Posted by: mindyourknitting | June 3, 2010

Boob Tube

*Why is it called the boob tube?  Because of the preponderance of breasts on television?  Seriously, does anyone know?

Recently a colleague of mine who has a fourteen-month old daughter asked if we let Abigail watch television.  He and his wife were grappling with when/whether/how much to expose their daughter to TV.  My answer was a heavily qualified “yes.”  I have struggled with the TV question too.  I have always been certain that I would never use the television as a babysitter, but Erik and I watch television regularly (often in the evening after the kidling is in bed and we want to turn off our brains) and I don’t think it is inherently evil.   I knew it would be hypocritical and practically impossible to shield Abigail from ever watching any television in our house, but I wasn’t crazy about the idea of cohabitation with a mini-tv-zombie-baby who wants the television above all things.  So, where to find the balance?  Well, the bonus of being the parents is that we are in control (mostly).  So we could decide at what age she could start seeing television at all, and we could control the content and amount to which she was exposed. 

First, I have a confession to make: when I was home on maternity leave and Abigail was still an itty bitty baby, I watched television with her on my lap or sleeping nearby that was entirely inappropriate for the under 2  set.  When she was still at an age that she basically did nothing but sleep, eat, and cry, I had no reservations about watching the afternoon re-runs of the Sopranos on A&E because Tony, my Tony, got me through many a long afternoon.  Of course as she got older and more aware I cut out such viewings, admittedly with some regret.  But this  reduction in my daytime tv schedule coincided with her turning into a baby octopus who needed constant stimulation, so it wasn’t really that much of a challenge to turn off my boyfriend the idiot box during the day. 

We never did the Baby Einstein videos, and had a brief flirtation with Plum Vision, but overall Abigail’s viewing of television of any kind was pretty limited until she was about thirteen months, when I went back to work.  And the fact that our only television set is in our basement rec room/playroom means that if she is in any other part of the house there is simply no tv to watch.  But as she got older we began to put on the Treehouse channel (kiddie crack) while she played with her toys or coloured in the basement, or if she was tired or sick and wanted to cuddle but wasn’t interested in a book, or if it was the break of dawn and she got up too early and mama really needed her to chill out for five minutes so I could drink my coffee in peace and try to crack an eyelid open.  Even so I don’t think the amount of television she sees in a week amounts to much, but it has definitely increased over the past six months or so, partly because she is more interested and aware of things that entertain her and can vocalize her desire for such things (WIGGLES!  WIGGLES! WIGGLES!).

Where we are at now, with Abigail at 22 months, is that she’s seen enough TV (either on Treehouse, iTunes, or in the form of some children’s movies on DVD) to know some shows and characters, and will ask for some by name (Wonderpets has recently been supplanted by the Wiggles, please kill me now), but still won’t usually sit still through an entire half-hour show unless she’s watching iTunes videos with her dad, and I suspect part of that is the novelty of getting to hang with dad at his computer.  Song and dance shows are her favourite.  And I’m glad for her limited interest in TV and preference for shows that encourage activity or creativity.  Because if her favourite show was Waybuloo, I don’t know what I’d do with myself.

Someone once told me a child they knew would sit through a two-hour movie at two years old, and that idea stuns me now.  Is that typical?  I’m glad Abigail has only a passing interest in television (for now), and likes a few select shows that are harmless and fun and may be possibly teaching her something (or not, but probably aren’t doing any damage to her brain/psyche/self-esteem/development either).  They’re useful as ways to get her to calm down before naptime or bedtime and occasionally work as bribes (WHAT?  As if you never bribed your kids. Whatever).  But generally she prefers to be in the backyard in her sandbox, or at the park, or colouring in her colouring books, or doing pretty much anything else.   And if I can’t play with her every moment, if I’m making supper or folding laundry or giving myself a pedicure she has to entertain herself in a way that doesn’t involve television, because she is where I am.

 Do I think television is the devil?  No, absolutely not.  There’s some trash on TV, sure, and I even watch some of it.  In our house Erik and I will watch it after Abigail has gone to bed as a way to unwind and relax.  But the TV also gets turned off so we can play board games (don’t mock) and do other things that involve actual interaction with each other.  It think that’s a fairly healthy approach to television, and one I’ll use with Abigail since I don’t want her to be the weirdo kid who can’t make a pop culture reference to save her life, but I also don’t want her to be our little addict who must have her fix of  her “shows” or there’ll be hell to pay.  

Given the choice, I’d rather my kid be bookish.  She is starting to love books, which I’m thrilled about, and will do everything in my power to encourage that habit.  Given that we own roughly a bazillion books, that shouldn’t be a problem.  Although I’m looking forward to the day she moves on from Goodnight Moon and The Paperbag Princess (“Ronald, you are a BUM!”  *snicker*), since I have read both of those about forty-two bazillion times.  I read like a fiend (or at least I did before I became tired all the time, right around July 21, 2008) and also like good, mindless (or not so mindless) entertainment that comes neatly packaged in the form of movies or television shows.  I don’t think intelligence negates the ability to enjoy smart TV shows.  God I miss Buffy.  Anyway, there is some good stuff on TV, stuff that will encourage creativity in Abigail’s  little brain or teach her songs and dances and repeats the colours and numbers and letters we’ve taught her (and you know what?  Sesame Street is as awesome as it was when we were kids) or just give her an outlet when she wants to sit and relax and not be required to DO something.  And, please people, no one can entertain another human being every waking moment of every day.  Abigail is learning to entertain herself but sometimes I need her to sit quietly while mama does something on the computer for five minutes.  So if Toopy & Binoo comes on at an opportune time, who am I to turn it off?   In the end she probably watches or passively sees more than I’d like, but less than I feared she would at this age.

 What’s your take on television and children?  Good, bad, indifferent?  How much TV do you let your kid watch (c’mon, be honest)?  How much TV do YOU watch?  And if you saw the series finale of LOST, can you tell me what the hell that was about, because Googling “LOST series finale EXPLAIN PLEASE” has gotten me nowhere.

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Responses

  1. I’ve watched every episode up until the finale, which I am saving for tonight. I’ll let you know my thoughts afterward!

  2. Well, Taylor (who’s now 12, OMG, seriously- TWELVE!) sat through Toy Story 2 at the theatre at about 2…that was the only time he’d ever sat still to watch something in his wee life at that point. Kayla never sat still long enough to watch a show until she was about 3, and at that, I’d be lucky to get 20 minutes out of her.
    Madelaine, who’s 21 months might sit still for an episode of Elmo’s world (something like 20 minutes) but that’s pushing it. She sings the Elmo theme song when she wants to watch it – which is down right hilarious.
    All told, the kids probably each watch an hour or so a day- I’d rather stick them outside to play than plant them in front of the tv- that being said, if we pack up the van to go to the cottage, you’re damned straight I’m going to put on a movie or two!
    When we first bought a minivan, I thought parents who used DVD players in the car were idiots- I quickly realized that a ride to the cottage hearing only giggles was much more appealing than hearing Mooooooommmmmm he’s touching me…are we there yet….and Tayyyyyyyyyyyyylooooooooooor don’t hold my doll out the window!
    You’re not alone Trista, we all do it!

    (oh and I’ve never seen a single minute of Lost, so I can’t help you out there!)


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