February 24, 2007

Babies watch television!

Oh, noooooo!

Be sure to watch the video at the link, it's a masterpiece of editing. They savaged this poor mother, purely with her own self-congratulatory words and some pix of her innocent babe.

Let's get some expert opinion about the scourge of television:
"We're in the midst of a huge national experiment on the next generation of children," said Dimitri Christakis, a pediatric researcher at the University of Washington. "We don't know the effects and we're letting them watch."
Oh, please! Tiny kids have been watching TV for over half a century. Here's one of mine circa 1983:

Have values changed? I started watching TV in the 1950s, and my parents never said one negative thing about it. We watched hours of TV every day, including the worst possible crap -- unimaginably bad stuff -- just because there was nothing else on. We'd sit and watch the test pattern:

Our hearts lifted when the sermonette (or whatever it was) finally came on.

The main difference is that they now have super-simple DVDs to give a kid -- in the words of the mother on that video -- "the developmental tools to help her with her development."

I'm mainly concerned about the loss of randomness. These days, they subject kids to things that purport to be scientifically designed to structure their minds properly. That's the "a huge national experiment on the next generation." When are we going to see a class action blaming these things for causing autism or some such disorder?


Matthew said...

I didn't see the video as savaging the mother. Perhaps because I didn't have the visceral response to babe-watching-TV that they expected me to. But then, Ann, neither did you, but you experienced them as savaging the mother, so I'm not sure what I'm not seeing.

I think that the larger issue concerns our idea that children can be saved or ruined by small variations in their home environment -- variations which we can, if we listen to the right experts and try our hardest, control. It fuels an hysterical search for the right way to raise a kid, ignoring the fact that everyone around you (including you) was raised without the advice of the these latest experts.

Ann Althouse said...

Well, the brilliance of the video is that they've built in that deniability. That's why they are able to savage her.

joated said...

My kids both learned to read and count from the 1980s version of Electric Company, Reading Rainbow, and, of course, Sesame Street. Nothing wrong with young 'uns watching the tube if they are monitored.

I still think the biggest challenge to the development of a child is the single parent home.

Jennifer said...

I wasn't really allowed to watch tv as a child - even as an older child up through high school. I was always SO out of the loop at school. Well isn't that special.. Huh? :P

I let my kids watch tv, although I limit the amount of time. But, my mother in law is always sending me books like The Child and the Machine and The Plug In Drug. I should probably read them, but I can't bring myself to care what the "experts" say. I know my kids pretty darn well, and I feel like an expert in my own right, thankyouverymuch.

Sloanasaurus said...

Well said Althouse. I think the general rule should be common sense moderation for everything (including those things they say are good for us).

Balfegor said...

These days, they subject kids to things that purport to be scientifically designed to structure their minds properly. That's the "a huge national experiment on the next generation." When are we going to see a class action blaming these things for causing autism or some such disorder?

Speaking of forbidden experiments, I wonder whether a young child still in the first-language acquisition phase could acquire bilingual competence from television sources. My gut instinct tells me that it wouldn't work right, since you need responsive feedback and concrete referents and suchlike, but on the other hand, I recall hearing of cultures in which infants' cries and babbles are simply ignored until they're able to form proper sentences, so perhaps not.

Ron said...

Why tolerate randomness when we know, in our heart of hearts, that children must be programmed to be a certain way by certain ages, because if they don't get into an Ivy League school, it'll be because of a foolish faith in "randomness!"

Ron said...

Why is that Indian head on the test pattern? Is that the Indian who couldn't get work on coins? Did he later find work in Illinois only to now be unemployed again? Or was he there to guilt us about the end of that days trail of tears? Damn subversives!

Michael said...

That video was rough. I especially like the part where the lady is talking about the video teaching the baby to "hold her attention" - voiced-over a video of the baby following mommy until she sees the TV, at which point she wanders over to about six inches in front of the TV, staring.

Bruce Hayden said...

I do remember the Indian (back before they were Native Americans) head on some of those test patterns, and even back then, in the 50s, wondered about it.

Things were so different then. TV broadcasting would actually go off the air every night, and then the next morning would start with the national anthem, followed often by something religious.

Ruth Anne Adams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CB said...

I love the subheadline: "TV, Video Programming for the Under-2 Market Grows Despite Lack of Clear Educational Benefit"

Oh Noes! Heaven forbid children do things with no Clear Educational Benefit. Every weekend I see dozens of children sledding in the park across the street, even though experts have found no Clear Educational Benefit to it. Shame.

I agree with joated that single-parent homes are a much bigger problem. My parents were divorced and it caused problems for me. In fact, it screwed me up so much that I'm going to be a divorce lawyer, of all things!

John Burgess said...

Playing on (or is that 'preying on'?) the guilt of over-extended parents is a proven profit-maker. So?

I guess I'm in the same age cohort as our esteemed host. I, too, grew up with TV in the 50s. We were, probably, the 'second on our block' to have a TV, having bought the 'first on the block' machine from the owner who was upgrading to a monster 9" screen.

I recall watching things like the Kefauver Hearings, the Army v. McCarthy Hearings, atomic bomb tests, reports on the Korean War. I went age-appropriately batshit when Disney and Superman made their TV debuts. I'd lie on the living room floor, reading, while waiting for the 'broadcast day' to begin. That test pattern, and a couple of others, are strongly engrained in my brain. Along with the National Anthem that started and ended broadcasting. Somehow I survived. And I still read five or six books a week.

My son learned to read at age 3--with lots of help from his mother--aided by videotapes of Sesame St. (we lived abroad, in a non-English-speaking country at the time). He watched taped films in Engilsh as well as local kids programs in Arabic. But he also read like a little demon. He's graduating from an Ivy this Spring, so I guess he survived his portion of TV. Interestingly, he almost never watches it these days.

He's given up on the music channels as being totally lame. The entertainment series (with a couple of exceptions) are too boring. The new? Not a chance.

Scare tactics are nothing new. They're the meat and potatoes of the morning news shows. If it's not about how your kids are being damaged by something or other, it's how you, your marriage, your relationships are being damaged by something you either did or didn't do; something you did or didn't eat; compassion you felt or didn't feel.

We all manage to survive this, to greater or lesser extents.

But anyway, how about the important stuff? Is Antonella Barba, newly discovered porn star, going to get kicked off American Idol or only voted off?

peter hoh said...

Althouse wrote: "I'm mainly concerned about the loss of randomness."

This made me think about looking up a word in the dictionary and getting distracted by other words, goofy illustrations, etc.

Channel surfing does not offer that same pleasure.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Annie said...

You haven't read the study that suggested early TV watching could possibly trigger autism, since there's a pretty exact correlation in time and space between the spread of cable TV and the rise in autism rates?

Even if you scoff at this, if you were the mother of a young child now, would you take the chance?

- amba

HaloJonesFan said...

"Well, the brilliance of the video is that they've built in that deniability. That's why they are able to savage her."

Michael Moore's favorite tactic. "Oh, I'm just presenting facts. You can't claim that I'm pushing a particular ideological viewpoint through selective editing and strategic conflation--I'm just presenting facts."

Joe said...

Autism and television; if we focus on television as "cause", a far more likely explanation is that daytime talk show hosts picked autism as their favorite disease starting in the 1980s when the diagnostic rates appeared to soar (which actually pretty much demolishes the "exact correlation" crap people have been quoting.)

Of course, it's all balderdash. Autism rates have increases solely because it's definition was greatly expanded in the 80s and 90s. (Even more curious is just how imprecise the statistics on autism actually are. For example, the 1 in 166 figure thrown around was just made up.)

hdhouse said...

Autism is nearly pandemic so it needs to be sorted out and it is NOT just a definition thing. That is silly and on face an argument without a point.

There is nothing wrong with television except for the taste of the viewer. Kids don't have to watch American Idol or Faux nor Nickelodeon for that matter....and...gasp...there are actually some channels that instruct and entertain. imagine that.

The schlock science of switching patters and pulsating grids notwithstanding, if you were a kid would you like a visually rich environment or not.

Joe said...

Autism is nearly pandemic so it needs to be sorted out and it is NOT just a definition thing. That is silly and on face an argument without a point.

Are you serious? Do you have two brain cells to rub together?

It is indisuputable that the definition for autism has greatly and massively expanded since the 1980s. To argue that this is silly is to display utter ignorance in the politics of disease. And that's what this "pandemic" is all about--political power.

One truly bizarre, but telling, aspect of all this is the fight between the various large autism foundations and the large Asperger Syndrome groups over whether the latter should be classified as Autism.

Like ADD and other "diseases of the week", as you expand the definition to include marginal cases, at first, then just about anyone, you do gain recognition, funding and political power, but you also end up with less treatment going to those most afflicted. (This has also happened with asbestos victims.)

Joe said...

From Dr. Paul Offit, chief of infectious diseases at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia: "People that we once called quirky or geeky or nerdy are now called autistic, because when you give that label of say, autistic spectrum disorder, you allow that child then to qualify for services which otherwise they wouldn't be qualified to get."

From March of Dimes researchers: "improvements in detection and changes in diagnosis account for the observed increase in autism."

[Evidence for this is that t]heir data on autism rates in California showed that the increase in autism diagnoses almost exactly matched a decline in cases of retardation: autism prevalence increased by 9.1 cases per 10,000 children, while mental retardation dropped by 9.3 per 10,000. (quoted from the following article: http://abcnews.go.com/2020/Health/story?id=2892683&page=1)

dimitri christakis said...

An interesting debate. For an excellent scientific reference on the effects of TV on kids, see the book The elephant in the living room: Make TV work for your kids.

Excerpt and reviews at www.maketvwork.com

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