To watch or not to watch. That is the (parenting) question.
Ah yes, the great TV debate. Yawn. But I have to confess I think about it. A lot.
I know there has been a huge amount of research done into the effect of TV on kids, and journals published and books and lots of child psychologists warning well-intentioned parents away from the screens. But maybe, just maybe, it’s time to think again?
My kids are preschool age and whilst they are growing up in the same house, with largely the same experiences and environment as each other, their experiences with TV have been different. Because our experiences of parenting have evolved from when we had our daughter.
With Aisha, we limited TV to two half-hour programmes a day, from that bastion of kids TV, CBeebies. I read the books, I knew that you should limit telly time, carefully select programmes, and then watch them together. And for quite a while we did okay with that. Aisha never demanded programmes, she didn’t get upset when the box was turned off, she didn’t think much about it in-between viewings and she had no idea what the Bedtime Hour was.
With our son, Abel, things have been very different. You could say we have adopted a more relaxed approach. Or you could say we discovered there are significant benefits from allowing a bit of CBeebies time (or if it’s well early and you can’t cope with the beeb, a bit of Milkshake).
We put Milkshake on in the mornings in order to facilitate a stress free getting-ready-for-nursery time and to buy us some time to get ready ourselves without the bathroom door bursting open mid-toilet-visit or a small child appearing at the side of the bath during your shower and asking probing questions about your body parts. So, hurray for Milkshake.
But as well as that, other programmes have been creeping in and TV has become a sort of comforting constant in our lives. If the kids have had a busy day and they’re over tired, we will put a programme on for them to wind down with whilst we get tea sorted. Or if it is a Sunday and we come back from something busy, we might watch on an afternoon movie and chill out for a bit.
I think I knew it was bad when Abel started to come in from nursery, point at the TV and say “Beebies”. Very cute but very bad.
So what do we do? Do we believe all the haters and think that TV will ruin our kids? Or do we give ourselves a break and let them enjoy TV as a part of their lives, with appropriate programmes?
I have mixed thoughts. On the one hand I do worry about the TV creep in our lives, and I don’t think it’s necessarily a good thing to have kids TV available all day and sometimes all night. In my childhood You got to know when programmes were on. – cartoons on a weekend morning, kids programmes after school. I would welcome a return to that. But on the other hand, why should we try so hard to stop something that is engrained in our adult lives? I don’t believe, if used responsibly, that TV necessarily stops kids from being kids. I just think we need to be wise, monitor what they are watching, and not worry so much.
The thing I think a lot of us struggle with, and I know I’m guilty of this, is using the past as a point of reference for our children. The ‘now’ and the future are very different to the world we grew up in. iPads, laptops, smart phones. They were unheard of twenty, thirty years ago. TV was as advanced as it got. We need to move with the times and let our children embrace the world they are growing up in. So maybe it is time for a rethink about TV, and within that all of the other wonderful technological developments and how they are affecting children. I can’t predict what the research might say but I would imagine it would make for interesting reading.