Many Mums stop their children from watching any TV, and feel very good about themselves for it. Is that the ‘right’ choice – NOPE.
Others have the TV on all the time – is that the right choice – NOPE.
Actually, I’m just being controversial, because I don’t believe in ‘mistakes’, so I don’t think that either parent is ‘wrong’. I just think that many are probably unaware of the potential downsides to both options. Therefore the option of moderate, monitored TV watching appears to be wise to me; take advantage of the Pros to TV, but avoid some of the cons and vice versa.
The first group of Mums will quote scientific research which suggests that children who watch a lot of TV will grow up to be obese TV addicts. Which is totally a possibility, but there are some other factors which have been ignored in the statistics, like family health, food, job choice, genes etc.
They will wonder, what could possibly be the upside to watching TV? Well, I’m mainly focussing on baby-toddler TV, but there are some huge advantages. They are highly educational, Max can speak in spanish and chinese now. No big deal you will say, until I also caught him talking in persian with the kids at nursery – it’s created a habit in him to be open to other languages. He knows what a ‘tapier’ is, which I totally wouldn’t have known about at his age. I can easily suggest that tooth brushing is cool because sportacus does it, and he definitely associates ‘energy’ with apples. It gives him a way of bonding with children he meets at the park, or in his new nursery, as ‘spiderman’ (we have the old 1970’s cartoons) is like a universal language for boys. The thing about TV is that it is colourful and in 3D and can teach things in a way, that I would never think of doing (or even remember to do). Plus, just like his Dad, he loves films, and disney has a totally magic feel to it, which is lovely.
He didn’t watch much under 2yrs old, because he wasn’t very interested. I think that about 18 months he discovered ‘Baby einstein’ and ‘In the Night Garden’. Many parents worry terribly about the success that is INTG because it is a bit odd! But in my investigations of it, I did discover that there are some very sensible and philosophical ideals behind it.
I do use it as a ‘baby sitter’, because that way I don’t have to put Max into full-time nursery, but can do the odd bit of urgent work. Plus, when you have a house full of tired toddlers in the ‘witching hour’, with a pile of tired Mummies to boot, it does mean that we can have 30 mins for a cuppa and a natter – very important for retaining sanity! Who knows, some of our TV watching kids could grow up to be film producers or TV show creators.
One disadvantage to not watching TV is that for some children it will create a ‘void’ in their life, which they will go overboard on later on. You’ve all heard the stories about children of very strict parents who become party animals later on? Well, my parents decided that saturday morning TV was a definite No, No, so I wasn’t allowed to watch it. Apart from meaning that I couldn’t join in with social conversations at school, it also meant that I spent huge amounts of my 20’s and 30’s watching saturday morning TV in bed. We all need to rebel somehow, but some of us delay the rebellion a bit!
Hows about the Mums that ‘over-use’ it? Well first off, what would be considered ‘over-use’? I reckon that if Max will always choose a bike ride, or park visit over the TV, then he’s still in the ‘healthy usage’ range. But I am aware of the fact that as he gets older, it gets a little trickier. At the moment he only watches stations with no adverts, but it wont be long before he understands how many other channels there are! Then, I suspect I will need to bring in some boundaries for him about his watching. I know of a parent of teenage kids who watches things like the discovery/biography channel with their kids and then has a discussion afterwards. Maybe in the ‘olden days’ that would have been done with a book, but it’s very sociable to be sitting together watching it.
So whats the answer? There are up & downsides to everything. My bias is towards a well thought through and considered plan of action. If when considering your family circumstances you decide to be totally against or totally for TV, fair enough; because by having thought through the strategy you will be able to counteract the downsides of your choice.
The only thing I would therefore warn about is to not think through the strategy and just self-righteously criticise others with different opinions. I can pretty much promise you that this will go wrong, in that you will be surprised and caught unawares by some of the consequences.
Right, thanks to Justin from cbeebies for giving me a chance to write this post, now we are off to make pancakes!