Thursday, April 14, 2011

Our noisy wallpaper

Lydia's got some toys. Most of them are plastic, a few require batteries, one is a wind-up caterpillar. She has played with each one for approximately five minutes and 32 seconds, except for her string of sea-green fake pearls...for some reason costume jewelry's her favorite. We spent $20 on an awesome Eric Carle inspired butterfly toy at the MN Arboretum on our family trip a couple weeks ago, and she'd much rather play with the $3.50 caterpillar. *headslap*  We've got a baby laptop, balls (baha), bells, whistles, stuffed animals, a little wagon with beach toys, plastic chains...and she's bored. I've tried rotating her toy buckets so she's not playing with the same toys every day, and she's totally onto me. Kitchen utensils are her new favorite, as are whatever objects happen to be in our hands at the time. Cell phones. MY laptop. The remote controls. Forks (yikes!). I don't think any of her toys are really above her developmental stage, yet she's totally disinterested and I can tell she gets exasperated with me when I set her down with a toy box so I can get a load of laundry done.

With the weather being so #*&@^$ gorgeous lately, playtime has been a breeze. We've been outside, in the stroller, in her bouncy thingy, on a soft blanket in the grass, or wrapped in fleece and laid next to me napping in the were totally unnecessary at the beginning of this week, and I relished it. Now with the less than favorable weather, we're cooped up inside with only so much patience. And so begins my discussion of noisy wallpaper, i.e....our TV.

We have a TV, and we use it. I'll shamelessly admit I like catching what happened on Top Chef, or anything on the Food Network or Animal Planet. And I like watching the news in the morning over a piece of toast and coffee. But here's the catch. Lydia's starting to watch it too. That's not something I like. With the American Academy of Pediatrics recommending that all children under the age of two "avoid" [that's their word] TV, and kids 2 to 6 years old watch only one or two hours a day, it's hard for me to condone Lydia's attention being focused on the blaring box. The percentages around TV and kids are staggering to me [all statistics can be found in Pediatrics, the AAP's medical journal]. 
  • 74% of children in the US have watched TV before the age of two. 
  • 43% of children under two watch TV every day.
  • 51% of homes have TV on most or all of the time during the day (EEK!). 
  • 33% of children under 6 have a TV in their bedroom. 
  • 63% of families in America that leave the TV on during meals. I'm stunned that families are that involved with their televisions.
I grew up mostly outside. I remember very little TV, except to play a video game once in a while or to watch Saturday morning cartoons, maybe a Little House on the Prairie with my mom. And Charlie grew up fairly similarly, but his bonding with his father took place while relaxing and watching fishing shows. He'll do the same with Lydia after a family breakfast...the two of them cuddle into the recliner and watch fishing. I get owley about it, but I have to remember that Lydia's not really focused on the TV, more so on Daddy's beard or the piece of lint on the chair, and that Charlie loves Lydia more than life itself. But I want Lydia to grow up a little differently.

There are many concerns I harbor over over-exposure to media at such a young age. Children can most certainly live, and dareIsay thrive, without television, yet we're plugging in more times throughout the day than I can count. We're surrounded by all kinds of media now, and it truly is noisy wallpaper. It distracts us from learning through observation, interactions face-to-face, and leaves little room for peace and reflection in a home. As viewers we may be more informed, but I think there is a toll on our physical, mental, and emotional health. Negative effects of exposure to media, namely TV in the study I was reading, include obesity, smoking, sexual risks, eating disorders, and substance abuse. A direct correlation between violence in media and feelings of anxiety, fear, aggressive behavior, academic and attention problems and poor sleep has also been proven.

But what about educational programming? It may be better for older children, but there's no such thing as positive education via the TV for children under two. Their brains simply aren't developed enough to learn from a screen. They may find something interesting while watching and try to imitate or get excited, but true learning, connection of the synapses, is not taking place. Interestingly enough, even baby videos may contribute to cognitive delays, take that Your Baby Can Read!

I plan on draping our TV with a pretty piece of fabric, and fully ignoring it this summer.  We already keep it off during meals, something I enacted in our home months before. I hope all of Charlie's bonding with Lydia over fishing can be done out at Lake Shetek, and that I can hold out on finding out what happened on Top Chef until it reaches the internet in the morning. I really hope that I can continue putting together days for Lydia that involve options for imaginary play, creativity and physical activity. That's what she needs, not a TV in her room, or to be plunked down in front of something as innocuous as Planet Earth, or to watch Dora until she's running around the house screaming Spanish.  I'll be blogging on something else I'm really interested in, free play vs. structured, later on

1 comment:

  1. Katie
    I LOVE this post! I feel the same way. I never grew up with a tv in my room, so in my house that is one thing I stand firm on... no TVs in bedrooms! We have one tv and we use a converter box (gasp!). Our friends can't believe it. We hardly ever have our tv on. When we do it is typically because Joe is gone and I like the background noise. I am proud to say this week I have turned on my tv once at it was 9 at night well past Sam sleeping. I am a firm believer in little to no tv for our daughter. We hardly watch it anyways... so why start? Sam is just as happy hanging on my hip as I learn to do everything with one hand or as i clean up one thing and bring out another mess of kitchen "toys" to keep her entertained. She to could care less for the most part for her age appropriate toys, anything that is real world she is all about. And I am a happy mom knowing she is learning more from her pots and pan band than Dora the Explorer.