© 1998 Jeanne D. Beckman This
article may not be reprinted without permission from the author. Please see
information at end of article for information about obtaining permission.
The latest fad for children's television watching
is Teletubbies®. This program specifically targets infants and toddlers
from one year of age. Yes, you read correctly--Teletubbies® is a TV
program designed for babies. Teletubbies® "dolls", Halloween
costumes, and other toys are heavily marketed for this very young age. What is
different about this particular program is that Public Broadcasting Station (PBS) is the
broadcaster, proudly proclaiming research was done to "
ensure the effectiveness
of 'Teletubbies' in teaching preschoolers skills that can contribute to school readiness
and success," according to PBS's Internet site.
The first question to ask is what young children should be learning? Should infants
and toddlers be learning skills for school readiness and success? Child development
experts believe that a young child's best preparation for school is to play, because by
playing children are actively learning how their world works. Psychologist
Leon Yarrow stated that the growth of significant interpersonal relationships is one of
the most important changes during the first year. Stanley Greenspan indicated that
babies need to be protected, loved, and to share in interaction with others in order to
meet his/her "emotional milestones". For young children, then, future
school readiness is best obtained through active communication with others as well as
physically playing in their world. Passively viewing others talk on TV is not
believed to prepare children for later school success.
What, if any, harm can there be in allowing very young children to watch programs that are
specifically geared for them? Speech and language expert Dr. Sally Ward found over
the past 20 years, increasing numbers of nine-month-old children are having trouble paying
attention to voices when there is also background noise. Increased amounts of TVs
playing in homes creates this background noise and parents talk to their children less
when the TV is playing. How will these babies be able to pay attention in class when
they go off to school?