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'Sesame Beginnings': What do you think?

I caught a bit of NPR's Talk of the Nation last Monday, "'Sesame Beginnings' Target Baby TV Viewers."  The show featured the VP of education and research for Sesame Workshop.  She said that the Kaiser Family Foundation studied the effects on media on children ages zero to six (I very much dislike using the term "age zero", but whatever.  The study *pdf here.) and the study showed that babies ages "zero" to two were watching programming like Sesame Street, even though the American Academy of Pediatrics Media Guidelines recommend no screen time for children under 2.  Sesame Workshop, bright folks they are, said, "Well, wait a minute.  Sesame Street is made for preschoolers, not for infants.  Let's come up with something more age-appropriate for the babies!"  Sesame Beginnings was born.  On the show, the VP from Sesame Workshop kept emphasizing that the dvd was created for families, with babies younger than 24 months old.

Critics say that some studies show slow language and cognitive development when babies under 2 are exposed to media.  I'm aware of the AAP media guideline (no screen time for under 2 set), but I'll admit we've done it both ways.  One of our daughters watched a whole lot of stuff from age 6 months or so.  I'm not too worried about her congitive development, as she's under 6 and doing stuff like reading, multiplying, and crocheting.  Our other daughter watches very little of anything at she's 2-1/2.  Whatever.  "On Demand" Sesame Street is pretty spiffy when they're wound up and I need to get something on the stove.

All in all, I just feel a bit betrayed by Sesame Workshop.  I feel like Baby Einstein (now owned by Disney) can take care of all the baby-targeted video stuff.  One of our girls loved the first of the Baby Einsteins.  The animated Disney stuff, however, she didn't care for.  Sesame Workshop produces Sesame Street, for my preschooler.  Not baby-programming.  It just seems a little much, like they want to get a piece of the disney Baby Einstein market.

I'm curious to hear what you think.  Do you think you'll buy a Sesame Beginnings dvd?  Do you think you'll boycott?  Also, more conversation about Sesame Beginnings at Blogging Baby: Experts Slam new Sesame Street DVD for the under 2 set.

(Btw, Kirsten, was that you who called in?!  In support of programming for the younger set and sharing your experience of teaching your little one to sign through use of video?  Fun to hear an urbanMama on the air!)


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What an interesting discussion. I generally agree with the Blogging baby post : No TV for children under 2....HOWEVER, I grew up with Sesame Street, and I must say, I probably represent the perfect target market for Sesame Beginnings. I wouldn't ever even consider purchasing a Baby Einstein video, especially because of the Disney factor, but I would be much more tempted by a Sesame Street production for little ones.
We'll see. We're in the middle of trying to drop all TV in the house, except for Saturday morning PBS cartoons. We're on week 3 now, and our 4.5 year old has just finished his daily struggle with withdrawal. I hope I can be strong too!

I was sure that I wasn't going to let my baby watch any videos. Then she got sick, and I just didn't know know what to do to keep her happy. She's watched a few hours total and I feel, like with most things, that in moderation educational programming can be fine for the under 2 set. I do want to share that we discovered Classical Baby, a truly wonderful show on HBO, and available on DVD from Amazon. It pairs classical music with animation based on modern art, dance, etc. I actually feel good about letting Anna watch this on those occasions when she watches a DVD.

As for the Sesame Street DVD, I also grew up with SS so I'd be more likely to try it than just about anything else. The Baby Einstein stuff I've seen just seems inane to me!

I'm rather backward, I think, in how our son gets TV exposure. He has watched more Rachael Ray than anything, but even then, I don't know if you can call what he's doing "watching." It's usually the case that he's playing with legos or whatever, and the Food Network is on in the background. With few exceptions (the occasional shower or complicated recipe), we don't put him down in front of children's programming (nor do we have him exposed to violent programming). Having said that, I have begun to think that we are all watching too much TV, so I'm making a determined effort not to turn it on when we're together. I suppose my bottom line is I'm not likely to buy much of any DVDs for the kiddos, not yet, anyway. I reserve the right to change my tune when baby #2 gets here, but I think the Baby Einstein stuff inane, too.

I think the American Academy of Pediatrics Media Guidelines for screen times for children under 2 are specious, at best. I grew up on Sesame Street - if anything, I was bored with it by the time I was 4. (uh-oh, maybe I'm proving their point!).

But really, I've been watching Sesame Street the last 3-4 months with my girl, and I'm not sure how it could be a detriment to her cognitive development. Maybe neutral, but I don't see it being a harmful influence. She has learned to identify and pronounce characters, we extend this to the iMac, where we visit the Sesame Street website and interact with learning games and stories. This provides a sense of continuity (I hope) as she learns to understand and appreciate the various mediums - books, television, interactive.

Children today need to learn to adapt and decipher interfaces at a greater adoption rate than ourselves or our parents. Our accelerating society demands this. If we can provide constructive exposure I don't think anybody can authoritatively say X is bad and Y is good. That smacks me as anachronistic curmudgeon-ism.

The PDF you linked to though did have some very good stuff about trying to teach you kid about the more McLuhan-esque "dark side" of media. I agree wholeheartedly about this - I would get a Tivo or DVR and cut out commercials altogether. And never, ever, allow them to watch even 30 seconds of cable television news - that's enough to stunt their emotional and intellectualy growth for decades.

This has been on my mind lately. At first, I felt a bit disappointed. But thinking about it more I realized that with my older son, he had no interest in TV before age 2. I wanted him to be interested in watching videos or a show to give me a break so I could take a shower. However, no dice. With my second, he's 9 months old, and still very disinterested. From my experience, I don't think many infants are interested or have the patience to sit still long enough to watch a show. I can barely contain my infant in one place because he is always moving. I'm a big believer in that moderation is key, so a little TV won't hurt. I grew up on Sesame Street, learning how to speak English by watching public television. Now, how do I get my mother to stop watching Jerry Springer. She thinks that is a snapshot of the average American life...

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