Australia: no TV for under-twos

Children under two should watch no TV and be kept away from computers or electronic games, say Australian government guidelines.

The guidelines warn that exposure to television at such an early age can delay language development, affect the ability of a child to concentrate and lead to obesity.

The recommendations also suggest that children aged two to five should watch no more than one hour of television a day.

The advice to parents — and proposed rules for child-care centers — call for no “screen time” for fear it will crowd out active play.

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Comments

  1. Brilliant.

  2. Anyone who tries to come between my daughter and Elmo values their life very cheaply.

  3. I do agree with the rules for daycare centers. The daycare isn’t getting paid to park babies & toddlers in front of the television. And they should have adequate staff to avoid use of it as an “electronic babysitter” the way a parent may need to do from time to time.

  4. I have to disagree. PARENTS are the ones picking out the centers. If they want one with the TV on all the time, why should the government be interfering? For that matter, why should they dictate whether one provider cares for 47 infants or three? It should be between the parent and the business. So long as the business is upfront about it, it’s none of my business what parents do with their children.

    Now, when WE are paying for something with our taxes, that is a different matter entirely.

  5. Don Bemont says:

    It is interesting that, although the government in question is not our own, comments immediately attach to the issue of the “proper role of government.”

    When historians look at the decline of past civilizations, an important question they ask is “Why were they unable to address their problems?” I predict that future historians will note that in the case of our culture, we managed to so twist the meaning of freedom that we became incapable of allowing government to address any of our collective needs in a meaningful way.

    As to the advice regarding television, well, as a media teacher that’s my field, and it certainly sounds like good advice. If you love your country, you have every reason to hope that as many young children as possible are spending as little time as possible sitting in front of the tube. From Neil Postman’s fine series of books (Amusing Ourselves to Death, the best, is cited by one of the commenters in the article Joanne has linked) to recent brain research all set off alarms as to the impact of heavy TV viewing.

    There is no doubt in my mind that screen media has had more to do with the long term decline in education than any of the more commonly debated educational issues.

    However, there are a couple things to keep in mind:

    The nature of television itself has changed rather dramatically during the past few years. The era of a very few networks holding 99% of the audience share has definitely ended, and this has radically changed market conditions. It’s much too early to guess where this will lead, but one should not assume the impact will continue to be the same. (Foreign produced television shows were produced under very different market conditions, and it was always clear that the impact of those shows was quite different in their home countries.)

    As television becomes further integrated with computers, cell phones, and who knows what else, its impact may change even more radically. It is ironic, but the public may finally wake up to the insidious nature of television viewing on the brain, just as television viewing morphs into something with a rather different set of costs and benefits.

  6. Must be something wrong with those people who aren’t members of the public by dint of their splendid ability to perceive the insidious nature of television then because you guys have been at the job of tediously decrying the corrosive effects of television from, it would have to be, about fifteen minutes after the first commercial television program aired.

    Think maybe after this many decades you would’ve gotten your message across?

    Looks like not but I’m sure that’s probably due to an insufficiently refined public rather then to the television-demonizing intelligentsia to which the public should aspire to belong. If they were smart enough.

  7. Mrs.C writes:

    “PARENTS are the ones picking out the centers. If they want one with the TV on all the time, why should the government be interfering?”

    Because it hurts children.

  8. Don Bemont says:

    A little bit defensive there, Allen?

    Intelligentsia? I don’t know. Seems to me a whole lot of ordinary people are mighty cautious about the extent and content of the TV their kids watch. As a matter of fact, when I first started the high school media course I have been teaching since the mid 90s, most of the resistance was from parents concerned that it would lead to more tv viewing. And I live in a rather poor rural area, no some enclave of the “intelligentsia.”

    Tedious? I guess that’s all in one’s perspective, but as our educational results continue to disappoint, it would seem odd to clam up about one of the main causal factors. Any chance you prefer to talk about factors that reflect in no way on you and ask no changes of you?

  9. Richard Nieporent says:

    Robert I like your (unintended) humor. Do it for the children!™

  10. Don Bemont: When historians look at the decline of past civilizations, an important question they ask is “Why were they unable to address their problems?” I predict that future historians will note that in the case of our culture, we managed to so twist the meaning of freedom that we became incapable of allowing government to address any of our collective needs in a meaningful way.

    Given that government spending as a percentage of GDP has risen substantially since the start of the 20th century in every OECD country that I can think of, I am puzzled as to how you predict that future historians will come to such a belief. Are you predicting:
    a) A holocaust that wipes out all information about government from our times? or
    b) A long-term decline in the intelligence of historians? or
    c) Some other reason I can’t think of yet.

    If you love your country, you have every reason to hope that as many young children as possible are spending as little time as possible sitting in front of the tube.

    This does not follow. If young children spend a bit of time sitting in front of the tube so their parents can get a moment’s peace, that strikes me as entirely reasonable. Nor does your, or the government’s, claim that “heavy TV viewing” causes problems justify a desire to have children spending as little time as possible sitting in front of a TV. Anything is bad in excessively large quantities (if you drink too much water your electrolyte balance between your cells and blood gets out of balance and this can kill you). One can steer a line between starving-children and obesity, between couch-potato and over-use-injuries, why not between no-TV and heavy-TV-viewing?

    There is no doubt in my mind that screen media has had more to do with the long term decline in education than any of the more commonly debated educational issues.

    Firstly, has there been a long-term decline in education?
    Secondly, assuming that there has been a long-term decline in education, is there any evidence that could create doubt in your mind?

  11. Defensive? You wish.

    No, I’m pointing out the insufficiently-nuanced obvious that the vast wasteland of television has been a staple item of criticism among the extended pinkie-finger set for a couple of decades without much in the way of impact. Oh sure, there’s PBS but PBS is a tacit admission of the failure of those whose sensibilities are offended by popular television to find a means to elevate “the masses”.

    Kinda makes you wonder how smart those critics really are.

    Smart enough to see the vast wast land of television but not smart enough to get their message across.

    But since you’ve chosen to bend the discussion in the direction of the shortcomings of our educational system let’s be comprehensive and include the good with the bad.

    Turns out there are schools that quite successfully stem the tide of popular culture to do an excellent job of teaching kids despite the “main causal factor” of television as well as several other “main causal factors”. No small irony, the blog owner wrote a book on one of those schools and there are plenty more such schools for those with an inclination to go looking for them. What there isn’t is much in the way of interest in those exceptional schools from the people who are in charge of the educational system that continues to disappoint.

  12. Tracy writes:

    “If young children spend a bit of time sitting in front of the tube so their parents can get a moment’s peace, that strikes me as entirely reasonable.”

    It strikes me as child abuse.

  13. Robert Wright, is there any evidence that could convince you that a young child sitting in fromt of a TV for a short period of time in a day is not child abuse?

  14. Don Bemont says:

    Tracey W, I’m going to take your rather oddly worded questions at face value, despite your similar response to Robert Wright.

    Yes, there has been a long term decline in education. To take as a sample one particular goal of education, literacy, one can see the falloff in literacy a) by comparing the kinds of materials average people read, decade by decade, for the past 150 years, b)by comparing records of citizen literacy era by era c) by tracking standardized test scores, and d) by noticing the falloff in the texts that my own students have been able to handle since I started teaching in the 1970s. The math teachers I know can make similar cases.

    “Is there any evidence that would create doubt in my mind (that screen media is causal)?” I have to assume that you really mean to ask whether I would consider counter evidence if it were presented, and, of course I would. My interest is in reversing an educational trend, not in holding onto a particular theory.

    That said, though, Neil Postman built a very good case, and my lifetime of observations strongly fit his findings. What evidence are you offering?

  15. Har! I guess the search for explanations shouldn’t continue when faced with thinned lips and disapproving glares.

    Sure understanding’s important but one must draw the line at falsehoods that are defined by the discomfort they cause.

  16. Don Bemont, what evidence would you find convincing?

    And can you provide some links to that data supporting educational decline?

    I am glad that you are taking my question at face value, my question to Robert Wright was also meant to be taken at face value. When I encounter someone making such bold claims as “having no doubt”, I have learnt to first check if this is a view based on reality or on faith, and the same as when someone like Robert makes a claim with such utter certainity.

  17. Tracy, I expressed a strong opinion formed from personal experience.

    Though others might, I don’t have supporting data.

  18. George Larson says:

    Does anyone remember when educators claimed television was going to save the schools? I do and I was just a kid. I saw boring TV lectures in grade school.

    I read before television became widespread, comic books were blamed as the cause for juvenile delinquency. There was a congressional investigation. Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin made a movie mocking the issue. I recall seeing the movie.

    It is strange that no one tries to blame autism and asthma on TV. They both seem correlated to me.

    I recall a cartoon from the New Yorker: “When you think of television’s awesome power to educate, aren’t you glad it doesn’t?”

    Too much of anything is bad. Where should the line be drawn? Who should draw the line? What will be the consequences to those who do not comply?

  19. TVs used to be restricted to living rooms/family rooms and motel rooms. Now most (far too many) houses have one in every room, including each of the child bedrooms. They have also moved far beyond daycare; into airports, business and professional waiting rooms,dentist treatment rooms, malls, stores, banks and even some gas station pumps. I hate the trend, but it is impossible to ignore. I would not accept it in my kids’ babysitters or schools.

    I wish the people who argue that it has no (harmful) effect would stop to think that companies pay high prices to advertise on TV; they would hardly do so if they thought such ads had no effect.

  20. Robert Wright, it’s one thing to express a strong opinion drawn from personal experience, I have plenty of those of my own.
    It’s another thing though to not be able to answer the question of what evidence would change your mind away from that strong opinion. If no evidence could change your mind, there’s no point in us discussing it anymore as you’re presumably basing your analysis of TV on something other than evidence.

    Momof4 – you are assuming here that advertising is all bad. But much of it isn’t. Advertisers create things with the intent of appealing to our tastes and interests. I like knowing what new TV shows, books, theatre plays, films, etc, are coming out that I know about, yes, there are reviewers but they can have tastes quite different to mine (not many book reviewers in the papers appreciate Terry Pratchett). I am also interested in cheap air fares. And knowing the names of a number of different insurers is a good area to start looking when I go to get quotes next. Of course much advertising is of no use to me (though I quite like flicking through the Innovations catalogue, somehow the thought of all those items I have no desire to acquire is quite comforting). Getting information into other people’s heads can be a valuable service for both parties to the transaction.

    This is not to say that all advertising is valuable to the consumer, but I don’t think your implication that all advertising is harmful is right.

    And then there is the value that TV provides. Would you ban your kids from reading newspapers or magazines because they contain ads? While anything is bad in overly-large quantities, TV does have some excellent quality shows on it, both fictional and non-fictional.

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