TV, or Not TV: That is the Question

Here’s another controversial topic that I’m sure every parent just loves…how much television do you really let your children watch? And what programs do they watch? Just like all of the other decisions parents make, this subject is a hot-button to many. I’m writing this from the point-of-view of a mother of a toddler and an infant in the dead of winter. I know my thoughts and opinions may change as my girls get older. However, for now, I’m taking into account that I have a 2 ½ year old and a (almost!) 1 year old. So the screen time we are using is television, not computers, video games, etc. And since Stella is more interested in the television than Charlotte, most of this is based upon her. And we are guilty of more television when it’s cold and dark outside…who isn’t?

I treat television somewhat like food. I’m not so concerned about what Stella watches in one day, but look at how much television she watches over a week. It’s all about balance at our house. And I do want her to watch television. Yep, I want it to be part of her regular routine. My fear is that if she doesn’t learn how to balance watching television with other activities, then someday she’ll discover television and become a zombie in front of it; fascinated by it because it was treated as “off-limits”. By teaching her early on that it’s an ok thing in moderation, I hope to set that expectation for life. We use verbiage such as, “Stella, we’ve watched enough television for today. It’s time to turn it off now and do another activity.” And she’s usually fine with that.

Is this more work for us…generally. Because now Andy and I have to get out the arts and crafts or the games or read books if Stella has already entertained herself for awhile. We have to work at being engaging parents and I can see why people take the easy way out and plop their kids in front of the television instead. Don’t take me wrong. We both enjoy doing these things with her; we just have hundreds of other things to get done around the house as well. And with two working parents, time is limited. But since that also means our time with her is limited, we make the effort and my dining room table is STILL piled with stuff from Christmas. I also have to say that my kids are in daycare 4 days a week (where there is NO television) and I will admit they would probably watch more television each day if they were home with me.

Do I use it every now and then as a life saver? ABSOLUTELY! Stella enjoys watching it. It’s a “special treat” to her. So I know I can put her in front of a 30-minute show and do something like take a shower or cook dinner. Rarely is she in front of it for more than an hour at a time. That’s usually my limit. However, last Friday morning none of us felt well and so Stella, Charlotte and I curled up on the couch and watched “Toy Story 2”. I figured she needs to be in-the-loop on Woody, Buzz, Jessie and Bullseye when the new movie comes out this summer, right? I honestly didn’t have the energy to do anything else.

I am, however, very concerned about what is actually on the television. We generally don’t leave it on for background noise when the kids are nearby. The real bitch about this is that I have to find my own free time (the thought makes me laugh) to watch the shows I enjoy – “Oprah”, “Weeds”, “Big Love”, “The Bachelor” (yes, I’m a closet watcher), “Two and a Half Men”, “Fringe”, etc. So if it’s on when they are awake, it’s usually on one of three channels – Disney, Nick, or PBS. I am hesitant about letting her watch anything that I haven’t already “researched”. And by “researched” I mean many things – having watched an episode myself to just asking another mom about a show. I do not let Stella watch any cartoon she wants to – I feel things like Spongebob are not appropriate for her age. And some shows just annoy me – Dora is pretty much banned from the house if I’m home, because I’m just sick of her voice…educational or not. So often I seek out other options for my sake.

What are our current favorites? Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is still one of Stella’s absolute favorites. Other standbys are Handy Manny, Olivia, Clifford, Curious George, and Dinosaur Train. A new find for us is Super WHY! Stella loves to learn new things, so she really enjoys this show. We also have a few favorite videos – the Leap Frog Letter Factory and Disney Princess Sing-a-longs.

Do I think she is harmed developmentally from being in front of the television? Nope. If anything, Stella generally learns something new from the shows she watches. Again, I’m careful about what she’s watching – I’d prefer it be educational. Takes some of the guilt out of it for me. She has actually tried a few more things at dinner since watching the food episode on Yo Gabba Gabba while she sings their song, “You try it, you like it!” She sings the alphabet with the Super Readers on Super WHY! Now, she may be the exception since she loves learning new things. We’ll have to see how Charlotte does.

A few funny things Stella LOVES to watch – sports. Any sports. One Saturday afternoon we were watching baseball and alternated to a football game during commercials. If we forgot to change the channel, she’d remind us…”It’s a commercial, change it to football!” And if any basketball is on, she stops and yells, “GO X!” She also loves Wheel of Fortune, or Wheel of “Portune” as she calls it.

As the girls get older, I’m sure my guidelines will change. Especially when computers and video games come into the picture. And I’ll also have to take into consideration the “violence” and “sexuality” of television. Not that I discount the thoughts and opinions around it. I just think a lot of it comes down to parent interaction and appropriate choices for your children. Damn, we have a lot of responsibility! And unfortunately, there are too many parents making bad choices which then raises the hype on these issues for the rest of us. But those are topics for another day and will probably be titled “The Bubble Will Pop One Day” for those that try to raise their kids in that bubble. Luckily, Dora is lacking sexuality so it’s not a concern right now.

I’ve taken some mental notes from friends who have older kids. Some give the kids a certain number of hours each week for television, computers and video games. The kids can “spend” the hours however they want, but once the hours are gone…they are gone! Another friend uses commercials to teach her kids about sales and marketing and the power of influencing others. Many friends don’t allow their kids to have televisions in their rooms. And as pissed as I was that I didn’t have one in my room until my senior year of high school, I get it now.

So, in your house, TV, or not TV? Advice for me for the future?

Leave a reply

CommentLuv badge