I am amused by the well-meaning American Academy of Pediatric's declaration yesterday that TV should be limited for 2-year olds and more amused by the media's predictable reaction that this is somehow "news."
The AAP has been saying this for years, and if yesterday's announcement was newsworthy on any count, it was the fact that the AAP has actually back-pedaled from a more radical approach established some years ago -- that TV should be eradicated altogether for the youngest among us. Why has the AAP backtracked, and how little is too little? (One hour a week dangerous? Three hours a week? Any way to codify this?) Because the TV industry has pressured the AAP to soften its stance. That's why.
The hard cold fact -- long established by such luminairies in pediatric media research, like Dorothy and Jerome Singer of Yale -- is that TV is not good for babies. How could it possibly be? It hypnotizes the little blighters; what's good about that? In fact, young children and babies watch TV because their parents have put them in front of the TV -- so they can go to the bathroom, make dinner, check the scores on the computer, or simply get a moment of blessed peace.
Of course, those moments of peace turn into hours, hours into days, and before long, both baby and parent are hooked.
The TV industry, you should know, was born after World War II in large part because of children. The very first shows, primetime ones for that matter, on the old Dumont Network, an early proto-network, were in fact children's shows that aired in the early evening or night so that mom could make dinner. That was even a core marketing strategy for Dumont. (Dumont was, in fact, the earliest version of the Fox network, which 40 years later established itself by going after teens.)
TV set sales in the late '40s soared when it became clear that children -- and yes, babies -- were utterly enthralled by the thing in the living room.
And now the AAP comes along to tell us -- again -- that TV is bad for tots.
Sorry AAP, but that cow has left the barn, and so have the kids. For better or worse, and certainly for the worse, babies will continue to be plopped in front of the tube.