Questions of television and babies

Here is a question that came up in my Yahoo Group “Teach Your Baby To Read in 90 Seconds a Day”.  Below is my answer.
 
Question
 
Dear all,

I know that the TV topic is not the main one for this forum but I’d like to ask you something.

I’m a first-time parent of a little girl of 3 months now, but we recently discovered that when we put her in front ot the TV to watch Baby Einstein or the Ceebies from the BBC she gets really excited.

How do I know? She starts moving her arms and legs more than usual, she cooes and she barely takes her eyes off the screen.

The question for you, more experienced parents and educators out there is: how healthy is to let the baby watch this?

Is there any rule of thumb as to how much time should we allow her to watch TV?

In your own experience, have you got any good results from following this practice with educational/
instructional programs?

Thank you in advance for your comments/feedback.
 
Answer
This is a very controversial subject you are bringing up, but I will tell you my opinion and experiences.
 
Many children, including babies are attracted to the television, as you are noticing with your baby.  I think this can be wonderful for parents who need to get things done but have no help with their babies.  However, the content that they watch is very important.  One study states that by first grade children have viewed over 5,000 hours of television.  That has a huge impact on your child.  What was the content?  That is an important question to ask.
 
When I became a first time mom, over 13 years ago, my baby was very demanding.  She knew I was a rookie and some days I could barely take a shower.  My sister-in-law came to visit and told me her 4 month old liked to watch television.  I thought that was highly unlikely, but she proved me wrong.  She brought me a video cassette with four Sesame Street videos on it.  I was amazed that my 2 month old would pay attention.  I was thrilled  that I could not not have to listen to her scream if I needed to cook dinner or take a shower.  She would usually scream the entire time I set her down.  Imagine my excitement when I realized I could use the television as my helper.
 
Not knowing about any controversy with television I would let her watch up to two hours a day at times.  Granted, I believe that is too much, now, however she learned her ABC’s and how to count.  I didn’t know babies could learn to read back then, but I taught her all kinds of things and she was very bright for her age.  I felt that she could learn anything from the television because she loved it so much.  I looked for all kinds of things to show her, so her viewing time was beneficial.
 
She does not suffer ADD or ADHD or anything like that.  The only negative effect I notice is that she loves to watch movies. We are not a big television viewing family.  We primarily use it to keep the little ones out of trouble if we need to do something.  As a family we watch movies and concerts occasionally.  
 
I have 6 children and none of them are television junkies.  They enjoy watching a movie and if we do turn the television on they all migrate over there, but that is common.  On a weekly basis we might watch 2-3 hours of television.
 
Now, as for my favorites, if you are going to have a baby watch television, make it beneficial.  You can get videos that will teach your baby to read such as ours Monki See Monki Doo and Your Baby Can Read.  The Signing Time videos are wonderful.  They teach sign language to babies and have great music.  Little Pim will teach your baby foreign language.  I really like Baby Einstien for the imagery and the music, and of course the puppet scenes, but they lack as far as content to teach your baby very much.
 
In my experience, once you let your baby watch shows that are more entertaining, such as Dora the Explorer and such, they will not be as receptive to watching some of the above mentioned choices.
 
I hope this has been helpful.  Let me wrap this up by saying that I love to have the option of using the television with my small children, up to an hour a day, broken up in 2 segments.  As an adult that watched a lot of television as a child, I don’t care much for television.  I feel it is a time drainer.  Maybe I got my fill as a child and now I somewhat loathe just sitting in front of the television unless it is a specific program I want to see.