Ban TV for Children Under Three Years Old? Not In This House

Ban TV for children under three years old – every couple of years a new ‘study’ is released calling for banning of TV for young children. This one was released by Psychologist Dr Aric Sigman.

Mumsnet Bloggers’ Network asked, ‘Are parents being demonised?’ 


The problem with making such a statement is that it immediately puts parents on the defensive, and that it sadly does not reach the parents of the children who are watching TV because their parents cannot be bothered interacting with them. 

I am not being snobby, but lets be honest – the kids that are plonked in front of Cbeebies all day every day are unlikely to have BBC News or Guardian reading parents. To co-relate their developmental deficit only with the amount of TV they are watching, is surely false. Children who are neglected in favour of the flickering square babysitter, are not being talked to by their parents.

And the parents who do try to limit TV are left feeling guilty that they are damaging their children, when this new study presents no scientific evidence to back up the claims made by the author. Do read the Guardian article as well, if you haven’t already as it offers a much more balanced view of the issue than the BBC

Dorothy Bishop, professor of developmental neuropsychology at Oxford University commented on the study, saying that Sigman’s paper is not


“an impartial expert review of evidence for effects on health and child development. Aric Sigman does not appear to have any academic or clinical position, or to have done any original research on this topic,.  His comments about impact of screen time on brain development and empathy seem speculative in my opinion, and the arguments that he makes could equally well be used to conclude that children should not read books.”


I had a look at the website of Dr Aric Sigman and noticed that his other areas of concern are alcohol misuse in children, and that he is author of a book called, ‘The Spoilt Generation’, with the tagline ‘Why restoring authority will make our children and our society happier’. According to the blurb


In this book, Dr Sigman takes issues by the scruff of the neck, among them children’s sense of entitlement, the effects of TV and computers, single-parent homes and ‘blended’ families, parental guilt and the compensation culture. He offers a clear practical message to us all – parents, grandparents, teachers and policy-makers alike – as to how we can redress the status quo, redefine our roles and together cultivate happier and better-behaved children.


I haven’t read the book, so cannot comment on it, but it is not one that I would buy. I don’t need to put myself back into the driving seat of parenting. I am quite happy to allow my back seat drivers to chip in with some suggestions. Which does not mean that my kids are spoiled – neither materially nor in any sense that they are the ones steering the car. We are a family and I value their opinions, and take them seriously.

What on earth does ‘children’s sense of entitlement’ mean? Don’t all children have a sense of entitlement? They want things all the time, which is totally normal. With time, they learn that I Want Doesn’t Get – as my mother drummed into me throughout my childhood. It is part of growing up, not a sign of greedy and spoiled children.

My children are allowed screen time within reason, which is a couple of hours a day. Sometimes more. Sometimes less. It depends what else we have planned. Today, for instance, we are at home and they have watched TV this morning for about two hours. They switched the TV off and walked to the bakers around the corner to fetch bread for lunch, and are currently drawing, using the iPad and iPod for inspiration. This afternoon we shall go to an indoor play area and they will run around like loons for several hours. 

They probably use their iPods, or the family iPad more than they watch TV. My daughter uses it to keep up with her friends back in Switzerland, which I encourage as it keeps her French language skills ticking along. My son loves to watch the walk throughs of SuperMario on YouTube. He would spend hours doing this, if I allowed him.

They didn’t watch much TV before they were 18 months old – and at that time it was 15 minutes so that I could quickly shower and dress. By the time they were 2 – 2 1/2 they were watching Dora The Explorer and Caillou. As they grew older they moved on to other programmes, most of them in some way educational. Now they are 8 years and 10 years they enjoy watching wildlife documentaries, US teen shows, and The Great British Bake-Off. 

I agree with MN Guest Blogger Dr Amanda Gummer – giving our children the remote control gives them control and responsibility, which we should be encouraging.

I don’t want to raise obedient robots (although it would be great if they would actually do what I say the first time I say it!).  I want to raise confident and self-assertive children, who respect others while being able to stick up for themselves. 





  • LowdenClear

    Good Stuff – Well Said. I love Cbeebies for the moments of quiet listening (my youngest daughter is blind). I love that there are no adverts (this I have discovered makes an enormous difference to the ‘wantyness’ of my older children). I love the moment of slightly-less hands on parenting that allow for my sanity (and a cup of tea). In Britain we have the best kids telly in the world – it entertains, informs and educates just as the BBC set out to do all those years ago. Adult TV has fallen off a bit but the kids stuff is going strong.
    But for a lighter look at the downsides of Telly you could check out a blog post I wrote a while a go about the end of the Summer Holidays and the effect of TV on my Daft Sons.

  • Granny

    What would parents do without CBeebies when the children are up at 6am. It was a lifesaver. As the granny I could have a cup of tea and keep awake to watch them.

  • Kate Williams

    I heard about this earlier and imediatly started on the mummy guilt. My son (22 months) watches quite a bit early in the morning, but in my defense, that’s because he wakes up at 5.30am and actually I am not able to cope with educational play and learning that early. I need coffee and berocca. Obviously loads of TV isn’t ideal, but on the list of ways you can mess up your kids I harly imagine its the highest thing.

    • Lynn C Schreiber

      Gracious – who can blame you for needing Cbeebies at that hour?! I can reassure you that my kids both watched TV in the morning at that age – although not *quite* as early, and they are now lovely, well adjusted children.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *