American Academy of Pediatrics & Screen Time: Moms, You’re Ruining Your Kids’ Lives Again

The American Academy of Pediatrics is like the Catholic Church for over-educated mothers: guilt, guilt, and more guilt.

Because that’s what we need more of.

Thanks be to God that I’m not worried about having enough food for my kids, where quality childcare is coming from, or which utilities to pay. But with a master’s degree and a gig as a full-time mom, I am part of the five percent who pay close attention to what the American Academy of Pediatrics says.

On Tuesday the AAP released its updated guidelines for children’s screen time.

The bottom line: children under two should have no screen time (that includes parents having a television on in the background); also, no programming has educational value for the under-two set.

Really? Because K-Pants learned sign language from Signing Time at twelve months. He loved it. At first I thought the magic DVD just bought me time to do the dishes. A month or two later we were having a playdate with another mom who did sign language classes with her daughter.

  • “I think your son is hungry,” she said.
  • “Really?”, I asked.
  • “He’s making the sign for food.”
  • Ummm… I didn’t even know what the sign for food looked like. Guess I better watch that DVD with him.

K-Pant’s play date did not sign, even for her highly interactive (and expensive) classes with Mom.

Suddenly The Pants was an idiot-savant with sign language, knowing more than pretty much any baby we met (until I stopped getting the new DVDs).

I was hoping that the AAP’s recommendations for television-watching under two were fading into the background, or would at least be updated with some common sense. But now they’ve gone and released Vatican II.

The new recommendations are apparently based on 6 billion studies saying that you suck if you let your kids view anything or have TV on in the background. That means no college football on the weekend, Dad. And forget the World Series during dinner.

(Yes, I said it. We watch baseball during dinner. You know what else? We don’t always eat together. That’s right! Judge away.)

Now let me be fair. There are problems with kids watching television. Big problems–namely what and how much. More than ten hours a day of violent, action-packed television is bad. Very bad.

But I’m tired of logic that assumes that kids who have televisions in their rooms or watch hundreds of hours of TV are the same as all kids. I used to be a classroom teacher in urban schools. We described what was fair as giving kids what they need, not giving everybody the same thing.

If Mr. Pants watches an hour of Thomas the Train after a day of going to the zoo, playing with his trucks in the dirt, interacting with other kids at play group, then riding his toddler bike outside while we search for the moon, that is different from him watching Nickelodeon in his room all day long.

(The AAP does recognize that parents have to get stuff done, but they suggest having your child play with nesting cups nearby while you prepare dinner. You don’t think I’ve tried that?)

So I’m wondering where the studies are that examine the effects of screen time on children who watch only educational programming for one-to-two hours per day.

Are these kids turning into Tasmanian Devils by the time they’re two? (Wait, they become toddlers! Scratch that.) Are they being diagnosed with ADHD at higher rates? Are they being thrown out of their hemp-based Montessori schools for imitating Super Grover 2.0 and dive-bombing the other kids one too many times?

And let’s talk about parental sanity.

With two kids two-and-under in my house, my sanity is paramount. Between taking K-Pants on experiential learning trips, cooking my family organic and unprocessed meals, and nursing Baby Woww until he’s one, I need a frickin’ break.

Can you let me shower and put some make-up on? Can I have twenty minutes to check email or call a friend (lifelines to the outside world where other adults live)?

These things make it so that I can better avoid severe depression, screaming from utter frustration, and shaking the baby–all things the AAP would agree are not healthy.

So don’t give me lists of what my child could be doing instead of watching TV. I know what he could be doing. And I’m still having him watch Sesame Street.

Moms, if you plan on having no television on in your house ever, that’s awesome. And it rocks that you can follow the recommendations to a T. But if you are a mom who has pretty cool kids and needs an hour of educational television to help her out because the nesting cups just aren’t cutting it, or if you are feeling in-over-your-head and can’t make it through until bedtime, then I release you from the Catholic Church of mom guilt.

Go try another denomination. I mean, it’s the same God people. We’re all raising kids.

12 responses to “American Academy of Pediatrics & Screen Time: Moms, You’re Ruining Your Kids’ Lives Again

  1. A vicarious Hallelujah from me!

  2. Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but I was disappointed when my second showed no interest in TV. However, with appropriate exposure, he has now developed the ability to watch TV for an entire hour. And now I can get a nap when said child has kept me up half the night.

  3. Oooh, we registered for the Signing Times series! Glad to hear they work!

    (Yeah, that is what I got out of this post. We have cousins who used the TV as an electronic babysitter, to the point where their toilet-trained toddler would rather piss herself than leave her beloved Backyardigans, but there is something to be said for a quick Sesame Street break to get other things done…)

    • Yes, I think you will love Signing Time. 🙂 And I laugh because it’s precisely the people who use TV as an electronic babysitter who don’t pay attention to the AAP anyway. Granted I’ve know parents who work multiple jobs and have difficult financial stresses that make it emotionally and physically difficult to supervise independent and creative play at the end of the day, but others just don’t pay attention.

  4. Pingback: TV, Tots, and Tired Parents: The Backlash to the AAP’s TV Policy | Science of Mom

  5. I love this post and think you speak for many parents in your reaction to the AAP policy. I do have a different take on it, though. Hope you don’t mind that I linked to you in my recent post. And I’m amazed that you’ve kept up with the great writing in addition to a newborn and a toddler!

    • Thanks for stopping by the blog, and I love your blog’s concept and what you have to say. Like I said on Twitter, it’s great to be in dialogue with other smart moms. It doesn’t bother me if we disagree! 🙂

  6. I’m fairly certain that whoever suggested that kids play with nesting cups while you cook dinner doesn’t actually have children.
    If it weren’t for Dora the Explorer and Wonder Pets, I never would be able to take a shower!

  7. man… those damn pediatricians!
    elmo videos on the iphone have gotten us through all sorts of tough spots! the only reason we haven’t started our little guy watching Sesame Street is that I don’t want him to realize that he can see Elmo on the actual TV, because I’m afraid I’ll never get to watch anything I want again!

    Mom sanity is definitely paramount- a little TV is much better than a daily mommy meltdown!

  8. Preach on, sister. And if you’re looking for another great show, see if The Biscuit Brothers is available on your PBS station. It’s out of the PBS affiliate in Austin, TX — we LOVE it. Funny, clever and honestly great music education.

  9. I am so with you. I LOVE this post!!!

    I have two kids and you’d better believe we watch Dora, Olivia, and/or Angelina Ballerina on a daily basis. After a full day of fun, whether at school or with me, we all need to chill at the end of the day and just zone out.

    And nesting cups? *snort* Those just got hurled at me while my toddler giggled with glee. Real conducive to cooking, I tell you.

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