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TV exec takes on marketers.

NEW YORK Recently the American Association of Pediatricians made a decree that was heard throughout the land -- "No child under the age of 2 should watch television." And my response was "Poppycock!"

The concept of young children not watching television is prehistoric and does not take into account the busy lifestyles of caregivers today. The AAP's statement blames the hardware, when it is the software from which they should be trying to protect us.

The reality is that children are exposed to too much television, not to mention Gameboys, computers, and more -- a fact that was recently confirmed in the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation's findings about the paramount role of media in the lives of our youth.

Furthermore, much of what they watch is not age-appropriate for them. However, to blame the medium which showed us Apollo 13 landing on the moon, the fall of the Berlin Wall, soothing afternoons with Mr. Rogers and countless other extraordinary events in our history is akin to shooting the messenger.

How could anyone deny the valuable contributions that Sesame Street has made to our society? The episode when Mr. Cooper dies is a classic example of "shared television" -- a storyline in which an adult and child can discuss what they saw together and the parent can help the child explore the world in the safety of their home. Caregivers should be taking responsibility for children's recreational activities up to and through their teen years.

The simple truth is that caregivers need to make informed decisions about what programming is appropriate for their children -- whether it's on television, in the movie theater or on video. The AAP should have told parents how viable television could be as an interactive medium, and why they should watch the right programs together with their children. Parents and caregivers should be encouraged to supervise their children's TV use the same way they supervise all the other pastimes of their child, helping to monitor and approve programming designed with the appropriate age in mind.

Ingredients of success

I would be remiss if I did not mention "Teletubbies" (not as a plug for the series, but as a social commentary). This series was created out of the observations of very young children at play. "Teletubbies" was produced because its creators, Ragdoll Prods., recognized that young children were being placed in front of TV programming that was not designed with them in mind. Simple things like humor, repetition, interactivity and pacing are the cornerstones of this series.

The AAP's statement clearly states that a child would be better off if they had the constant interaction of an adult. No one would argue with that concept. What they somehow imply is that television is bad. And yet, there is no scientific research whatsoever to support this claim.

Kenn Viselman is president of Itsy Bitsy Entertainment, which markets "Teletubbies" in the U.S. as well as producing and licensing other young children's shows and properties.

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Title Annotation:rebut to claims children under 2 should not watch television
Author:VISELMAN, KENN
Publication:Variety
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 17, 2000
Words:493
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