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Into the Minds of Babes: How Screen Time Affects Children From Birth to Age Five

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  192 ratings  ·  68 reviews
As a mother, Lisa Guernsey wondered about the influence of television on her two young daughters. As a reporter, she resolved to find out. What she first encountered was tired advice, sensationalized research claims, and a rather draconian mandate from the American Academy of Pediatrics: no TV at all before the age of two. But like many parents, she wanted straight answers ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published September 11th 2007 by Basic Books (first published September 9th 2007)
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Jun 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: New parents
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends NO television for children under the age of two - a goal I am trying to meet. And I thought I was doing well at making sure my infant daughter isn't watching any television; every time I would catch her mesmerized by the television screen, I'd make sure to distract her. But, sure, the tv was on in the background. I'd play with her in one part of the living room while my husband watched a show; I'd have the television on while I nursed her.

Oh how the
Dec 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
So much good information in this book, and so much that every parent should know! Things that surprised me: children under the age of 4 don't understand "It's not real." I would have thought at least 3-year-olds would be able to grasp the concept. And, even if the child doesn't understand what they're watching, they can pick up on the "fear" you exhibit when watching a scary movie, which can cause them to be fearful of other situations.

But, there is good news as well. Some of the programs out t
Mar 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all parents
I loved this book. It was very informational while being easy to read. The author being a mom who struggles with the need to get a bit of time to herself and not wanting her kids in front of the tv all day was helpful. She shared her viewpoints and what she did throughout the book, and it really helped to lend an air of two moms talking, instead of being lectured to. It gave me a ton of really good information. While I still can't seem to keep the tv off as much as I'd like, I feel like I am bet ...more
Amber Magnolia Hill
Mar 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: parents!
Recommended to Amber Magnolia by: Anna
To sum it all up: I felt much better about showing my daughter videos after reading this book. (Thank you so much to Anna, my co-blogger at Nourished Mother, for recommending it to me!).

Here's something from the author's website:

"I'm a mother, journalist and researcher who is, shall we say, obsessed with how children learn and what environments help them reach their full potential.

For many years, I have focused on uncovering what science has to tell us about media and the developing mind. Much
May 13, 2008 rated it liked it
I thought that this would be all about the horrors of children watching TV, but it wasn't. Well there are a few horrors (TV as background noise.) It was a whole lot of research about what is good and what isn't. Turns out that some programs really are educational and can teach pro-social behavior. I thought the chapter about what is scary to kids was pretty interesting. I guess my kids are not the only ones who are scared of Toy Story and Winnie the Pooh.

Overall, however, I didn't find anything
Feb 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Overall this book has great advice for constructing TV limits and allowances for your young child. However, I was disappointed with the underlying bias of the author. She frequently uses her own experience as examples in behavior, thereby justifying why she allows her children to watch television. I'd like to counter her opinions with a chapter or two on how children benefit from limited to no TV in their lives.
Jan 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
While there was interesting information to be gleaned from this book, I felt like she spent too much of the book trying to rationalize how much TV she let her own children watch.
Apr 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
AKA, a modern parent's apologia. I wish Good Reads would change the middle star rating to be "meh" instead of "I liked it."

I enjoyed the discussion of the available research and the current deficits in the research. I think it provides a good basis for making informed decisions about media-consumption by small children.

I was not crazy about the author's personal reflections. For me, the personal detracts from the subject matter. In general, when discussing this particular topic, I tend to want t
Jan 24, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: parenting
Guernsey does a great job of really investigating what the research really says about kids and screen time at different ages. For example, I was under the misconception that "no screen time" for under 2s was mainly about not directly allowing kids to watch tv or videos, but it turns out that background television and radio can be just as bad.

Overall it's a smart, detailed and helpful book for parents... but it has a few big flaws, which is why I demote it to three stars.

First, the book seems dr
Apr 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Very accessible review of the current literature and arguments surrounding screen time and children. With such a dicey and emotionally-charged subject, it's nice to have this commonsensical compendium. Still, it is surprising how much we don't know about kids and scree time.
Aug 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Another one for the Controversies in Childcare class--turns out that...

-the Under 2 No TV rule is kind of arbitrary and doesn't seem to have any actual scientific basis
-babies are attracted to novelty, so tv, where things shift and change all the time, is going to be attention-getting
-Babies learn exponentially better from adults IRL than from TV or software--they can't make the abstract leaps from representation to reality like we can
-tots do parrot politeness from TV--please and thank you and
Jul 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting read. I'd like to see it updated with research about the use of phones and iPads.
Natasha North
Jan 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Guernsey takes an open-minded approach as she pours through research and interviews scientists and parents. This book is somewhat academic but accessible and I wish that many parents and caregivers encounter would dip into at least a chapter or two.

To sum up, Guernsey states that parents should focus on context, content, and the individual child. She is trying to assuage some of the guilt some parents may feel if they let small children watch some TV by showing how they can make “smart media ch
Jun 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
I LOVED this book. I am so grateful that I took the time to read it. I learned a TON and it will forever change the way that I view, feel, and use screentime in my home.

I was initially hesitant about reading this book - because I thought it might just lay on a heavy guilt trip and make me feel like a terrible mom because I turn on the tv in my house. It had the exact opposite effect! I now feel informed. My nagging guilt and worries are GONE. I feel like I am empowered and can make positive med
Mar 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-fic-nonfic
I skimmed a couple of the 12 chapters but for the most part, this book,though published in 2007, is still relevant, considering the ubiquitous presence of digital "stuff" in our lives, and its even-handed tone made it readable and even fascinating.

The chapters are structured around questions, such as "Could my child learn from baby videos?" and "Is TV turning my tot into a zombie?" The author relies pretty heavily on the various studies available, and some chapters seem to bear more weight based
Megan Palasik
Feb 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I liked this book a lot. I am a speech-language pathologist and very interested in the 0-5 population. Given the recent article posted in the Wall Street Journal regarding speech therapy and DIY at home with apps, this book is even more relevant.

Lisa Guernsey is a journalist with two daughters. Not only is she interested in the subject matter as a point of popular culture information, but as a mother who let her eldest daughter watch TV and movies during the 0-5 stage. Throughout the book she p
Mar 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: baby
Lots of interesting studies that I enjoyed reading about, and I did learn a lot. Some real good points when it comes to babies/kids and television, but a lot of the conclusions presented here are (in my mind) no-brainers.

Of course 1-on-1 interaction with a parent (vrs. TV) is best! No kidding kids learn language better without a loud background noise TV on! No, kids do not understand scene editing, and do better with a streamlined story. No, kids don't learn the moral at the end, if the story do
Jan 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
One of the peculiarities of becoming a grandparent (pardon me while I mist up again) is the sudden revival of interest in issues relating to infants. Hence the phenomenon in which I read this book with genuine interest.

Lisa Guernsey is a mother, but also a writer specializing in science and technology, which helps her decipher all those intensely technical papers. The happy result is Into the Minds of Babes, in which we learn how watching television affects the preschool set, according to scient
Nov 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
The information in this book empowered me to make smart media choices for my son...and not feel guilty when I turn on a video for 30-minutes. That alone made the book well worth reading.

However, if you're looking for all the answers, they're not here...mainly because the research has not been done, ESPECIALLY for children under two years old. I never realized how frustrating it must be to work in the social order for a study to be well done, it needs a lot of people (in this case,
Heidi Thorsen
Oct 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I didn't start reading this book immediately after I got it because I assumed it would be a dry academic slog through the research on this subject and I really have to be mentally ready for that sort of thing if I'm going to absorb any of the information. But when I finally cracked open the book, the author had me laughing out loud from the first pages. I was surprised and delighted at the tone of this book; informative while being informal and amusing. I think it is extremely well-written for t ...more
Aug 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I just happened upon this book in the library and with one year old twins at home decided to pick it up on a whim. It turned out to be terrific book about how television affects infants and toddlers that really changed the way I thought about the subject. Guernsey chases down all of the people that she can find who are doing research in this area and distills the results of their research into well written summaries based around relevant topics, such as whether or not it really is harmful to hav ...more
May 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: parenting-books
I will be recommending this book to every parent!! I feel like it is a must-read. It is very well researched, presenting many, many different studies and research from all sorts of universities and institutions. But, the research is presented in such easy to understand terms, as it is written by a woman who not only a reporter, but also a mom to two young girls (which was the catalyst for her research). Maybe I thought this book was so good because I don't know anything about child development o ...more
Feb 15, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Parents of small ones
Very academic but personally driven look at all the available data (and hype) regarding young children and all types of media.
In a nutshell: the AAP's ban on under-two is unfounded but time limits of course should exist, the most important factor is the content of the screen time - which should be thoroughly looked into (don't just assume Disney is okay... Did you know that Finding Nemo truly rates as for ages 8+?), and all of this with the caveat that children NEED as much interpersonal intera
Liz Simmons
Feb 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Interesting topic and there's a lot of information in here if you aren't already familiar with the major research on early childhood development and exposure to electronic media. But if you do already have a basic understanding, you won't get as much out of this. I do like that the author is able to explain academic research in a way that is approachable to a popular audience without dumbing it down.

One of the major weaknesses of this book is that it was written in 2007 and therefore there is p
Mar 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: parenthood
I hadn't realized how impatient I could feel at books on parenting subjects that do not back up assertions with scientific study, which made this book a relief. I had wondered what really was behind warnings of screen time with children and if I was negatively affecting my daughter when I watched television while she played on the floor.

And the truth is, yes.

The truth is also that this book will give a few tips on how to analyze a television program for its educational value (such as linearity,
Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Honestly, I picked this book up to relieve some of my guilt...

Well organized arguments/questions and well referenced with tons of research studies, making it a bit academic but still a great read.

Some points....
i) Yes children develop at different stages, so why wouldn't there be a spectrum for screen time for kids?
ii) Since Dad won't always put down his phone and engage with our tots, I've asked him to put on earphones if the TV is on so that there isn't the noise from his phone competing with
Feb 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is an informative, interesting book about a subject that I think about a lot--young children and the benefits/drawbacks of TV viewership for them. The author addresses many points on this topic and her research and resources are good. Her overall findings from delving into numerous studies are that the less TV the better, while also recognizing that good-quality children's programs can have definite benefits for the kids who watch them. My only problem with the book was how she went into to ...more
Jun 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Totally terrific. I've always heard from the American Academy of Pediatrics that children under the age of two should not watch television. I've preached it to everyone, and I have always said it is far better to read to your children than let them watch the "wretched stone." Well, after reading this book, I now have a different perspective. The author, Guersney, really did her research. She talks about babies' brain development, and she summarizes several studies on media and children. She shar ...more
Feb 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
So far this book is great-- an eye-opening study on the effects of television, the perceived threats, the misconceptions, and real dangers. I love books that challenge conventional wisdom, and this does. I've always just gone unthinkingly along with the modern mom's guilty refrain: TV is terrible and I'm terrible for letting my kids watch anything! But the author pushes pause and looks at that big bad boob tube in the cold blue flickering light of scientific research. Turns out Blue's Clues won' ...more
Mandy Brazee
Oct 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: parents or parents-to-be
The AAP broad recommendation of no-screen time whatsoever for children under age 2 scared me. What was watching football doing to him? Why is it so dangerous? This book is well-researched and well-organized. Each chapter addresses a specific question related to children's development and different types of media. I was surprised to learn that the background noise of television is far more damaging to them than having a child actually watching TV. She also goes talks about which shows are benefic ...more
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