Tuesday, September 6, 2011

At What Age Should Kids be Allowed to Watch TV?

I presume I'm not the only parent who wonders when television should be introduced to children. Fortunately there is quite a bit of guidance available. My guess is what follows barely scratches the surface. But I've done quite a bit of thinking on this subject and hope others will benefit from my philosophy on the subject.

Before becoming a parent, I heard this story (via Slate's daily podcast, which I recommend as an excellent variety podcast) about a possible link between early TV watching and autism. This article is a must-read for parents, although I will not harp on the TV/autism connection here; the article merely served as a seed to get me thinking on the subject of TV viewing by young children. (I do not intend to debate autism on my blog.) The article has a broken link to recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics; here is the fixed link.

Even if the observed link between TV watching and autism is subsequently determined to not be causal (and the source study only concludes correlation, not causation), there are certainly other considerations which are at least as important. For one, no matter how hard parents try to justify the benefits of their particular TV programming, TV time is not learning/interaction time (for example, consider this about the actual effect being the opposite of the intended effect). You might as well call it like it is: Use of the TV with younger kids constitutes a break for the parent; an opportunity to do something else, like prepare a meal, fold clothes, or sweep and mop. But while they're watching, your kids may be entertained, but their development has been temporarily placed on hold. This should not be controversial: Kids grew up just fine without TV before TV existed, so TV cannot be considered a child development magic bullet.

My own parental experience with TV can be summarized as follows:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Cool $20 Model Helicopter that Really Flies!

When I was in college, I heard second-hand that there existed model helicopters that were just like a real helicopter in just about every way--cyclic, collective, tail rotor. Only two problems: They were a bitch to learn how to fly, and they were hundreds of dollars--heck, maybe more; definitely more than I could afford.

Recently I was browsing online for presents for my kids and found this. It's a small remote-controlled helicopter that works surprisingly well and is the best $20 toy I've ever bought for myself. (Recommended for ages 12 and up--so my boys get to watch me fly it since they're not old enough!) To keep the cost down, they've made a couple compromises that don't affect the fun factor: