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Monday, October 10, 2005

If you look hard enough--or even not so hard--you will find studies or news reports that tell you television will turn your child into a bully, make them fat, have attention deficit issues, and have trouble interacting with parents or siblings, among other things.

But turns out that my mother let me watch two-and-a-half hours of television every weekday (gasp!) when I was a kid--one half hour of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood and an hour of Sesame Street in the morning and another hour of Sesame Street in the afternoon. And look at me: I'm a functioning, well adjusted part of society.

I spend many hours setting up art projects, the wooden train set, and play dates. But sometimes I need Toddler in Chief to be out of my way for a full 30 minutes while I do something important, like make doctor appointments, sort the laundry without someone trying to make snowmen in the knee-high piles, or put away the groceries without little hands snatching the Ben & Jerry's and leaving it under the desk in the office to melt. Sometimes I need to do seemingly-unimportant things, like take a shower and blow dry my hair. Sometimes I just like a little privacy to sit on the toilet without inquiring minds wanting to know if, "Mommy poopy toilet?" And on especially wild days, I just need a quiet corner of the house without being treated like my son's personal jungle gym.

And whether you like it or not, television is just the trick.

Call me a bad mother. Call me inattentive. Call me lazy for not being creative enough to set up alternate, equally-engaging and fool-proof projects to keep my active toddler occupied for the necessary block of time.

I'm not condoning everything on TV because there is a lot of poison out there. My tele-sitter lands on commercial-free Noggin or recorded episodes of Thomas & Friends or Blue's Clues. I'm also not condoning endless hours of TV as a backdrop to our day (especially because it wouldn't serve as the proper sedative when I really needed it). Really, in a society where we barely know our neighbors, and our families are hundreds or thousands of miles away, we don't always have someone to lean on when we need a break. And in that instance, the TV is my friend.

Permalink | Television | Comments (8)


Not only is TV your friend, but TiVo (or some other variant) is your BEST friend. Who doesn't need/want Elmo on Demand?

Everything in moderation... but when you need it, you should be able to select exactly what they watch and control it yourself.

Posted by: Jonathan | Oct 10, 2005 11:25:06 AM

Tivo is the best invention ever because it gives parents a little more control over things. Record whatever you want for later use and you can always zip through commercials if what you've recorded has them. Toddler in Chief doesn't really know that there is such a thing as "live" television. I always have a variety of toddler-friendly programs ready to go. I'll have to admit, though, that his favorite thing on television is baseball. I'm going to regret that I didn't Tivo more games now that the season is over.

Posted by: Suzanne | Oct 10, 2005 2:46:43 PM

people of course have to make their own choices. But it is important to know that it is totally possible to live tv-free. We've done it since my daughter (now 14) was born (she also has an 11 year old brother), and I have to say it's absolutely wonderful.

We're lucky enough to live in an area that due to geographical anomalies receives no over-the-air signals, so you have to consciously sign up for cable. We haven't, nor have the families of most of our kids' friends. Yeah, we miss some stuff, but overall, we are really happy with our decision. We feel so much freer without having tv. We do have a vcr/dvd player, so we rent things to watch if we want to.

The best thing is, we all have so much more time to do other things; our kids learned from early on how to entertain themselves and never missed tv.

Again, if you want tv that's fine. But it's important for people to know that not only is a tv-free home with kids possible, it's absolutely wonderful as well.

Posted by: chip | Oct 10, 2005 8:31:16 PM

Another 'TV Free Family' chiming in. In particular I wanted to comment on this:

"Call me a bad mother. Call me inattentive. Call me lazy for not being creative enough to set up alternate, equally-engaging and fool-proof projects to keep my active toddler occupied for the necessary block of time. "

When did a woman become a bad mother, inattentive, lazy or not creative enough if she didn't constantly keep her toddler engaged in projects or activity. Let's face it, toddlers are active, embrace it. Let that child figure out a way to entertain themselves. It's called using their brain. If they happen to get in your way, make a mess, etc. Get over it. Let them, that is how they really learn.
I think as parents we do a huge disservice to our children by trying to micro manage their lives. They don't need to watch TV for you to get a break, you need to give them a break. Turn off that shit and stop making excuses for selfishness.

Just let them be.

Posted by: Jennnifer | Oct 10, 2005 9:17:46 PM

I let the kids watch/watched with them a LOT of TV from about 18 to 36 months. The chaos that would have ensued without it, when I was trying to make meals for example, wasn't easily avoided. But now, at four and a half, they watch about an hour a week. The big difference is that they CAN entertain themselves, and help more in the kitchen, and just in general need TV less.

Also, we stashed the TV in the attic and it's not really on their play route.

Am I strange to miss Cailliou and George Shrinks and Angelina? Because I totally do. (I'd miss Clifford most, but Clifford is typically what comes on the TV when it finally comes on.)

Oh, also, I'm really encouraged by bloggers such as Vindauga, who write about still flexing the rules based on circumstances. It's not as if we're stuck in one position forever.

I haven't even said why I like the TV off: the kids are more creative, they're less hyper than they were at the end of an hour of TV, and I don't have to worry about commercials. It's really the commercials that worry me most: and we don't have TIVO. Yet.

Posted by: Jody | Oct 10, 2005 11:00:47 PM

What you describe, Suzanne, works for us as well. Watching TV isn't an alternative to "letting him be"... it's an alternative to him demanding my attention when I just can't or don't want to give it to him for some period of time.

I suppose you could argue that if we went through a period of absolutely no TV where I also kept redirecting him to entertain himself without me, that we would eventually reach a point where he would be able to play by himself without me on command. I don't think it would be especially pleasant to get to that point (he certainly does do this some times of course), and I know he does learn things from blue's clues and sesame street, so I just don't mind it.

Posted by: Cynical Mom | Oct 11, 2005 1:56:19 AM

Yep we let him watch TV too if he wants to. And sometimes he does. Want to know what else he likes better though? The computer... but what bothers me the most is the holier than thou I don't let my kid watch television mentality.

We each are individuals--who in turn have families that are unique. *I* enjoy television. *I* also LOVE a good book. *I* spend hours on a computer. And my favorite date with my husband is a movie. So, why would I deny my son television when *I* like it? And this does not make me a bad PERSON for watching television does it? So why would it make me a bad mother?

Posted by: bethany | Oct 11, 2005 4:24:40 PM

Sounds a lot like my house. Especially the part about being treated like my son's personal jungle gym.

My wife and I are very aware that TV isn't the greatest thing in the world for our todler, that's why we monitor it. We allow our son to watch shows like Sesame Stree, Blues Clues, and Thomas and Friends that don't have commercial interuptions. When you are alone and need to cook dinner, there is nothing like an episode of Bob the Builder to the rescue.

The great thing is that our son isn't glued to the TV. In a way, it stirs his imagination. If he is watching Thomas, he will play with his trains and act out his own scenarios. Every so often he will come into the kitchen and ask to stir something or see what I am cooking. Once he satisfies his curiosity he is back to the TV for a few minutes. Dinner gets cooked, we eat, no harm done, time for a bath.

Posted by: just some dad | Oct 11, 2005 4:53:42 PM

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