When I first started out as a parent I vowed that my child would never be a slave to the TV. I saw us having intellectually stimulating play, making castles out of toilet rolls and searching in the garden for timid but hard working communal bugs (why I thought this with my phobia of worms…) It wasn’t until my son turned two that I realised how catastrophically I’d failed.
He loves the TV. Loves it. He will watch anything that we let him and most worryingly has become addicted to scary shows: the subsequent nightmares doing nothing to assuage his thrill for fear. Dr. Who, Merlin, Airplane. Not very appropriate viewing for a three year old, I grant you. I’ve managed to temper it by categorising such programmes as ‘just for adults’ but when even PAW Patrol has ghosts and sex in it (procreating turtles anyone?) what can you do? Being the parent, I should, and do, have ultimate control over what he watches and I feel we are now back on safer ground, but the bigger issue has definitely become the number of times ‘one more episode’ is indulged. How much TV is too much?
The advice is that children should be subject to less than one hour of TV a day (including background TV during play and mealtimes); for babies/toddlers this reduces to zero. The theory being, obviously, that staring like a zombie at a screen does nothing to nurture neurological development and will inevitably create a future of obese couch potatoes. Anyone who has seen a pre-schooler hypnotised by the TV and then tried to have a conversation with them afterwards about what they have watched will know that there is no interaction, despite what the ‘learning and educational’ programming marketeers might try to say.
On the other hand, TV does serve it’s purpose. After a long day at nursery our son needs some down time (as do we as we rush around trying to get dinner ready). And on a weekend when the baby has gone to bed and my hubby, son and I are snuggled down on the sofa like co-conspirators, it’s lovely to listen to him sing along to the latest Disney charade as we snigger at the in-jokes (my all time favourite is Buzz Lightyear’s wings popping up involuntarily towards the end of Toy Story 2!). TV show discussion has been a staple of small talk my whole life; where would our son be in coolness stakes if he couldn’t ramble knowledgeably about Mater and Finn McMissile or the perils of being turned to the Dark Side?
I recognise that my own love of television gives a certain bias towards this topic but I also believe we all have to work within our limits. To parents who can knock out a quick rendition of Bach accompanied by their children before heading out for a hike on a Saturday morning, I salute you. However I’m off to watch Sex and The City for the thousandth time while I get the ironing done – I’ll try to remember to switch over before my little TV addict comes home.