Growing up in my parents' house we didn't have a t.v. in our rooms or even upstairs, we had a family computer that was downstairs, we were only allowed a radio and we didn't even have a phone jack...I felt like I was getting left out, especially once I was in high school.
However, I did excellent in school, was always at or above my reading level and above most of the students in my classes. I enjoyed school actually and worked extremely hard to stay where I was grade was.
Once I had children I started looking into the Baby Einstein, Your Baby Can Read and so many others. Instead of buying the DVDs, we bought the books and music CDs. We bought children's movies and "educational" DVDs, but until my son was born, Aubrey didn't watch much of it. She would rather sit on mylap with a book (and still to this day), than sit and watch a movie. I started letting her watch PBS Kids and things of the sort because I was nursing my son and then our youngest daughter as well, so it was the easiest form of entertainment every few hours for about a half hour or so at best. Now there are shows we love on PBS and mostly for the music, but they are fun and informing as well.
The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) came out with a study that says children under 2 shouldn't be exposed to the television, internet, mobile media, etc. It doesn't help their learning one bit. Now I agree with this ~ but I also see the benefits of a little television (like described above). But with that I fell parents shouldn't RELY on the television to teach their children letters, numbers, shapes, etc. Parents should be doing this. It helps create that parent-child bond and they learn BETTER with interaction than they ever will from repiticious TV shows.
We reinforce what they see on TV, taking them to the zoo, a petting zoo, showing them the vegetables in the grocery store and telling them what they are and their colors, counting the eggs in a carton, picking up leaves and telling them why they fall, showing them the things they see on TV are REAL and making a connection in their life with them. Letting the kids use my sthescope to listen to their heart beat and having them point on my face where my nose, ears and eyes are...this is parenting...this is learning.
I think TV shows can help a child's learning, but only when it is reinforced by the parents and is used cautiously. Just my personal opinion on this subject, but I can tell you Aubrey at 4 years old and in preschool already knew her colors, shapes, numbers, the entire alphabet and even some of the letter sounds without having to have them taught to her by the teacher. She even knows what her name looks like, but just can't write it yet. She didn't learn this from tv, flash cards or anything like that...just simply taking her places and turnign our daily activities into learning experiences.