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Is Watching TV Really More Harmful Than Beneficial For Your Baby?

With more and more videos for babies being produced and the sudden influx of new TV channels aimed at preschoolers, parents are once again asking "should I really let my child watch television?"

My baby Samson started watching TV at 6 months old with incredibly long attention span (an awesome hour!). I bet many of you would have screamed at me "YOU TERRIBLE MOTHER"!  I can’t help it.  He is an active baby and when I played the babysongs, that’s the only time I can get some quiet moment for myself while he enjoys. 

Is watching TV really more harmful than beneficial for your baby?

There are two school of thoughts.

One says that babies under two years of age should not be allowed to watch any TV; the other says that limited amounts of high-quality educational TV accompanied by adult interaction are fine – and may even be beneficial. When DVDs are used correctly, the repetition and familiarity they provide can actually aid learning.

Doctors say that parents can better spend the time their baby is awake by engaging in interactive activities that TV can’t provide. Physical and social interaction allows babies to pick up subtle cues that help brain development more than any television show can.

However, no TV at all is better than unsupervised watching. No TV at all is also better than any watching of entertainment-based programs – and that includes shows such as cartoons, which may be designed for kids, but are really not suitable for babies.

Consistent exposure to two or more hours of TV per day, was correlated with a greater incidence of sleep and behavioral problems, as well as less developed social skills.

Many parents and teachers find, however, that high-quality educational TV programs complement interactions with their babies can facilitate learning. I find that true too. To start off with, you might like to keep it to 15 minutes at a time – your baby will probably find it hard to pay attention for any longer. You can increase the duration later, when your baby starts to recognize and understand the program – and especially, when interactions become a two-way affair.

My Samson started mimicing the dance step he watched on TV at 7 months. I was amused and yet worried. When he turned 14 months his daily routine includes at least one favourite TV program (Barney, Little Robots or Babysongs), that prepares him for a peaceful restful night. Now he watches an average of 2 TV programs daily, sometimes more, at his own request. But I make sure that he is not left sitting in front of the TV alone.

He also demands for me to switch on my computer for him to learn Japanese. He holds the computer mouse proficiently and will tab on the keyboards. Thanks to a net addict mummy!

When I put Samson before the TV, I make sure he is at a safe distance but as for computer, the distance is much nearer. I worried about compromising his eye sight but is kind of encouraged by the amount of educational resources (free and paid) available on the net.

If you already watched the video above, you will know why I am impulsed to subscribing to Brillkids. Baby Felicia is so adorable and amazing! She was trained using the Brillkids program. Go to FREE DOWNLOAD page for Brillkids teaching tool. 

Brillkids little reader is developed based on the same teaching principals of Shicida and Glenn Domain.  If you have no time to do manual flashcards, then  Brillkids little reader is the best alternative.

I find that picture books

I find that picture books and drawing are good substitute to weatching TV programmes… that’s what we provided for the children. The children do not ask to watch but loves reading and drawing now! We watch on average 2 hours TV per week!

All looks great

Great recommendation.  But my boy don’t like train stuff.  Perhaps I need to buy him a VCD on train to entice his interest first.  He takes out the train for 1 minute then will put them all back in the box.

He can’t do the zoob stuff yet.  Although he has a couple of similar toys.  I will fix and he happily take them apart.

Plan toys are great.  He likes pushing toys but not the pull type unless someone challenge him to it.  He has a toy excavator, hardly touch.

Samson have lots of books too.  My little lamb, my little fishy all got torn up.  Pop ups books are got torn up. All favourite books get torn up. So I stopped buying pop up books.  If I buy flip flap books, I make sure I scotch tape them firmly before handing to him, if not, all flaps will be gone.

He loves opening boxes, containers, helping around the house.  He loves the nature, always picking up wigs when we are out of house. But daddy hate him doing that. Each time I bring him downstairs he will stand outside the school locked gate (just next to my block), looking hopefully inside.

He already have a mind of his own. Always making request.  And when he said please, stretching out his hand with the VCD that he selected, my heart melts. I need more creative ideas, HELP!


To learn more about me, go to Baby Samson or SAHMs

FTWM woes

I’m also a FTWM.

Because I cannot be with them in the daytime (which they had to be in the full-day childcare), I compensate 2 hours everyday just to bathe and eat and read and do work with them. And I need to balance my remaining time left to be with my husband for couple dates/alone time/bed-talk time etc.


That’s why we no longer have time left for TV.


Hi Lifestylelink,

Personally my boys don’t have many toys to play with. The toys that we buy are ONLY for pure fun time together. We own badminton, baseball sets, dominos, board games, building blocks etc.

Instead, we buy loads of fun books for them. There are Kumon books, sticker books, art/craft books, whiteboard books (which allows children to write on them x times), mazes, EQ/IQ books around and these are really nice and colourful to have. You can hunt them down in the bigger popular bookstores and the chinese section should have those nice books there. We will get stuck in the bookstore for about 2 hours everytime we go there and spend hundreds on books. My last Melaka trip, we loaded ourselves with 1 basket full of books for the family and we spent RM300 there, after discount somemore.

But like what Tamarind emphasized, whatever toys you buy, the child actually needs you to spend time with them.

Great Toys

The Lego Duplo toys are for 2 – 5 years old, but the blocks are big and perfectly safe even for babies. We have tons of these blocks, including complete sets like the farm house and castles. The Lego blocks are excellent for developing fine motor skills, as well as creativity. I bought the first set for my girl when she was 12 months old, and she still likes to play with that set now that she is 6 years old. My kids build new designs every day. We have enough blocks for them to build anything they want.
Check here for the Lego Duplo toys.

We also have the GeoTrax Transportation system.

It is quite challenging for a child to learn how to design and build train tracks. Both my kids enjoy playing with this set.

I also have Plan Toys for them :
Their preschool toys are excellent for developing fine motor skills.

Another great toy is ZOOB :

I think ZOOB is even better than Lego, but kids will need to have good motor skills in order to play with ZOOB, probably 4 years old or older.

Note that with any toys, adults may need to spend some time to play with the child first. The child may not show interest at first, but he or she will slowly learn to love the toys.

Besides toys, my kids also have lots of books which they can “play” with, like pop up and lift the flap books :

thanks for all the tips

Thanks for sharing.  It was really invaluable.  Anyone out there has any suggestion for 18 months toddler who behaves like a 3 year old?  I have run out of ideas on toys for him.  I got him three board puzzle, those remove and replace with a knob to hold on. He only likes the safari animal ones.  The other two, he hardly touches (one on farm animal and the other on handy mandy tools). 

Any great suggestions out there? I am sure if he has challenging toys, he will shift his focus from the TV. However, I am out of ideas, for most things he takes only 10 minutes to learn. so he gets bored really fast then glued to the TV.


To learn more about me, go to Baby Samson or SAHMs

Just to add

There is also a TV in our living room, where our kids play. But so long as we don’t turn it on, the kids don’t know how to ask for it when they were babies.

I fully understand that it is very tough for FTWM to take care of kids after work. But investing on good educational toys which help to develop the kids’ fine motor skills, are definitely much more beneficial for kids. My kids needed adults to play with them before the age of 3. But as mommies, we must give them the attention that they need. Even without expensive toys, giving kids empty boxes, pieces of papers etc, are better than letting them watch TV.

Most mommies believe that they need to spend many hours to teach their kids. This is not true. I only taught my kids for about 15 to 20 mins a day, and that is sufficient for them to read very well before the age of 5.

FTWMs do not need to depend on TV

I am also an FTWM. I also don’t have much time to spend with my kids. But it is possible for FTWM to raise kids without the need to depend on TV.

Before the age of 3, most kids do not benefit from watching TV. I never turn on the TV for my kids to watch any kids’ programs before my kids were 3 years old. My hubby and I watch TV in our room after the kids are asleep.

From birth to the age of 3, I believe that it is much more important to develop fine motor skills. My kids play with their toys whenever they are awake, and I try to read books to them when I returned home from work.

After the age of 3, I bought the 5 Leapfrog DVDs and Richard Scarry’s Best Counting Video for them. These 6 DVDs are all that they need. They watch for about 30 minutes a day, and they learned all the phonics letter sounds and how to count up to 20.

I believe that most kids can learn something from TV, only after the age of 3. Even then the amount of TV should be strictly limited, as well as the variety of programs. There is no need to buy as many programs as possible, just stick to a few good programs will do.

Before the age of 3, kids do not need to watch TV at all. In fact, my kids find reading books much more interesting than any TV programs. As an FTWM, I am able to teach them to read amazingly well, mainly by teaching them phonics and using the Ladybird key word series. Check out my methods here :

TV vs. PC

Apologies, this article was not completed yet.  To me, TV and PC are similar.  If we say that kids should not be exposed to TV, then the same should be to PC.  Brillkids software (incorporating the sound effect on flashcards) does have some beneficial effect and the same is good TV educational program like Barney.  I am also not denying that it makes my boy hyperactive perhaps due to over simulation.  However, these days, how to keep them away from TV unless he has a separate playroom.  Moreover, my boy’s playground is right before the TV.

I wish I can do manual flashcard too, he loves it but I am a FTWM. I need tools to fully utilise the little time I have with him.


To learn more about me, go to Baby Samson or SAHMs

Thanks for sharing..

I’ve always been a hands-on parent.

And i do find children display better

and faster developments with more

hands-on approach to learning

regardless of the subject.


Agreed that Brillkids is a

Agreed that Brillkids is a good flashcard software (worked hard in the forum to get that software too) but don’t agree that watching TV is beneficial for young children (especially those cartoons from Okto by mediacorp).

After the boys are exposed to Brillkids and manual flashcards, they prefer the latter. Because the manual flashcards are all self-drawn, I get full control on the exposure and values that I want to expose my boys to. With Brillkids, some customization is there, but no personal touch. I still prefer to draw my flashcards.

Should have seen how my boys’ eyes get glued to the TV during our ‘TV days’. Read some article before that watching TV actually degrades brain activity and it numbs their brain system. So, my TV went with the garang guni man – almost a year now.

Now TV becomes a treat to them when we visit places with TVs (except for when they attend childcare and TV is played for 1-2 hours with ‘educational’ programmes like Barney, Hi-5 and programmes that I rather they not watch, but I had no say over the centre’s choice). When in my tenant’s room (she has a TV in her room), DS1 chooses national geographic and channelnewsasia over cartoons/drama series. DS2 prefers to explore her keyboard than to watch TV.

On other days at home, they just do reading and the homework given and approved VCDs watched together as a family on my mega PC screen. I still think no TV is better for them.

Direct light is harmful for

Direct light is harmful for infants’ brain circuit development + eyesight – this is what I have researched.

Parents with infants should best to use indirect light in their bedroom to prevent their babies from staring at the ceiling light while lying down flat most of the time (an upright standing light maybe good).

The infant centres that I run all have concealed lighting in the room as the thought of babies staring at light (seems like a natural thing for them to stare at if lying down) makes me think of how I would feel if I would to stare at light the same way as they do…

Light from TV will have the same harmful effects on infants and young children…


Well, I think anything

Well, I think anything should be in moderate.

No TV for kids under 2

Whenever I see a kid in my centre who displays signs of ADHD, the kid’s parents will be asked the two basic questions:

1) Does he consume goodies / titbits / candies / soft drinks / packet juice / etc at home daily?  If yes, in what quantity?

2) Does he watch TV at home?  If yes, for how long per day?

Usually both the answers are positive from the parents and the first advice is to get rid of these two culprits that maybe the cause of the hyperactivity (if kid is severely active, then will refer the parents to bring the child to a doctor for assessment).

I am strongly against children under three watching any amount of TV, regardless of content. Preschoolers can watch probably about half an hour a day.  Though the debate of the harmful effects on TV watching by young children is always ongoing and we will not know the conclusive effect until probably another 30 to 50 years down the road, I firmly believe that the light from TV alters children’s brain in a harmful way and therefore not worth trying to experiment with it just because of those ‘advantages’ that TV programmes said to be able to benefit young children.

All childcare centres should not have any TV watching – that will be one of  the rules that I will set if I sit on the top position in MCYS dictating rules of ccs…

Quick scene shifts of video images become "normal," to a baby "when in fact, it’s decidedly not normal or natural." Christakis says. Exposing a baby’s developing brain to videos may overstimulate it, causing permanent changes in developing neural pathways.

French officials say that TV programs targeting infants and toddlers are dangerous. In a ruling France‘s broadcast authority said "television viewing hurts the development of children under three and poses a certain number of risks, encouraging passivity, slow language acquisition, over-excitedness and troubles with sleep and concentration."

ScienceDaily (Jan. 16, 2009) — A leading child expert is warning parents to limit the amount of television children watch before the age of two, after an extensive review published in the January issue of Acta Paediatrica showed that it can do more harm than good to their ongoing development.

"TV exposure in infants has been associated with increased risk of obesity, attention problems, and decreased sleep quality," researcher Michael Rich, MD, MPH, director of the Center on Media and Child Health, says in the news release. "Parents need to understand that infants and toddlers do not learn or benefit in any way from viewing TV at an early age."

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