At six months I turned the TV off. I had been watching a lot of TV in Anya’s early months. For the first four months she breast-fed a lot, as most of you know, and I chose to honour and respond to her cries for momma by offering my breast, my milk and the closeness and warmth of my body… and while I was prioritising my child’s needs and desires I needed to do what I could to take care of mine, too. I read a lot and then, sometimes, I would turn the TV on while breastfeeding, instead. Occasionally I would put the TV on during lunch, too.
When Anya was six months old (and coincidentally just about to eat her first solids as well as being much more able to move around) I read some research about the effect of TV and background noise in general on a child’s development. I actually heard it from a few different sources but as ever Sally Ward’s work stands out. Her opinion is that babies should be exposed to no TV at all for the first year and after that only for very limited amounts, on momma’s knee.
The reason for this hardline is centered on the child’s developing ability to listen and, in particular, the learned skill of distinguishing between foreground and background sounds. She says she has seen many kids arrive at school with extremely poor listening and attention skills which obviously impacts their ability to learn. Her research points to TV as the culprite.
Kids can also be over-stimulated by TV, as we all know and of course they can be exposed to visions and ideas that are not only way too advanced for them, but positively disturbing in some cases. So, the TV went off. I feel better for it. We enjoy lots of happy, wholesome silence, some sounds of nature and plenty of fun music. Much better…
What is funny is that Anya has somehow still figured out the remote controls the TV (which she REALLY wants me to turn on). She’ll grab it and point it at the TV. She doesn’t know how to operate it, of course, but she has got the general gist of its purpose. It seems kids are hardwired for matching form and function based on trial-and-error and watching adults do stuff. Aren’t they amazing?!