MD Mama

Will BabyFirstTV Actually Put Your Baby Last?


You're trying to make dinner. You need 20 minutes (okay, maybe 30-40 minutes) with Baby happy and away from the stove. Your partner is busy with that last bit of a work project that's due tomorrow. You think: Maybe Baby could watch TV. But what would he watch?

Why, BabyFirstTV, of course!

After all, BabyFirstTV is a channel meant just for babies (in fact, it's designed for babies as young as 6 months). I'm embarrassed to say I hadn't heard about it until I read a post about it from The Wall Street Journal. It has cartoons that are simple and short, and shows that can help babies learn things like counting and colors. How totally perfect. You get dinner done, and Baby gets happy and smarter.

Not so much.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids not watch any TV before the age of 2. It's not that TV is necessarily evil. It's just that the first couple of years of life are really crucial for brain development. Think about it: It's during those first two years that children learn language, learn how to walk, use their hands and the rest of their bodies, learn to explore the world--and about forming relationships. To do all these things well, you need interactions: interactions with the world around you and, most importantly, interactions with people around you.

TV gets in the way of that.

Now, if babies are mostly getting lots of interactions, a little bit of TV here and there isn't such a big deal. And the reality is that most babies do end up in front of the TV at least a little bit. They end up watching the shows their parents or older siblings watch. Which everyone knows aren't the best for Baby to watch, which hopefully creates some incentive for limiting that screen time.

But BabyFirstTV is created for babies. And that's exactly what worries me about it.

Back to the scenario. You've got dinner simmering on the stove. Your partner needs a bit more time to get work done and asks if dinner could be a tiny bit later. Come to think of it, you've got a few things to get done yourself that you were going to do after Baby went to bed, but since Baby is so happy watching the educational channel designed for babies, why not get those things done? That way you'll get to bed earlier. Everyone wins!

Not so much. Baby definitely doesn't win.

Again, I'm not saying that it's all evil. If Baby is only going to be there for a few minutes (I have five kids, I totally get how life works), I'd rather he watch BabyFirst TV than CNN or Game of Thrones. But I worry that it will be a slippery slope, that some parents will think that it's acceptable or even good to leave babies in front of the TV--and that the babies of those parents will miss out on the interactions that are so crucial for early brain development. You don't get that time back; what happens in those early years affects a child forever.

It's a rotten name. BabyFirst sounds like babies are the first priority--but if they really were the first priority, they wouldn't be spending much time in front of the TV. And BabyFirst sounds like it will make babies first in their class--when actually, it could make them last.

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