Kids & TV A Get-Real Guide
Under Age 2
The less the better. Face-to-face interaction and hands-on exploration are what babies and toddlers need most, and TV doesn't deliver either. Try to use it sparingly, no more than 30 minutes to an hour a day. Set a good example yourself by not vegging out for extended periods or leaving the TV on constantly. "Model the habits you want your kids to have," says Amy Aidman, Ph.D., a children-and-media researcher at the University of Illinois.
Not particularly important because it's pretty much wallpaper. But it should be attractive and appealing. Teletubbies gets a thumbs-up from Ranny Levy, founder and president of the Coalition for Quality Children's Media, based in Santa Fe, NM. She cites its crisp colors, gentle pace, lively and soothing music, silly humor, and utter predictability. "The kids who watch often sing along, imitate the movements, dance, and clap," she says.
No other shows are designed for children under 2, but the coalition recommends several videos, including So Smart! Musical Instruments (The Baby School Company Inc.), which features colorful stuffed animals and orchestral sounds; Mozart Nature Symphonies (Munchkin Inc.), with outdoor scenes and animals set to Wolfgang's piano music; and Baby Mozart (Baby Einstein), the composer's mellifluous melodies plus goofy sound effects and colorful images of toys, such as spinning tops and wave machines.
Being there, responding when your child talks to the screen or giggles as the Noo-Noo gobbles the leftover Tubby Toast. Of course, doing something else, somewhere else, is often the point. But if a bit of rest is all you need -- or there are clothes to fold -- do it beside your little one as she watches.
"Parents and caregivers can't be on all the time," says Zero to Three's Lerner. "I don't see a problem with a one-year-old's watching TV, assuming it's appropriate."