tiger ! In addition, she tries to sing along with some of the songs…I think that if parents are watching the program with their baby and telling them about it can be a great experience for both the parent and the child
First I’d like to point out that any parent who thinks that sitting there kid in front of the TV to watch Baby Einstein will somehow make them more intelligent is delusional, but I also feel that allowing kids to watch appropriate TV is not the evil that some of you are making it. Think about it…we are raising our children to prepare them for the real world, and and in there are TVs, computers, and smart phones everywhere you look. They are in the doctors office waiting rooms, stores, restaurants….it’s hard to go anywhere without a TV on. As a parent of 2 boys, ages 2 and 5, I’ve seen no ill effects of allowing my boys to watch TV, so if you’re a parent who commits the TV sin, I wouldn’t lose too much sleep worrying that your kids will be damaged by this evil thing called the TV. In fact, the use of TV and other electronic devices of that type will likely what they end up using for educational purposes instead of books. With that said, too much of anything isn’t good in general. Use some common sense, read books with them, do puzzles and build with blocks. Balance is the key to a well adjusted kid.
For those of you that are so much better than the rest of us…good for you. Mind your own business and let people raise their kids in whatever way works for them. All kids are different and there is really no wrong or right way to parent.
Funny, my husband and I were just talking about the subject of TV for babies, toddlers and preschoolers in the car today. We were marveling at the fact that our three children don’t seem to need to study as hard as their peers do for tests, etc., and we both believe that it is because our children were TV-free for the first few years. This isn’t about being “better” than anyone… This is about passing on information that can almost guarantee your children will be excellent learners and have a much easier time in school than their screen-affected peers. This is something any parent can do for their children and the results are phenomenal. I agree that there are no wrong ways to parent, but there are ways that make our children’s lives easier and help them reach their potential. You certainly don’t have to appreciate the advice!
It makes me so sad when I see a baby glued to “their FAVORITE SHOW”. I have so rarely had the tv on since having my baby, that when it is on, he couldn’t care less! He’d much rather play. And he doesn’t have a clue who Elmo or Dora or The Cat In The Hat are. In my experience, the people who park babies in front of the tv are the people who are ignorant, dismissive, and don’t want to hear anyone’s advice, or information.
And to Matt, above: There certainly ARE wrong ways to parent! That’s what Child Protective Services is for. You’re right, balance is the key to well-adjusted kids. But tv doesn’t *have* to be part of their lives, really, to function in “the real world”. Not every part of the real world is so bombarded with electronics. In fact, I’ve been cell phone-free for months now, and not missing it a bit!
Funny you mention cell phones. I have one, its 11 years old, does two lines of text on the screen, it has not got colour, does not take pictures, it is so old no one will want to steal it, also it is generally with a flat battery waiting to be charged, I am the only one in my circle of family and friends who just cant be bothered with a cell phone, they call me the dinosaur of technology ( which is not really correct, I do lots of photoshop on the computer. so I do some technology).Just cant be bothered with cell phones and always having toe reply to peoples texts.
How do I begin all over again? I am very interested in Magda Gerber’s philosophy but everything I read starts at the infant stage. How do I begin at 18 months? I love my son more than anything (of course) and I want to give him the best that I can. Where do I start? I know that may be a naive question, but really there are so many opinions and comments out there….ughhh, it’s tough!!
this article is wonderful and i had read many like this before my son was born but once he was born reality quickly set in. not all babies are able to enjoy this passive, uninterrupted play periods you talk about. my son was never able to be put down, never. diaper changes were painful for him as he hated being on his back and laying on the floor staring at the ceiling was something he might have done for possibly two minutes at most. it wasnt until he could crawl that he enjoyed some type of independently driven play and still due to his sensory issues those periods were short. i have written in regards to this before as i think when it comes to TV and the risks associated with it, i am not quite sure i see it as risky as i once did. my son watched TV as a baby. i wont lie. it was the only way i could get anything done around my home. i am a stay at home mom and my husband works long hours. i was home with a baby who never stopped crying unless he was somehow occupied. i held him 10 hours a day, even when he slept. the only way i could get a break was Baby Einstein! Having read articles like this one before he was born I had tremendous guilt about doing this yet I had to retain some level of sanity so I indulged him in the evil of Baby Einstein. He is now 4 and believe it or not, he doesnt actually like television. He prefers playing with us or on his own. Mainly outside with sticks and rocks. He is extremely active and creative as well. He makes up stories and plays them out. He is no way creatively stunted. He also does not have learning disabilities or language delays. He has been tested due to his sensory issues and in these issues he comes up extremely high in all these areas. He is actually quite gifted despite the half an hour of baby einstein he watched daily throughout his babyhood. So again although all this info is important for parents to consider I dont believe that media is all as dangerous as some would like us to believe. Parents just need to use their intuition and common sense when it comes to media of all kinds.
I am also glad that Disney is accepting responsibility for promising parents that their DVDs would somehow magically affect children’s development.
Personally, however, I think that the ban on visual media (particularly television) is perhaps too strong and definitely unrealistic for most families. I am college professor, so while I know a lot about education and teaching methods I will admit that early childhood education is not my expertise.
I started introducing my daughter to a few Baby Einstein videos, Baby Signing Time videos and YouTube videos of classic children’s songs when she was under 2. She blossomed into a toddler with amazing verbal skills who also used sign language. I think the reason why for her it didn’t seem to cause a delay in communication was because we were not passive watchers of these programs. I was right there with her and often times acting things out, like hopping like the frog on the tv screen or dancing to the songs. We even acted out a lot of games from the Summer Olypics.
I’m very new RIE parenting so perhaps according to its tenents that is the completely wrong approach. At age 2 she will sometimes request a Baby Einstein video (all of ours are about animals) and now she names them all and pretends to be them, finds stuffed animals that are the same animal and seems to me at least to be making useful cognitive connections.
Whilst we may try to assuage our guilt over TV with the mantra “everything in moderation”, a poison is still a poison whether used in large, small or moderate doses. When you understand how infants and toddlers brains work and how different they are to an adults you understand why the reccomendation is NO TV under two.
RIE (and Janet) offer an approach to parenting where we don’t need to sedate our children with TV.
I too am not a morning person. When my 15 month old was younger If he woke before 7am I would change his nappy, breastfeed him then give him a selection of toys to play with in his cot. He would quite happily chatter and play away often for up to an hour. Our lounge room is baby gated and is used as his play room. We rotate his ‘toys’ every 4 or so days and I usually set the room up before going to bed. He will happily play for up to 1.5-2 hours by himself. I use this time to get chores done so that when he is sleeping I can rest, read or watch a recorded tv show/movie. I’ve never needed TV so I can get chores done.
I agree that it’s easier if you start this approach to encouraging independent play under 12 months, however, it’s never too late to start gently fostering a love of learning (which is what independent play really is). Start by just sitting next to your child but staying silent and just observing as they play. Janet’s blog and others are a treasure trove of resources for play ideas.
Magda Gerber doesn’t “offer” or “encourage” anything, she died 2 years before this article was written (and 8 years ago as of this writing.)
Magda Gerber offers and will continue to offer respectful care solutions through her books, articles and videos. I am not sure I understand your point.
Janet, what is your recommendation for a seven week old baby who very, very seldom is content to lie on his back by himself? I can almost never put my son down without him raising the roof.