Ah, Jesus. It’s happened already. I didn’t want to believe it. I mean, here’s a kid who can’t even reach for things yet, or sit up by himself, or belch without assistance. Here’s a guy who’s still sometimes afraid of his own farts, is what I’m saying.
But he watches TV.
I don’t mean he’s programming the TiVo for Top Gear. But starting about three weeks ago I noticed him staring at the sizzling, flickering rectangle whenever it came into his field of vision. At first I thought he was just noticing it the way he notices any intense light source. But after a few days it became clear that he loved the TV for something more than its brightness. If you turn him away from the TV, he cranes his head around trying to find it again — something he doesn’t do with lamps or windows. And unlike other sources of light, TV actually seems to calm him down when he’s upset.
Sorry, let me just quote that last part again and add some typesetting for emphasis:
[U]nlike other sources of light, TV actually seems to calm him down when he’s upset.
This is freaking me out.
For the record, the AAP recommends, in a short, stern, and citationless statement, that you not let children under 2 watch television. Science Daily gives more details here, noting specifically that the idea of “Baby Einstein”-type videos helping your kid learn seems not to be borne out by science.
Watching TV programmes or DVDs aimed at infants can actually delay language development, according to a number of studies. For example, a 2008 Thai study published in Acta Paediatrica found that if children under 12 months watched TV for more than two hours a day they were six times more likely to have delayed language skills. Another study found that children who watched baby DVDs between seven and 16 months knew fewer words than children who did not.
The problem, researchers point out, is that time in front of the TV oftens substitutes for time spent interacting with parents and siblings. And as anyone who’s ever tried to learn a foreign language knows, four hours of Telemundo is not the same as four hours of active conversation with a native speaker.
On the other hand, as these parents will tell you, sometimes it’s nice to let the little wriggler zone out in a narcotic stupor for a few seconds. Sometimes you don’t want to be somebody’s physical trainer, language coach, and best friend all at once. Sometimes you just want the little pasha to hang out for an hour and not require much of you.
We do not plunk Henry down in front of the TV by himself. Even if we wanted to, he HATES being by himself. But here’s the thing: I like TV. I like it a lot. I like to watch it. It’s bright and colorful and makes pleasing noises. I’m watching it right now. And I have already learned to walk and talk.
I have adopted various placement strategies to keep him from looking at the TV while I watch it, but I can see already that that’s not going to be a long term solution. Man… this is bumming me out. I wonder what it’s like to live without TV.