At what age do I need to censor what I listen to or watch when the baby is in the room? For example, my Pandora is not censored, so there are swear words played in songs, or I listen to Broadway Pandora and maybe we shouldn’t listen to the Book of Mormon soundtrack? We also love to have The Office or Modern Family on in the background. When should I probably not let my daughter see/hear all of this? Will she repeat it? Will she ask questions? She’s only 16 months now. Is it already too late?—Elizabeth
It’s never too late in parenting!
We have some data that may be informative here. First, on one end, we can look at evidence on videos like Baby Einstein or Baby Wordsworth, which claim to teach babies to read or speak. There is randomized data showing that these do not work. One-year-olds do not seem to be able to learn from videos.
On the other end, there’s data from the rollout of Sesame Street (among other things) showing that older kids, in the 3 to 5 range, can learn things from television. Kids in this age range and older definitely pick up words and concepts from TV, movies, and songs (thanks, Hocus Pocus 2, for the “opportunity” to discuss the word “virgin” with my child).
Your child is toward the beginning of this age range. At this point, her ability to hear words in adult songs and repeat them is likely quite limited. Even as an adult, it can be hard to parse exactly what is being said in these songs! You will eventually want the censored Pandora, but unless your kid is very unusual, probably not now.
The background television may be something you think of slightly differently because it is likely to hold her attention in a way that music doesn’t. You may find that your kid is spending a lot of the time focused on the TV (or maybe not! The Office isn’t exactly Cocomelon). As I have written about many times, there is nothing in the data to suggest anything inherently wrong with television, but it takes time away from other things. As your kid gets more interested in TV, you’ll want to think about where it fits into your family life.