By Brandee Contributor
This is one of those very rare moments where I write something not laden with guilt or stress or feelings of inadequacy, which is odd considering I am writing about the television.
TV is one of those hot button issues with parents, and people in general. Everyone has that friend who “doesn’t even own a TV because they much prefer to read.” Which is great, if you are that person and that is what you actually think and feel. It’s not great if you’re just saying that to sound like an intellectual, or like you’re better than everyone else….I digress.
I read a lot about kids and TV. From blog posts, to tweets, to articles, people are talking about limiting television and saving the world. Coming from the television generation I can fully appreciate why it is such a controversial topic. There is all the talk about whether TV is raising today’s youth, and if television can be blamed for a lot of our social ills (I sit on the fence about this to be honest). It is no secret that there is an epidemic of inactive children who spend a majority of their time in front of the TV; and worse in front of questionable material. Everything from violence and sex, to cartoons created for adults, but clearly appealing to children, it is scary to think of the things my toddler could be exposed to on there. And worse to think of the messages she is receiving.
I’m a big supporter of learning and exercise and imagination activities, all of which are not generally supported by the TV. I am not someone who likes the idea of TV as a babysitter in the general sense (but let’s be honest, there are days when it’s a godsend!), or of turning my toddler into someone who chooses television over every other activity available. I like my TV, I do, and honestly I could probably use less of it myself. It’s just one of those things we’ve grown up knowing. Sometimes I wish we hadn’t.
That said, I do really believe there is a time for television.
My little sister once said something to me that has stuck in my brain since long before I was pregnant. Someone commented to her about letting my niece watch too much TV. Their routine basically followed a similar one to many people I know (myself included), in which they arrive home from work/daycare, and while mommy makes dinner, toddler watches TV.
My sister, generally the defensive type when it comes to her parenting choices (aren’t we all) actually surprised me with her response, and I’ve always really appreciated her view on this particular subject. Her reply went something like this: “After 9 hours of structured play at daycare, where they don’t even have a television, I think she deserves to just relax when she get’s home; I know I want to.”
It is as simple as that.
Everly goes to a structured daycare centre where they go through the same routine daily, and never watch anything, not even a video. They learn, they play, they read and sing, they nap and they don’t really every rest other than that. She literally could not learn any more in a single day. She is busy all the way through, and that is the toddler equivalent to going to work everyday. So when she comes home and wants to lay on the couch with mommy while she has some water and kicks back, I am just fine with that. When she comes home, asks me for “Dioswars” (which is toddler speak for the Land Before Time movies) I am happy to oblige. When she grabs her pillow and curls up in daddy’s lap looking for “Smungbib” (obviously, SpoungeBob), who are we to say no?
Obviously, we don’t allow her unfettered access to the television. We are mindful of what she sees and are HUGE users of Netflix for children’s shows and movies. She get’s about 1.5 hours a night in total. From getting home until bed, we’ve only got 3 hours and we have to fit dinner, a bath and 4-5 books in that time frame. We use the TV time for cuddles with one parent while the other makes toddler dinner (it’s a house configuration problem, our kitchen is on a different floor than our living space…and no, we don’t have dinner together every night because I’m not only evil in letting her watch TV, I’m also failing at family dinner. See previous note about kitchen). We use it as a trigger after bath so she knows that she’s allowed 1 SpongeBob episode (as an aside, I could watch SpongeBob forever, that dude cracks me up!) with her milk before it’s time to head to her room for books and bedtime. We use it so that we get a small break in the day where she isn’t trying to climb the stairs or insert something into the dog’s butt.
The fact of the matter is, I don’t feel guilty. I don’t even worry or think twice about it. She is entertained, she enjoys it, and I really don’t believe that we are rotting out her brains. On the weekends we let her watch TV in the morning, and if it’s rainy and gross out (Pacific NorthWet FTW) it sometimes happens in the afternoon as well. There are weekend days where I start to get the guilt over the TV, but then I try to remember that this is rare. We are the go-go-go type of family. If there is a shred of decency outside, we almost always make it to the park. We have as many playdates and day trips and weekends away and otherwise wonderful, fun and enjoyable learning opportunities for my kid as we possibly can. And after a long weekend of playing with friends, having sleepovers with cousins, visiting the pumpkin patch and 2 different parks, sometimes you just need to kick back and relax, you know?
She may look cute but I SWEAR this much cuddled in is a very rare sight!
So we watch TV, together as a family, and I don’t even feel guilty about it. It just works for us. It fits into our lives, and though we could fill that downtime with other things, I honestly don’t want to. She reads at least a dozen books a day, does art, plays, sings and the like. It’s not as though the TV is replacing any of those things you want your child to do, it’s just a part of our lives.
What do you think about TV for toddlers? Are you the type who is very against it, and limits their children to a few times a week? Do you rely on it to get things accomplished around the house? Or do you use it sparingly?