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More TV Means Less Talking Among Kids and Parents

By , SparkPeople Blogger
When should children be allowed to start watching TV? How much time should they be able to spend in front of the tube each day? These are hotly debated topics among parents everywhere. Some parents buy Baby Einstein DVD's and their children watch them from an early age. Other parents choose to wait until children are a little older before introducing TV. Some parents are very selective about what they let their kids watch; others are not. Although it's controversial, there are no "right" and "wrong" answers when it comes to this topic. But a new study might make some parents rethink the decision to allow TV from an early age.

Previous research has linked early TV exposure to language and cognitive delays. The idea is that the more time young children spend in front of the TV, the less time they spend interacting with and learning from parents, siblings, etc. A new study in the Archives of Pediatric s and Adolescent Medicine had children from ages 2-48 months wear a recorder for one day each month. The researchers found that for every hour a television was on, "the children on average heard 770 fewer words from an adult a 7 percent decrease. They also spoke less themselves."

Researchers theorize that they spoke less while watching TV. But parents were also distracted by the TV and ended up interacting less with their young children.

The TV is a touchy subject in my household. Personally, I wouldn't mind if we didn't have one. But my husband likes to have it on as a way to unwind at the end of the day. My children don't watch any TV yet, so when he turns it on, we compromise. We all stay in the same room, but I'll play with the kids or read them a book while he watches. I thought this was the ideal situation, until I read about this study. Although it's just one study with a small sampling of children, the results are not surprising.

I think everyone is different when it comes to watching TV. Sometimes it's hard to get my husband's attention if he's watching something he really likes. My daughter (who's 2 ) would rather make up stories and play with her toys than sit and watch a show. I like to think her wonderful imagination is due, in part, to the fact that she doesn't watch TV. My 6-month old son is a different story. He would stare at the TV for hours if I let him and is completely fascinated with it.

If you have young children, do you limit the amount of TV they watch? Do you limit the amount of time the TV is on in your house? If so, do you feel that your family interacts more because of it?

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Our family didn't have a TV until I was in High School. When my last tv died...I never replaced's been 13 years, don't even miss it! Report
Kept no TV in the house until the youngest was 4 1/2. Worked well for me. Report
i have 2 kids - one with special needs particularly surrounding speech. So this is particularly interesting for me. When he was very little we'd do anything to get him to respond verbally. Some of the best spontaneous responses came from watching Dora the Explorer. you can bet we kept those on our Tivo.

Now we do limit 'screen time' (computer, tv, wii, etc) and we are particular about the content of what they watch, but overall they probably do get quite a bit of screen time. i have not seen a correlation between speech and tv. if anything i have found the opposite is true. Granted if all you do is sit and watch - no good. But if you watch, talk about it and then move on to something else...not so bad. Some days they dont watch anything at all and then some days its a movie and popcorn kind of day.

I agree with Marien that it is about finding a balance. And what may be balanced for one may be unbalanced for another.
Now if i could limit my computer screen time...hmmm... :) Report
My son's are 27 & 31.TV was very limited.We had 1 TV in the livingroom.We had no nintendo,no phones in their rooms.We joined a campground and the boys were with us in our RV every weekend for 6 months out of the year between April 15 - Oct. 15.They played outside,fished,swam,and played board games and cards.They developed an extensive language and interaction with many different people.How did they turn out?The oldest has a BA in finance & business and is a NY State Trooper.The youngest has his Masters in Education and teaches Special Ed. Report
My 2-year old watches a fair amount of TV daily, educational programs. But we also talk to him daily, read to him daily and take time to teach him. He's been talking since he was 15 mos. and is now up to four and five word sentences... this is pretty advanced seeing as how many studies show boys to not speak much until AFTER their second birthday and he's been 2 for barely two weeks. I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with children watching TV, but moreso important for parents to monitor what they're watching, expand on the lessons and make sure not to let the TV raise their child. Great article. Report
My children and now grown up, they didn't watch much TV when they were young due to the fact that we were station in Germany at the time with very limited children shows. Once we got back to the states they would watch a couple of shows a day. I now babysit my granddaughter and she has been watching TV since she was a baby. We do try to limit TV time and someone is usually watching it with her so she is interacting with us at the same time. Report
My family didn't have a TV at all until I was 12 years old, and even then we didn't have cable and so only used it to watch movies. At the time I hated it and lobbied to get a TV all the time, but in retrospect (I'm 24 now) I think it freed up a lot of time for my brother and I to explore other interests. Let's face it, TV is more interesting and takes less effort than just about anything else! If I'd had the option, of course I would have watched TV, but since I didn't I read books and played outside.

I'm actually kind of worried for when my fiance and I have kids. Both of us love our computers and spend several hours a day on them. I don't want to give that up, but also, like this article says, I'm worried that if they're on this much we'll simply be distracted from spending time focusing on kids! I think the answer will be to limit my OWN screen time just as much as kids' screen time! Report
I have one tv in the house and i'm rarely there. My daughter has an extensive vocabulary. But I talk to her a lot and me and my family are very education oriented (I am going to be a school counselor and my mother is a headstart teacher) so we know what she needs to get a headstart. Report
No, I don't limit TV, but I am very selective abot what they watch. They watch educational programs most of the time. Report
I have three kids. A 3.5 daughter and 10 month old twins. The twins never watch tv (or have the tv on when they are in the room). My older daughter gets to watch 1 hour of tv a day. 30 mins in the morning after she is all ready for preschool and 30 mins in the afternoon after she takes a good nap.
We utilize our DVR so we always have parent-approved shows that she can watch. It gives us the flexibility to start or stop a show when WE need to, not when the network decides. She can pause a show to go to the bathroom or stop it and finish the episode at a later time. It is great because when the recorded show is over, it goes to a screen, not the tv, so she knows that tv time is over. Report
I second the vote (#11 from JCANTWELL) for people singing more! And what happened to shows like The Waltons? Why can't we have more like that? People who can't pay for cable should have wholesome family shows available! Report
When I was younger I was homeschooled. My mom didn't really teach us everyday, and she went on a lot of errands by herself which left me to watch my younger siblings. We always would end up watching tv, because I didn't know what else to do. I am sorta wondering if this led to us not being educated enough before going to public school. Report
hi there,
i agree with andrea, sometimes if i need to get stuff done around the house, and my 5 year old is not willing to help me or driving me nuts, than they only way i can get her to be still for awhile is to have her watch t.v. however i try my best not to let her watch more than 1 hour of t.v. at a time, and i do monitor what she watches, my 2 year old likes certain programs too but for the most part, he is at that age where he wants to explore and play with stuff instead.
I agree, you should interact with your family as well. We have a habit of sitting in front of the TV (or computer) instead of sitting at a diningroom table, because we do not have a table. The baby is 8 months old, and we feed him first so we can eat without him begging for food. He *will not* watch TV if his life was on the line for it. He hates it. He'd rather move and play. I like chasing after him to keep me active but doing laundry, or trying to relax, I think a TV is a good addition to the family. Report
I find it interesting how many of these posts start with "I don't have children, but ..." - Let me tell you, that once you have them, your life will change so much as to be unrecognizable. As a single mom, TV is a necessary evil. I put my daughter in front of the TV pretty much every night while I fix dinner, because I can't let her go outside by herself and other toys don't hold her attention as long. It's not all bad - she's picked up some Spanish from Dora the Explorer (her favorite) and some Chinese from Ni Hao Kai Lan. Her vocabulary is excellent and her speech is above average. I don't let her watch anything with violence (even Sponge Bob - type violence) or anything that makes me question the morals involved. (Curious George gets away with lying too much for my taste.) If I can get her to "help me" with whatever I'm doing, that works best, but failing that, TV will hold her attention and keep her out of trouble while I do some necessary chores.
I think the study shows what everyone knows instinctively, though - children with parents disinterested in their education and development don't do as well as those with parents who are attentive and involved. But I think TV time is a symptom of the root problem, _not_ a cause. Report
I've raised 5 children to the ages of 29, 26, 22, 21, and 14. Our tv is on all day, mainly for the noise, lol. None of us sit and watch more than a movie at a time, and one of my sons is a news and weather addict, lol. I find that it's not how long the tv is on but actually how much attention is paid to it. When my kids came in from school, the volume was lowered and we would spend an hour or more just talking about their days, and which class clown said what that day. Lots of laughs. Then at dinner time there was the same recounting to their Dad, and usually more laughs about something they forgot to tell earlier. We had work we did together, and playtime and vacations. They are all very intelligent well spoken individuals. A/B students with a broader vocabulary than I. I think as parents we set the example. Neither my husband or I could ever sit long in front of the tv, and it seems to have rubbed off on the kids. Now cell phones are a different story for my kids. Report
Times are different from when I was growing up. We didn't have a television until I was 7 years old. My parents purchased TVs for both my grandmothers when I was in high school, and they both felt more connected to the world because of them. My 7-yrs younger sister watched cartoons every Saturday morning, and we enjoyed Howdy Doody, Captain Kangaroo and The Lone Ranger, too. My parents also tuned in regularly for Lawrence Welk, Perry Mason, and Gunsmoke, which we watched along with them. My three daughters watched Sesame Street on a regular basis, and I thought it helped them be better prepared for school (where they all did very well). Now, though, I sometimes question the quality of the shows I notice my grandchildren are watching because they seem to be so devoid of what I consider to be "reality." And of course, I'm not referring to those "reality shows" on TV for adults these days. Budget cost-cutting, driven by the profit motive instead of what's "best" for our kids has mostly ruined a good thing. While I believe kids must learn computer literacy, the bottom line is: parents and kids should go outside and do more things together! Report
I was actually saying on one of my team threads yesterday that today, with all this technology, kids do not seem top know how to pay and that when we were kids we had the imagination to make something out of nothing. It was amazing what you could do with a couple of tin cans or a ball and some string etc. In part I think that with kids having access to TV, Game Consoles, PCs and the like, the spark has gone out of their lives and they become reliant on technology for most of their entertainmnet, to the detriment, I think, of their growing up period. even reading a book is considered uncool by a lot of tody's kids and yet when you see them hanging aroound the streets and ask them what they are doing they will tell you they have nothing to do and they are bored. When we were kids I couold never imagine this scenario as there were never enough play hours in the day in which to play and when you were called in even for a meal, you always tried to see if ytou could get that little bit of extra time. It is a sad reflection on modern society as a whole because with parents also having to lead a much different lifestyle and at a considerably faster pace, family time has almost disappeared. IUt hasalso struck me that when we were kids the family ethos was such that families were much closer than they are today. I see it in my own children and yet it is not the way they were brought up as we always made time to take them for walks or play games with them and for quite a whie when they were growing up we deliberately did not have a TV and there were no succh things a gamne consoles or home PCs. How life has changed, and not necessarily for the better. Report
I am a elementary teacher and I have a 3 year old who loves Disney cartoons. His TV is Lightning McQueen and only serves the purpose of playing DVD's. My son's vocabulary is quite extensive and have been interacting with him and using a broad vocabulary in complete sentences since he was a baby. Yes TV should be limited but I don't think it's all that bad to where you have to keep it away from them. He also has a really good sense of humor and sarcasm(learned from his parents and cartoons). When his father wants to watch a movie that isn't rated for small children I keep him occupied in his room with toys, coloring, letters, numbers, etc. We have never had cable and limit TV viewing to pretty much evening movies.

What I do disagree with though is exposing kids to too much bad TV and no interaction with their parents. I see this all the time in my classroom. Kids talking about RR movies and shows and using very little vocabulary or improperly using vocabulary.

I have six sisters and we were all raised with no limits on TV or video games whatsoever. Yet, all of us were at the top of our class, highly involved in extracurricular activities, involved in church, good citizens, and very responsible young adults. My parents' first language is spanish, neither are formally educated, and we never sat down for dinner all together.

I don't have any children but we do have TV on at pretty much all times. I find it hard to talk to my boyfriend when he's starring at the TV for hours, even if it's something very important I need to talk to him about. That said, I feel like TV is a big distraction to not only children but adults as well. If parent choose to zone out in front of TV's rather than spending quality time with their children no matter how little interest a child has watching TV, it still contributes to the damage.
My boyfriends father has an 8 year old who comes home after school every day only to find his father glued to a TV. He gets very bored, he feels lonely, and what does he turn to? Of course...good "old" computer and weird brain-damaging gamez. I feel so bad for the guy because he's missing out on the most fun time of his life because he's dad chooses TV over him. Report
I grew up largely without TV (no power at the ranch) and later developed a neurological condition where flickering lights (fluorescents, TVs!) can actually trigger seizures. Makes life interesting. Actually, it does. I would so much rather read, or play with the horses or the cat, or mess with the garden, or dance, or listen to music... and there's no cable bill, ever! Best to you all. Report
If I have children, I already know they won't be watching TV- or using the computer or internet for that matter- until they can understand what those things are and what they are telling them. A 3 year old doesn't understand that TV isn't real, where those images are coming from or why. I plan on exposing them to these things only in an amount so that they aren't oblivious to society.
Neither myself nor my fiance watched TV as children. As a result we both learned to read before kindergarden, were always ahead of our classes and were reading at adult levels before we graduated from elementary school. That could be every kid- if a book babysits them instead of a TV. Report
As a retired kindergarten teacher, whenever a parent asked me about putting a tv in their child's bedroom, I always told then I thought it was a very bad idea. With my own children who are now adults, they never had a tv in their rooms. I would only allow one tv in the house and it was not allowed on at mealtimes. I never wanted a big tv. I always said I never wanted anyone to come into my home and think tv was the biggest thing in my life, much to the dismay of their father. We always watched tv together and would take turns choosing what to watch. I thought this negotiation process was a good skill to develop also. This is kind of sad in today's world of gigantic sets. I didn't mind stacks of books around however. Both children did extremely well in school and went on to earn scholarships. Neither of them even bought a set of their own until their late 20s, and neither of them is attached to the tv now. I find it particularly distracting to go visit someone and try to talk to them while the tv is blaring in the background. From my own personal study after 25 years of teaching, the children who didn't watch a lot of tv and who read and were read to, were the better students with better vocabularies, more vivid imaginations and better conversationalists. Report
I do not have any children, but I work with licensed/regulated child care providers, and I strongly encourage providers to limit the TV time of children under the age of 5. It has been proven that TV is not the best practice for children in this age group.

When I have children, I will definitely limit their TV time. Report
I will be honest, we have 4 TV sets, the TV is always on in my house. I have a son who will be 3 in July does and he does not just sit an watch TV. He is like the rest of us and just likes to have it on while he is playing. The only time he really watches it is when he is tired. We do monitor what he is on and make sure that it is appropriate. My husband and I play a lot with my son and he is a very social little person. Report
As a Speech/Language Pathologist for 38 years, I personally believe parents should talk more with their children than let the children watch a lot of TV. I believe the child's speech and language skills are better from parent interaction. Report
I never set limits with my children because it was not the center of their existence. My older grandson (7) loves the animal channel and cartoons such as spongebob. The younger (10 mos.) obviously can take it or leave it, my daughter and son-in-law determines which child programs are appropriate for them. When they are with us (Spouse & I) we discuss program happenings (mostly movies) with the older and naturally monitor which movies are appropriate or not. It is our thought that tv fare today is very sad, the more channels, the worst. We play a lot of games and use artsy things. Report
When we were raising our children, tv time and kinds of shows were limited. We knew the power of mindless nothings programming their (and our) minds. When the tv switch thing was made this month, we had discussed it and opted to not go with the flow (everyone HAD to go the new way if you wanted tv at all - no more analog). We use the tv for rental movies, watching our home made videos which we haven't watched in ages, and to do my workout dvds and videos. I never really watched a lot of tv (pure junk has taken over over the last decade imho) but I did watch some so I love the "more" free time I have to Spark, or read or be active. I enjoy being on my laptop :) Report
This is a big issue in our house. My husband wants the TV on all day even when he isn't watching it, he just likes the noise. I worry about my kids watching TV, but my husband thinks I am overreacting. We have been trying to compromise lately, and keeping it on for only a few hours to watch the news. I have been having my som read every day even though it is summer and they are out of school. Report
Not tv related....

I anyone having a problem getting to Report
We don't have tv service of any kind... but we do rent movies. I just got fed up with the service and the tv content. Report
Media really changes a child's world. Years ago, when I was teaching Grade Two, I was amazed at the number of children who had no idea how to sing and thought that they should sound like the singers on the radio. When I was young, people sang washing dishes and to their children. Not always on key or perfectly in pitch, but the children learned from hearing that natural self-expression. Most of my students never heard a live person sing unless they were at a concert. My father was not a singer, but he would bounce the little ones and chant rhythmically to them. My mother always sang when she had a chance. Just my obsevation. Report
IMHO television is pretty awful across the board. My kids only watch dvds that we check out from the library (and are all pretty educational or are classics) and that is limited to an hour a day although there are plenty of days in which it doesn't get turned on at all. I consider the computer and tv to be very similar and I have to be careful to not let my 6 year old not get too much screen time. He's much more demanding and cranky if he is in front of a screen too much. Report
My children are ages 25 and 20. I never limited TV watching in my home. The TV is on pretty much all the time if we are at home. That doesn't mean that we are all gathered around it watching it all day. When my children were little, I read to them all the time and Lord knows, they never stopped talking to me and I always communicated with them. I have more of a problem watching young parents on their cellphones all the time rather than communicating with their children. They seem completely absorbed in either talking or texting while their children just sit there ignored. I think that's more of a problem today than TV watching ever was. Report
This is a hot topic in my house. We have a 2 yr and a 3 yr old. Between Auntie (me) Grandma and Mommy there are a lot of different, heated opinions. Since grandma watches them during the day, the final say is hers, but my sis and I would love to see less tv. And yes, they ARE behind the other kids in speaking.

That being said, my sis has a very bad arm and my mom does not have the energy to be chasing them all day. TV is sometimes the only was they can get the kids to be calm enough without cuasing injury to themselves. It's a tough situation and like the article said, no right or wrong answer. It's easy to say don't let kids watch tv but hard when people have physical limitations that inhibit their ability to chase after two BUSY little boys.

OK - I'm off my soapbox now :-) Report
Parent's need to be very vigilant if they are letting their children watch tv. There is so much smut and kids sponge up most everything they see and do...good or bad. Report
It is just my husband and I now and we rarely watch TV. we do much more computing. Both of our children are married...Our son is on the computer most of the time, but our daughter still loves to watch reality shows. Both have said they will limit TV for their kids. Time will tell! Report
My feeling is that if I were a parent I would probably be reluctant to allow tv until my child was older. A lot of the programming for kids is really awful - taking advantage of how inexperienced children are to pass off some poorly produced, meaningless junk. I think at young ages, pretty much anything else you can find for a child to do is going to be more of a growth opportunity than watching tv. I don't currently have a tv, and I'm definitely happier with how I spend my time at home. Report
I have raised four children, now ages 16 - 28, and we have not had a tv for 20 years. My feeling is that the problem is not the content as much as the addictive quality of tv for some people. I could see that emerging as a problem for my oldest son and so we got rid of all the tvs in our home, including the one in my husband and my bedroom. TV is not an inevitable part of life. Remember, you do have a choice. Report
I like to think my son's the exception in this. Even though he was a Baby Einstein baby, and I made the cardinal sin of letting the TV babysit while I did chores when he was very little, he is a talker. At age 6, he enjoys television like many other kids do, but he doesn't necessarily sit and stare at it for hours on end- we usually have to make him sit and stay put if we want to watch a family movie together. He gets up during commercials, and often goes off to find his own thing to do after a show he's watching ends ( unless it's Spongebob.. I have a love/hate relationship with that yellow square)

Even though he does probably watch more television than most, he also talks a HECK of a whole lot. He's very talkative, and we often have to ask him to hold his thoughts if he wants to jump into, or divert, a conversation. And while I don't work with young children to judge this on, his teachers at school have commented on his vocabulary being pretty diverse for someone so young.

He's not without problems though. I'm not sure if it's related to television watching, or the fact I've got a slight lisp, or if I just wasn't careful in catching it during development, but my son's got a slight tongue thrust problem that sometimes causes him to be unintelligible if he's talking quickly and not watching how he pronounces, or enunciates, his words. He's in speech therapy for this, though, and is coming along nicely. Report
We are very selective in what we watch and how much we watch. I have 6 kids and most of their lives they had no television. I think it can be harmful not only for small children, but with people of all ages. I think finding a balance is the key. Report
I don't have any children, but I would for sure limit the time spent watching TV and more time with family Report
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