The Great TV Debate Debacle

So, over on Facebook I created quite the stir about children watching tv. It was quite heated. And most of them were against me.

I stated that I do not let Kian watch tv. Now, to be honest, we don't completely refuse him any tv. When Kevin's mother is here on Mondays, I know the tv is on almost all day long. I know this because I come home and he talks about at least 4 shows he's seen that day. I really don't like it, but I know it's one day of the week, it's PBS, and they are playing and cleaning while it's on. But, I do limit the shows he can watch. We do not have many channels, which helps us keep the tv off.

The main reasons I'm "against" toddler tv? 1. Too much background noise. 2. They're too little and developing rapidly at this age. 3. The quality of shows, even "educational" shows. 4. There is much more to do than watch tv, especially to facilitate imagination and learning-(i.e it's not a babysitter). 5. Commercialism.

I am sensitive to too much background noise (too much noise at all, really) and having the tv on rather annoys me at times; especially, if the tv is on and no one is watching it. We, as a society have become too attached to electronics, to instant gratification and we do not savor silence. We do not know how to be still and enjoy others, to talk and have dinner conversations anymore. There is absolutely no tv during meal time in my house. I am only "attached" to one show-House, and that is the only one I watch during the week. I think society gets too caught up in these reality shows, and the popular show of the season, and they sit transfixed week in and week out to see what happens next. For us, we don't sit down and turn the tv on until Kian is in bed, except the occasional Wheel of Fortune. He calls it "Letters Show" and loves to point out the letters. I want him to talk, to converse with us, to be heard and not compete with the tv all the time.

I think reasons 2 and 4 actually go together here next. The AAP recommends no tv for children under two for many reasons. Social interaction with people is much more of a learning experience for children than tv. As is toy play, learning cause and effect, problem-solving, etc. Studies are showing that children who begin watching television at a young age (infant) are showing more signs of ADHD/ADD, inability to concentrate, are easily distracted, not to mention obesity in America's children is escalating rapidly. When watching Tv kids are inactive and usually want things to eat and drink, leading to more weight gain than pediatricians recommend. Also, they've noted that kids who watch lots of tv tend to have delayed speech because they do not talk while watching, are not being talked to, or hearing themselves talk. What starts out as education preschool tv easily turns into a variety of shows, then video games, which are way more violent.
Babies do not need Yo Gabba Gabba or Teletubbies. Colored, sing-song blobs do not teach them anything. It simply puts them in a spot so mom can get something done. Have I done that before? Absolutely! Often? No, and I still feel guilty doing it.
"Experts suspect that babies younger than two years old view TV as a confusing array of colors, images, and noises. They don’t understand much of the content. Since the average TV scene lasts five to eight seconds, your baby or toddler doesn’t have enough time to digest what’s happening." (Found here.)
As much of a pain it is for me to include Kian in a lot of activities I need to get done around the house, it's such a great learning experience for him. I let him help me cook. Does flour get everywhere? Does he spill things all over? Yes. Do I get annoyed? Of course. But, for him, it's the best thing on earth. He's so proud to help. He's learning measurements and ingredients, how to clean up, and spending quality time with me. I feel their little brains are just developing so much in such a short time that I want to fill that brain with these kind of things, both education and those memories, not tv.

Onto point 3. The quality of "children's" shows these days is better in many ways, but still not always appropriate for the age they target. Some programs are much improved in the way they talk in simple sentences, incorporate letters, numbers, pre-academic and problem-solving ideas. But, I even have beef with Sesame Street lately! The baby bear on the show has a speech issue, impediment, delay, whatever it is, is not great for kids to watch and imitate. D itto for Elmo and his improper grammar and pragmatics. And I love Sesame Street, but really?
Other shows have violence, children talking back or being disrespectful to parents and authority figures. I love me some Spongebob, but would I let Kian watch it? No. Not until he's quite a bit older. I've noticed other innuendos in movies as well, that I have already decided to not let him watch for a few years: mainly Shrek and the like. Even turning on the Looney Tunes recently I was surprised to see the amount of violence that I watched as a child. And there are also words on shows I do not want to introduce him to yet, as we all know children are parrots and will say that word to death.

Even if the show itself is decent and one I don't have a problem with, I take issue with the amount of commercialism surrounding these shows. If I really wanted to I could outfit my house with Dora bed set, sheets, curtains, pillows, cups, bowls, plates, spoons, cups, water bottles, rugs, towels, clothes, sneakers, socks, underwear, winter coat, mittens, hat, boots, not to mention Dora bathroom supplies-toothbrush, paste, washcloths, shower curtains, potty chair, birthday cake, party hats, party supplies, place mats, wrapping paper...oh, you get the idea?
This may be more for myself, but I refuse to be boxed in by one character. I refuse to get my child things simply because they have a character on it. And I want him to learn that things without characters can be as much fun and allow for much more imagination. (This is also why I do not like single action toys, I prefer ones without lots of lights and sounds too, ones that are open-ended.) Let's not even get started about the amount of commercials between these shows for all kinds of toys, telling children they need these things, as well as fast food chains promoting unhealthy food. I can't afford it, you don't need it, don't tempt my child with it, it's useless.

I am not claiming to be superwoman, mother of the year by any means. I screw up a lot, especially being pregnant, tired, hormonal and uncomfortable, dealing with the energizer bunny energy of a 2 year old. I pick my battles. To me, healthy eating, learning/education and bonding are the most important things for children and families. This to me, means little or no tv. I've raised my voice a few too many times. I've given into sugary snacks. I have left work and went shopping while Kian was at daycare. I'm not perfect.

Everyone has their own priorities and their own ideas on what is best for them, their children and families. I just was surprised at the outrage at me for not allowing my child to not indulge in tv constantly. I was called overprotective, a bitch, shallow, mean, close-minded, and on and on it went. I sort of expected more parents to agree that tv watching in toddlers isn't a good idea.

Are there some good things to come of tv watching? Yes! But, as the experts suggest it needs to be limited shows, limited times, educational shows, and parents should always watch with the kids to expand on the ideas from the plot. If Dora is visiting her Abuela then you can turn that show off when it's over and talk about the grandparents in the child's life and look at pictures or perhaps make them a card/picture. This teaches them that it's more than entertainment to fill time and silence. It generalizes skills learned on the show.

Choosing age appropriate shows is also important. Like I said, Spongebob entertains me and I find it funny, but it's not a show for a toddler. Keeping it simple, short and sweet is key. We choose Veggie Tales, the occasional Mickey Mouse Club show, and we love the word shows on PBS I feel that these shows promote quality themes, learning opportunities along with some fun music and clean humor that are important to our family. If your child is developing appropriately and watching a few hours per day of tv, then you probably have nothing to be worried about, just make sure you're spending quality family time together as well. There are much worse things you could be doing...


Anonymous said...

I'd rather watch tv than read this.

Anonymous said...

wow!! I wouldn't get too upset over anything anyone says on facebook. Most of them don't have a clue what you are saying anyway.
They just want to comment on everything.

19D Guard Wife said...

Well I for one think you are doing an outstanding job with Kian. I only wish that I could find a better balance and do the same with removing TV from the household. I don't feel anyone has the right to judge your approach to parenting, he is not their child, and they don't have the right to force their opinions on you. I think many people who "disagree" with you mostly do so because they can't do what you are doing. I can' would be a losing battle in my household...however I envy your ability to do so, and think that you are an incredible mother. Don't let people get you's not worth it! Keep doing what you're doing...your sons will thank you!

Jess said...

I agree with guard wife. You're a great mom, and I don't think you meant any harm to anyone regarding that conversation on FB. Everyone parents differently, and I am sure that I could learn alot from you once I become a mom (which is hopefully sooner and not later!) haha. But really, as long as you and Kevin are in agreement on this, then it is YOUR business how you raise your child. I myself hardly ever watch TV. Occasionally, I will put on the Travel Channel, CNN, and I have a couple of shows I like to watch one evening a week. My husband never watches TV really. There is so much more to do and explore apart from the tube. How on earth did people raise kids prior to TV, playstation, and the PC. They must have barely survived! haha. :)