Watching What They Watch
For example, at the risk of criticizing a well-loved icon of Christian entertainment, Veggie Tales videos are often too frenetic for kids under 5. The BBC's Kipper the Dog is a good example of a slow-tempo alternative, or the vintage Mr. Rogers, which is edited with a painfully slow pace.
3. Listen to the audio: Audio contributes as much—if not more—to the pace of the video as what's on the screen. Editors often cut to music, so the audio track is a great way to assess the frenetic factor. Listen to the video without looking at it. If the video has a lot of up-tempo music that runs throughout the video, your child has a lot more sensory data to intake and process. Look for what editors call "breathing space," where the audio periodically quiets down.
4. Consider the internal impact: Even if your child seems to be tracking a fast-paced video, be cognizant of how it impacts her emotional state. A frenetic video with lots of visual edits and up-tempo music can rev her system the same way rock music revs your system. Conversely, a slower video will help calm her system. Keep in mind, too, that TV viewing impacts cognitive development. Some studies indicate that, even in homes that value education, excess TV exposure impairs learning in school.
When your child watches programming…
5. Skip television (unless it's ad-slim PBS). With DVDs, you avoid advertisements, which are often frenetic, and you control both the viewing and the dialogue that goes along with viewing. (See #7.)
6. Skip introductions, at least for the little ones. Like movie trailers, introductions with opening credits are often cut montage-style, with lots of fast cuts and fast music.
7. Watch with her, especially in early viewings. First, assess the form. Is the video too fast? Is the audio too frenetic? Is my child tracking? Second, assess the content. Talk with her about the emotions she feels and the values and morals she's viewing. Help narrate what's going on and how it relates to her life.
For example, my three-year-old loves to watch The Sound of Music. When she watches the scene in which Maria and the Captain bicker over how to raise the kids, she says to me, "They're not being gentle," and then we talk about the importance of being gentle with each other.