Today I got a firsthand glimpse of the pacifier wars. And I’m not talking about “binky vs. blankie-n-thumb”…
There’s an all out battle for parent’s mindshare as consumer advocates like Dr. Susan Linn, co-founder of CCFC, face off with the electronic baby media empire, that’s racking up well over a billion dollars in sales of Brainy Baby, Baby Einstein and Sesame Beginnings DVDs.
C’mon. You know the ones. The whimsically colorful infant videos that babies aren’t even supposed to be watching to begin with, since The American Academy of Pediatrics “does NOT recommend television for children under age 2.”
Are media-saturated parents thumbing their nose at the AAP guidelines? Or just blissfully unaware of them?
Dr. Linn, hosting the ‘Consuming Kids’ Marketing Summit in Boston today, said parents are NOT purposely dissing the docs…It’s just that only 6% of American parents are even AWARE of the guidelines, & 7% are under the impression babies should only watch ‘educational’ videos!
Where are parents getting these mixed messages? Isn’t it common sense that these chubby cheeked innocents shouldn’t need weaned from the tube before they’re even two?
Guess not…Kaiser Family Foundation reports a whopping 61% of babies ONE & younger are watching 1:20 hours of screen media a day.
What’s up with parents? Some are lured by the ‘smart baby’ appeal, others are impressed with pediatrician pull quotes or trusted brand logos on the packaging…some simply buy into the prospect of giving new parents an ounce of calm and a soothing shower. Sometimes the video’s just a quick pick from the baby registry.
As understanding as that may be, ‘under two’ is prime real estate on the frontal lobe landscape and tons of research studies hint at the harm and elude to dangerous brainwave data from early TV exposure.
And yet…If you’re a harried caregiver looking for an easy out, which ‘pediatric’ sound bite are you going to tune out?
The AAP‘s ‘NO TV UNDER TWO’? Or the very closely named American Pediatrics Society President, Edward McCabe who was quoted as saying, “Let’s help parents find the right context, to help them have TV for their kids that can help the kids learn and help the parents interact with their kids.”
Hmn. Add to that a mish-mash of trusted parent advocacy orgs like Zero to Three plopping their logo on a product like Sesame Beginnings and you’ve got a sealed deal of endorsement that confuses the heck outta parents who want the best for their kids.
It’s not hard to sell a zone out enabler for the over-stressed set who’d like to turn on the telly and absolve themselves of ‘duty’ for awhile.
When trusted orgs lend their credibility to a corporate venture without sufficient medical data and science, it smacks of a short-sighted sellout of the worst kind.
Going against pediatric guidelines represents “give-up-itis” in its most obvious form, watering down standards to perpetuate the cycle of media mania, and ensuring parents will cluelessly follow like lemmings off the cliff figuring it ‘all must be okay’ now that there’s any kind of recognized name as a ‘stamp of approval’ there.
Those having the power to lead and influence (MDs, are you listening?) should exercise impeccable responsibility and restraint with their message, beholden to the utmost standards of knowing right from wrong.
Seems they’ve already broken that rule by sending parents on a precision march to mediocrity, parading the pablum of ‘what’s easiest’ rather than what’s healthiest for these children.
It’s ‘easier’ to tear open a plastic wrapped microwavable piece of processed ‘food product’ and call it ‘lunch’ or snag a foil pouch of on-the-go eat’ems & slam it en route to preschool too. But then…oh, yeah, that’s right. Never mind. We’ve already culturally embedded that precedent. sigh.
Judging by my own peers, there’s excessive encouragement to plop kids in front of a screen as a babysitter already. We need the pediatric orgs to do their part by at least balancing the equation with logic and common sense to make it the exception rather than the rule.
Besides, the growing evidence that screen media for babies may be harmful is only beginning to surface.
As informal research begins to reveal the neurological & behavioral impact of multi-channel media upon the ‘net generation,’ why not err on the safe side?
Why not channel our energy into redirecting parents appropriately, instead of turning toddlers into ‘vidiots’ at the coo & drooling stage!? Besides, that’s where they’ll end up as kids & adults w/a steady diet of same…
We’re not only allowing the branding of babies’ brains, but encouraging media devotion early on. Toss in the launch of Babyfirst TV on DirecTV this past spring, and you’ve got a womb to tomb ideology and dependence that subverts the encouragement of creative play.
Mount Sinai pediatrician Dr. Danielle Laraque argues in this article that watching TV is just too passive. “We know that children learn best through personal interaction,” she says, “both their cognitive and social and emotional health.”
As Dr. Linn said today, “We’re removing the fundamental capacity to create and play; yet play is the foundation of learning and critical thinking. When we allow screen use to proliferate, we deprive babies of these skills early on, removing their opportunity to acquire meaning and understanding for living in context.”
She also mentioned a children’s hospital using TV screens mere inches from babies without regard for the damage and data not yet gleaned from the research pros, and cited case after case of less interactive play linked with more TV viewing.
Want more evidence?
Here’s an edit of her fact sheet:
1.) TV viewing for babies and toddlers can be habituating.
2.) Research suggests TV viewing for our youngest children is associated negatively with cognitive development, language development, and regular sleep patterns.
3.) The more time babies spend viewing TV the less time they spend interacting with parents or engaging in creative play.
6.) For children under 3, watching TV is linked to an increase in bullying behavior.
7.) A recent study suggests that TV viewing may be a factor in autism.
8.) There is no evidence that these, or any other video for babies, have any educational value.
Source: Dr. Susan Linn’s Fact Sheet “Baby Einstein? Baby Exploitation”
It’s disturbing to think that companies would blindly promote baby’s exposure to screen time, without conclusive info in hand of quantitative & qualitative damage or safety.
Downright chilling; like cold, hard, cash…and faaaaaaaaar from pacifying.