Monday, January 22, 2007

TV My Friend

What I have to say may shock you. It sure as heck shocked me. I don't think TV is all that bad for kids. Now before everyone gets up on their soapboxes and pulls out the virtual tomatoes, please let me assure you that I have done my homework. I have read all the studies that children under two should not watch television at all and children over two should only watch very limited amounts. I agree with the studies, and I certainly don't dismiss their findings. Still, for some reason that I can't figure out, I don't feel that TV is the enemy. The Boy just turned two last weekend, and he certainly falls into the age category of children who should not be watching TV. I would be lying if I said that he didn't.

We haven't gone whole hog, here. The Boy is in fulltime daycare, so he doesn't watch it then. But every morning when I wake him up, we take a sippy cup of milk into the computer room, sit down on the bed, say hi to Patty from Kids CBC and watch about twenty minutes of Arthur, Pinky Dinky-Doo, or Go, Diego, Go. It's a nice, relaxing way to greet the day. Sometimes The Boy watches the whole time. Sometimes we read a couple of books from the ever-present pile on the bed. Sometimes The Boy just explores the piles of "storage" in the room.

Often, after dinner, The Boy will ask to go downstairs and watch Treehouse. I don't like to make a habit out of it, but the reality is that from 6:30pm till bathtime at 7pm, Treehouse is often a part of our evenings. I know that the time could be better spent playing, but after a full day of work, a half hour trek from the daycare where we're singing songs and pointing out signs, after making dinner together and sitting down to eat and talk, sometimes, I'm just plain tired. And sometimes, I think the Boy is just plain "played out". Wouldn't you be after a manic day of play at daycare? That's hard work! I think that it's okay to just chill out. Maybe veg a little. And when I feel that it's getting to be too much of a pattern, I just tell the Boy that Treehouse is sleeping because it is very tired, and we should find something else to do. The Boy seems to accept this as natural. It won't work forever, I realize, but it does for now.

The Boy is not glued to the TV by any means. He'll watch a bit, then go play, then come back and watch whenever he hears a song. I don't use TV as a babysitter, but rather as another activity. When we watch TV, we watch it together. We learn Spanish with Diego, and answer his many loud questions. We parrot motions with Four Square. We sing along with Hi-Five. We learn to jump with Grover. We talk about what's happening. I try to make our TV watching as active and interactive as possible.

Our TV watching does have limits. We don't watch TV with commercials. We try not to watch between 8am and 6:30pm on the weekends, although I have broken that rule on occasion. (That rule goes to pot when the Boy is sick..) Once the Boy is aware of the concept of time, he will be limited to one hour of approved TV per day (with special exception for "Mommy Movie Days" when we go out to movies just the two of us..I can't wait for that!). There will never be a TV in his room, no matter how much he begs and pleads. To show my commitment to that, there is not even a TV in our bedroom, and never will be.

I also try counter this habit with a print and imagination rich environment. In Casa Earth, books abound. In fact, they run rampant. They are literally falling out of bookshelves. I think the Boy has almost as many as his parents, and we are avid readers. Magnetic letters crowd the fridge door. We point out city signs on walks. We visit the library. For toys, we eschew the battery-operated for the imaginative. The Boy's current faves are a drawer full of spoons for "digging snow", the vintage Little People castle with the trapdoor and secret rooms, and the Little People garage with the slide and elevator. (I tried to get the vintage one, that doesn't make gas and phone sounds, but got outbid on Ebay). But I digress, and now I sound like I'm justifying my actions. Maybe I am.

My point is, I realize that many people have very strong opinions about this subject. I do too, but right now, I'm just trying to go with the flow, and do what works for us. I really hope that I haven't "ruined his future" and "destroyed his brain", because, well...that's gonna suck. I guess I'm gonna have to deal with that later. I don't purport to be an expert on anything, especially motherhood. Mostly, I'm just trying to make it through the day with my love for The Boy (and my sanity!) intact. Is that so wrong?

15 comments:

Mad Hatter said...

I agree. My next post is actually going to recommend a set of DVDs for the toddler set.

We live in a visual culture. Media literacy is a skill that every child needs to learn. My daughter spends no more than 45 minutes in front of high quality TV in a day--compared with about 2 hours of reading and many, many more hours of active play. TV is just one part of our lives and that is fine with me.

Re the comment you left over my way. I hear you about the alone time. One of the best things about being married to someone in theatre is that they are often out most evenings. My husband almost always works 6 evenings a week. We hang out from 11-12:30 but before that he's not around. Before we had a kid, this was ideal. Now that it means I spend that time always as a single parent, it is less than ideal.

NoodleMonkey said...

As far as this bad mamma is concerned, you're not wrong. My kids watch a limited amount of tv and by and large, I think they learn more "good" things than bad. The Noodle is taking a Spanish class because she liked learning Spanish words on Dora and Diego. The Monkey uses vocabulary words she learned from Pinkie fairly often.
That is not to say that we haven't tried a couple of shows that I found a) objectionable and/or 2) insipid. We have. Disney makes a show called the Little Mermaid that has been banned at our house. And both girls know why--because the characters don't always speak nicely to one another and because it's not educational.
But as long as there are limits, I don't see any reason ban tv altogether…

something blue said...

Television is not the enemy in our house either. I agree that it is an activity that we do together, in moderation and with parental guidance.

I actually like toddler programming. I admit that I have watched the Backyardigans when my children were sleeping.

Beck said...

My kids have always watched carefully screened tv, and they're extremely smart, well-behaved, articulate and GOOD kids (if I do say so). I've read the studies, but I think that there's a big difference between some zoned-out kid watching HOURS of unscreened crap, and my kids and their lively discussions about what Arthur should have said to Binky.

kittenpie said...

I am all about things in moderation. We read a lot, she has tons of toys for imaginative play, building toys, puzzles, instruments, etc. I do try to keep away from the electronics (and I just don't put batteries in our Fisher Price farm so it doesn't make noises) because they are kind of irritating and unecessary.

And when it comes to tv, she will watch about an hour maybe three or four mornings a week, typically. During the week, it might be while I get dressed, or on the weekend while I flake out on the couch cuddling her. Other mornings, I'll just ignore the tv and she'll start playing on her own, or I'll suggest we play together, like this morning, when we played enginges instead.

And some mornings, maybe two mornings a week, there is simply no time anyhow.

bubandpie said...

It's funny - I had an idea to write a post like this a few days agon ... and then I chickened out. When Bub watches TV, I have a hard time believing that it's bad for him. He and Pie jump up and down, mimic the actions of the characters (especially dancing), and Bub talks A LOT about the shows - he'll pull me into the room to see something great, and we can have a whole conversation about it (and for us, that's huge). Hi-5 is our favourite right now, along with our Wallace & Gromit DVDs.

penelopeto said...

we really don't want bee watching tv, but she got hooked on zoboomafoo while in florida with her older cousin. i feel like it is probably the best kids' program out there, what with all the animals, and i'm kind of crushing on the kratt brothers, so we bought 2 DVDs, and she is allowed to watch 1 episode (about 20 minutes in length) while i'm preparing dinner. with DVDs, at least i control what, when and how long, and i don't have to worry about her seeing commercials or anything offensive.

my rule of thumb is that she should not watch a show for longer than she would engage in any activity at this stage. 20 minutes is it.

PeanutButtersMum said...

I agree. 'nuff said!

NotSoSage said...

I'm a little late in the game on this one (came over from Mad's post), but I thought I'd put my two cents in. We don't have a TV in the house, but that's largely because we (the adults) don't have an ounce of self-control when it comes to TV. We have a situation much like penelopeto described where our laptop acts as a DVD player. I don't actully own many DVDs (I'm hoping to purchase the set that Mad recommended) but we have a few and we've been relying on YouTube for some of our programming, which can be rather sketchy.

Where no TV has put us at a disadvantage is in not knowing what's out there in terms of children's programming, so I'm actually really glad to have stumbled onto a discussion like this.

mamatulip said...

We're of the same mind, you and I. I let my kids watch television. I control how much they watch and yeah, there are some days when they watch more than they probably should. Then again, there are days when it doesn't get turned on at all, so it balances out nicely.

I have never felt television is the enemy. Sometimes our television is on and we're not watching it...the kids are doing something else, they're in another room playing...a lot of the time, it's background noise, you know? And hey, Dora was the one who taught Julia to count to ten in Spanish, not me. ;)

ewe are here said...

I don't think tv itself is the enemy; I think it's the failure to monitor what kids are actually watching and how long they're watching that causes problems. Parents do what they have to do to get through the day. And I hope most parents are responsible enough to monitor what their kids are viewing.

mo-wo said...

I had to admit to being surprised that tv could ignite my toddler's imagination. I recently folded it into out family after a long ban.

http://motherwoman.blogspot.com/2006/09/bad-parenting-confessional-glowing-box_07.html

But with my son getting older I am a tad nervous as to how I will keep him 'away from it'.. I preferred busying my daughter with books until she was two and hope for the same for my son. While it has a role I am often simply pissed off that NOTHING will totally immobilize a child like television. It creeps me out still.

Mad Hatter said...

Yep, I've seen Guffman and Best in Show and A Mighty Wind. I haven't seen Guest's latest: For Your Consideration. Of the lot, Best is Show is my favoutite. Eugene Levy's two left feet simply cracks me up.

Naomi (Urban Mummy) said...

We don't watch TV at our house. That being said, there are, of course, exceptions.

The other day, my husband had Sesame Street on TV when he was with our son. Apparently he (the child) looked up, and said...

Elmo up there!
Ernie up there!

He recognized these characters. We do have an Ernie stuffed toy, and his best friend loves Elmo, so I'm guessing that is how he knew the characters. Didn't know any of the others, though.

That being said, you do what you have to do. It's good to have a baseline, and the open mindedness to stray from it at times!

MotherBumper said...

We are dvd / tv addicts so we were shocked how easily we curbed our watching with baby around. That said, Bumper does watch some of the shorter children's stuff (CBC and Treehouse mainly) and she loves Sesame Street Old School dvds (as do I). I agree that moderation and monitoring is the key to keeping tv viewing habits healthy.