I'm just...I'm going to say this, and someone is going to be upset one way or the other. Either I'm an elitist helicopter mom or I'm too much a slave to the status quo to properly care for my child and should probably have her taken away from me. So let's just begin by saying, I love my kid, and you love your kid, and we're all doing what we feel is the very best for our whole family. Can we start there? Okay.
I will come clean. My little girl watches TV every day. Always in the morning, usually after school, and before bed. I can freely admit this is partly my own laziness- I am not a morning person, and if a talking dog can distract her while I make coffee, that makes a better morning for everybody. It's hard to admit, though. Talking to a parent who bans TV is a fast track to parental guilt, recrimination, and lies. "We watch one hour of educational programming once a week." "Oh, uh, well, us too, sort of. I mean, we mostly watch PBS, you know...and Noggin. Noggin doesn't have commercials, isn't that great? So, what are your views on the health care debate?" Anything to get off the topic of television and your own lousy parenting.
I feel that our family is pretty moderate, but then again, of course I do. I am not a hard core joyless monk, nor am I permissive and careless. (can you feel the judgment? Judging others is how we know we are doing better than they are!) We are careful about the programming she watches- mostly public television and other age appropriate shows. She is very active and loves to be outside. We read a ton of books and are regulars at the local library. So she is not the typical kid they show you on the exposes of 200 pound 6 year olds addicted to soap operas and Doritos.
I recently read an article on Slate called The Benefits of Bozo, by Council of Economic Advisers. He analysed not the data, but the way people get the data for all of those "TV will give your kid ADD and diabetes" reports. He calls most studies flawed, and says,
Kids who watch no TV, or only a small amount of educational programming, as a group are from much wealthier families than those who watch hours and hours. Because of their income advantage, the less-TV kids have all sorts of things going for them that have nothing to do with the impact of television.
In other words, the environment in which a child grows up is more of a factor in future success than how much television he watches. If you take two toddlers, and one watches an hour of Sesame Street after Montessori school and before violin lessons, and the other watches 2 hours of Sesame Street at an underfunded, overcrowded and unlicensed day care while his teenaged mom works 3 jobs because his dad's in jail, Toddler #2 has more worrisome problems than how much he's really learning from Grover. I have noticed these studies often mention the violence that kids watch. Kidshealth.org tells me that "the average American child will witness 200,000 violent acts on television by age 18". You have to ask yourself, who is letting them watch it? Again, the environment in which a small child is allowed to watch violent shows is probably not the most nurturing overall. You also have to ask yourself a few other "grain of salt" questions, such as, how many of those 200,000 violent acts were seen in the later adolescent years, and how were those violent acts catagorized? Was it only human on human violence, or did they include Tom on Jerry abuse? I recently watched an old Tom and Jerry cartoon and I can tell you, some serious stuff went down. I watched Tom and Jerry all the time when I was a kid and I did not remember that they set. each other. on FIRE. Yikes. So, as anecdotal evidence, yes, I watched people getting hit in the face with frying pans on a regular basis. but I also was read to every night and I was encouraged, some would say forced, to play outdoors. I finished college and have yet to go to jail. Coincidence?
Still, there is a stigma now that there wasn't when I was a kid.
"The kids are upstairs, and there's...uhhh...a Dora DVD. Is that okay?" I whisper to the stranger at the party. "Oh sure! No problem!" she says. We both relax, knowing that we are on the same page, as far as the whole TV things goes.
She loves Dora the Explorer. Have you seen this show? In the preschool world, she's all but inescapable. Why is she yelling? Stop yelling, Dora, we can hear you! And stop asking me to answer you, because you cannot hear me! You are a marketing gimmick made to sell toys and yogurt! Yes, I can see the red barn! The only thing on the screen is you, your ugly monkey and a big red barn. I hate that show.
But Word Girl? Word Girl is great. Chris Parnell from Saturday night Live is the narrator; how great is that? Plus, positive female role model: she's a SuperHero, and she's smart, and the other characters admire her for being smart. I think that is a valuable lesson for a young girl. Yelling and staring blankly, not so much. Okay. Parental rant over.
There are many things that divide us as parents, in fact we all do things a little differently. Some would never poison their child with anything non-organic, while others are not averse to an Oreo now and again, or everyday. I try, but don't always succeed, to assume that most parents are being thoughtful about how they are raising their kids, and their decisions about whether to include television, or Oreos, or even Dora the Explorer, were made out of love for their children. The truth is, most of the time we are all just trying to get through the day, and sometimes we have to look at the big picture.
There is the social impact of less TV as well. I am not saying that you have to let your kid watch TV or she will be an outcast, but An adult of my generation that doesn't sing "Do do do do!" after hearing "Mnamna!" - it's a lonely, lonely feeling.
I was talking to a woman one day and she said, "Oh, I wish my son wouldn't eat so many Ding Dongs. But he just loves them! I try to hide them, but he always asks for them. He eats at least one a day!" Your kid is two, lady, my thought bubble said. Unless he does the grocery shopping, you have quite a bit of control over what goes into your kid's mouth. (again with the judging!) The thought of a two year old feasting on Ding Dongs is horrifying to me. But,to some, the thought of a 4 year old sopping up Dora and the Backyardigans is just as horrifying.
The human race is in the last stages of Survival Mode, and I for one think that is a good thing. Let's get on to bigger and better communal goals. And yes, I do think that a key to establishing worldwide communal goals is having a collective subconcious, of sorts. Maybe I am giving the Electric Company too much credit.
"Most studies of the impact of television, however, are seriously flawed. They compare kids who watch TV and kids who don't, when kids in those two groups live in very different environments. ...The problem with comparing them to kids who watch a lot of TV is like the problem with a study that compared, say, kids who ride to school in a Mercedes with kids who ride the bus. The data would no doubt show that Mercedes kids are more likely to score high on their SATs, go to college, and go on to high-paying jobs. None of that has anything to do with the car, but the comparison would make it look as if it did."