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TV for Tots?

Experts talk about the pros and cons of letting very young children watch TV.

TV as a Learning Tool

But, "children are watching TV," stresses Edward McCabe, MD, physician-in-chief for the Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA, and president of the American Pediatrics Society. "It's the content that's important, not the medium, and I hope that the AAP will reconsider their position after they have had a chance to see BabyFirstTV," says McCabe. He is also a member of the AAP as well as the BabyFirstTV advisory board.

"As important as I think it is to read to children, I don't feel that all books are appropriate to read to a 12-month-old, and that's how I interpret TV for those under 2," adds McCabe.

A 24/7 channel available for purchase on DirecTV since May 2006, BabyFirstTV is designed specifically for children under the age of 3. Programs include parental subtitles to help parents interact with their kids while watching by providing questions to ask about the content.

"One of the things I like about BabyFirstTV is that it helps parents read to children," McCabe says.

'Active' TV Watching

Other BabyFirstTV programs teach sign language to infants. "Our research has shown that in three weeks, babies are learning how to sign," says Sharon Rechter, executive vice president of business development and marketing, and one of BabyFirstTV's founders. "We can see that babies are learning. I will not claim this will make your baby smarter, but we are providing high-quality programming that has been developed by leading experts," she says.

"We are turning a passive experience into an active experience that babies and parents can utilize together," she explains.

Other shows tackle the obesityobesity epidemic by targeting infants and their parents. "We will have a parent talk show with recipes, and on the children's side our goal is make vegetables and fruit cool for children under 3. We will use animated veggies and make them fun," she says.

But not even Rechter is encouraging carte blanche TV viewing for toddlers. She is quick to point out that while TV can be part of a healthy child's development, it's not the only ingredient. "Lettuce is very healthy, but you will die if you only eat lettuce," she says.

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