Boob tube

I switched on the boob tube the other day while folding laundry and somehow ended up watching children's television. (What? It happens.)

On Nickelodeon (motto: "Entertaining stoned adults since, I dunno, 1982?") I caught the tail end of a show called "Yo Gabba Gabba." Per the description on the Nick, Jr. website, this is an educational show directed at children 1 year old and up. Per me, it is freaking awesome. In the fifteen minutes I watched, I was urged to try new foods, not eat off the floor, and dancy dance--with Leslie Hall. Leslie Hall, people!

Well-intentioned and spectacularly hip, yes. Good for your 1-year-old, not so much. Technically, that's still a matter of opinion, sort of: studies on television watching in infancy have been mostly limited to retrospective analyses. With these kinds of studies, we can make plenty of associations between watching TV and delayed development, but we can't prove a causative relationship between the two.

A recent article and accompanying editorial in the Journal of Pediatrics (motto: "Please don't confuse us with Pediatrics") explains why it's hard to draw a direct line between TV and delayed development. The study does demonstrate that more watching of baby videos--including big sellers like Baby Einstein--is associated with slower language development in children between 8 and 16 months old. However, as the authors wisely note, a high number of TV hours might be more representative of hands-off parenting than itself a directly deleterious factor in childhood language development.

Although we'd ideally like a good study on this subject to randomize babies to watching prescribed quantities of TV and seeing what happens, I think we're past the point where that would be ethical. Way back in 2001, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that children less than 2 years old watch no television at all; a study structured to enforce--or at the very least, not recommend against--television watching in infants wouldn't get past any institutional review board in its right mind.

The author of the editorial cites several studies that suggest negative effects of television viewing in children under 2 years old, the most interesting of which compares numbers of interactions between parents and children while watching TV and not watching TV (spoiler: people talk less when the TV is on). It hardly matters; although I'm normally a big fan of evidence-based practice, I don't need data to convince me that television isn't for babies.

Seriously. You watch this, then try to produce a new neural connection.

Ga ga goo goo.


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Ummm... yeah. That was a disturbing clip there. Yes, we learned about eating vegetables. However, the monster guy doesn't chew his food. He swallows the whole carrots without chewing, and more disturbingly, he eats the chicken, complete with the bone. I can't imagine there's anything healthy about that, and I don't think kids should be encouraged to eat that way. The other point which my sister made was that we may also be being encouraged to eat when we're no longer hungry. Maybe the dude just eats what he likes, and leaves since he's not hungry anymore. It seems like he just eats the vegetables because they feel bad about not going to the party. It's really not possible to tell if he's actually hungry, but kids probably don't need to be encouraged to eat just because there's food in front of them past the point when they're already full.

Wow. I clicked "play" and my 13 month old immediately climbed up next to me, smiled, pointed, and giggled at the party portrayal. He even started bouncing up and down.

I stopped it when his eyes started glazing over as he brought his head closer and closer to the screen. Scary.

We don't watch much TV anymore -- ours is in the basement, so you have to go down there on purpose to watch and the toddler is SO much more interesting -- but I wonder if watching something like The Daily Show instead would spark a different neural result. Eh?

There are shows you can watch while stoned, and there are shows that were created while the people responsible were stoned.

Anyone remember Sigmund the Sea Monster, H.R. Puffenstuff, or the Banana Splits? Demonstrates the point perfectly.

Our now three year old Boo (I know!) loves "Yo Gabba Gabba." It is like crack to her.

We didn't let her watch much t.v. until she was about 18 months (.5 hours a day). At 2 years, she moved up to 1 hour a day. I've seen some theories that tv shows that speak directly to the kids (e.g., Dora and Blues Clues) are considered to be better for language development; however, I don't know of any studies to prove this. So, she watches Dora and Blues. When the commercials for Yo Gabba Gabba come on, she begs to watch the show, but we don't let her. It really is just too weird.

Hilarious. Thanks for renewing my energy to keep the TV off.

My girl genius is three and a half and watched TV perhaps once a month after the age of one. She still will not sit still to watch. Her sister however, is 8 months old and is diagnosed with a syndrome associated with developmental delay. I cannot even have the TV on if she is in the room as she will not look away.

Based on this highly unscientific sample I suspect the neurologically compromised kid has some predisposition to watch TV for longer periods of time.
However, the three year olds best friend has done nothing but watch TV his whole life and is quite advanced verbally.

oh the joys of human subjects.

This video makes me wish a) they had TV like this when I was 1 and b) I smoked pot when I was 1. It's good to know that all those kids we knew in high school who were stoned off their asses and we thought wouldn't go anywhere in life are now being entrusted to educate the youth of America. Strong work stoners. Strong work.

The worst part about my infant watching TV is that the whole thing is so ADD. Camera angles changing every 2 secs, people screaming, and then there's the news. It sucks for me b/c I love watching TV.

By organic chemis… (not verified) on 14 Jan 2008 #permalink

At some point did someone start with an assumption that children should learn language development from the television? I let my kids watch TV for entertainment. If the entertainment has an educational angle, whether it is language development, pattern recognition, or how to play nice - well, all the better. But I am not relying on the television to teach these things.

This is clearly a correlation/causation thing. More TV is probably a strong indicator of less hands-on parental involvement. Certainly, when a kid is watching TV they are not engaging in verbal communication, which is how language development happens.

Good for your 1-year-old, not so much. Technically, that's still a matter of opinion, sort of: studies on television watching in infancy have been mostly limited to retrospective analyses. With these kinds of studies, we can make plenty of associations between watching TV and delayed development, but we can't prove a causative relationship between the two.

Signout reader named Benjamin Langer, who himself has a very nice critical piece on intelligent design in the current edition of SCQ.