Parenting Problems/Tips

How Much TV is Too Much for Toddlers?

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On Monday I wrote about how much TV my husband and I watch. That brought up another concern I have: how much TV is too much for toddlers? My daughter is just about 22 months old now, and she seems to be a little too into watching “her shows.” I have friends who don’t let their children watch any television, and I have friends that really don’t care about it. I’m somewhere in between.
Lilly’s current favorites are The WigglesSesame Street, and Caillou She asks to watch these not just on TV, but on any smartphone or tablet she sees in our house- because now she knows that Mommy and Daddy can find her an Elmo video on YouTube if she hands us a phone.

I know that sitting a child in front of the TV for hours on end is bad, but am I doing just as much damage with these intermittent videos and short shows we watch throughout the day with her? If you ask my husband, the answer is no. He claims that our daughter is very smart and the shows she watches are all teaching her something. He credits Sesame Street (not me, the one home with her all day) for teaching Lilly how to count to ten. While watching The Wiggles make fruit salad last week, Lilly pointed to a banana on the table and asked for it. This was HUGE, because she rarely will eat fresh fruit.

So I’m aware that there are positives to this exposure to singing, dancing, and learning found in educational programs…but I still worry that Lilly’s daily routine has too much technology in it. After all, we weren’t raised with computers, iPhones, and iPads. We had old-fashioned books (of which my house has PLENTY) and manipulative toys to learn from.

Every morning that Lilly wakes up early (before 7:00), I will take her downstairs to watch Sesame Street until I’m awake enough to go upstairs and make breakfast. She will usually play during this time, too…she’s not just sitting on the couch glued to the TV. The next time we really have the TV on again is for The Goodnight Show on Sprout. That is our routine after dinner and bath- we go downstairs and all watch The Goodnight Show for about a half hour. But then sprinkled throughout the day are the requests for Wiggles and Caillou videos on YouTube. All that adds up!

What are your thoughts? How much TV or videos do you allow your toddler to watch? Does it matter if it’s educational or not?

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  • Becky
    March 21, 2013 at 8:04 AM

    We’re waiting until 3 for our little one. I read a book by Eric Jensen while in grad school and his neuro research about kids and tv stuck with me. Everyone does it differently and you have to find your own comfort zone and what works for you.
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    • The Naughty Mommy
      March 21, 2013 at 1:12 PM

      Becky, I think it’s smart that you had your plan in place before you had kids. Once you have them, if you don’t have an established plan for TV or no TV or how much, then it’s just too easy to turn it on to distract your kid when you’re busy! If I had read something that resonated with me before having Lilly, I would’ve been more mindful about the decision to let her watch TV!

  • Susan Romer
    March 21, 2013 at 7:37 PM

    I don’t think the amount of TV Lilly watches is too much…. and Nick is right.. she is very smart and absorbs a lot of what she watches. xo

  • Katie
    March 21, 2013 at 9:54 PM

    Chase watches sporadic shows throughout the day, and I know he gets access to smartphones,tablets, and t.v. shows when he is with his grandparents. Some days I wish we could go back to pre-technology days! He also is usually playing and not totally absorbed in the show, but he does of course have his favorites. There are days when he will ask for a show and we tell him its not available while simultaneously giving him other options. Luckily at this age they are easily distracted! I actually am amazed at how much he retains from some of the shows. Luckily toddler shows tend to be more educational than older kid cartoons(in my opinion). Lilly isn’t glued to the t.v. all day, and you aren’t using it as a babysitter. She is probably gaining so much more language and enrichment from your personal interactions than you realize. As kids I know my brothers and I watched a bunch of t.v, and we turned out fine-or so I think;)

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