I do not want my 2-year-old daughter to turn into a zombie. I do not want TV to rot her brain. I am fully aware of all the pseudo-research out there saying that putting children in front of the television at such a young and formative age can have serious repercussions to their development. But my daughter is growing up in a technologically advanced age and I am discovering the positive aspects of sitting my child down in front of the TV, besides getting a moment to do the dishes.
In an online article, How TV Affects Your Child, one of the arguments against allowing your children to watch television is that they will be exposed to violence and unsavory behavior. I, for one, view this as an opportunity to have discussions with my daughter about the nature of the world. Right now, she loves watching The Mask with Jim Carrey. There is a fair amount of violence in that movie but overall it is a lighthearted comedy where the good guy wins. During the “scary” or violent parts I discuss moral issues of right and wrong. “Why do you think The Mask is angry at those men?” “What would you do if that happened to you?”
Watch this scene from The Mask. It is one of my daughter’s favorites.
Instead of replacing family discussions with lessons from TV or movies, I use the scenarios in the shows she watches to help inspire a discussion. It is difficult to teach a child about violence when they have no frame of reference for it. Now, I am not about to sit her down in front of Saving Private Ryan just yet. Some of the images still have not left my mind, but I do think there is a place for a little controversial material in our children’s daily viewing.
The other misconception in this article, at least I see it as a misconception when it comes to my personal experience, is that children should not watch TV at all until they reach 2 years old. I have to call in Baby Einstein at this time and say that my daughter at 2 1/12 years old knows all of her colors and shapes, can count up to 20 and knows the entire alphabet. She mimics reading books – making up a story from the pictures as she follows the words with her fingers. She has an extremely active imagination able to make up whole stories for her dolls and action figures, which she will enact for hours on end. Often I think I should just make note of some of these stories and make a fortune as a children’s fiction writer.
Her cognitive ability blows me away everyday. I had her in front of Baby Einstein from day one. Some nights, it was the only thing that would calm her when she woke up at 3 am screaming. I also enjoyed the dulcet tones of a Bach Cantata played on the marimba. Her grasp of music is astounding. She now sings along with the radio and matches pitch perfectly, even grasping some of the words from song to song. Her favorite is Lady Gaga. I agree that some of her lyrics make me uncomfortable. But I had Madonna’s Like A Virgin to spur on the sex talk with my parents at a very young age. That will just be another topic open for discussion when she comes asking.
Another argument mentioned in this article is that kids who watch too much television are overweight. There are two main reasons for this that I see. One, the kids are sedentary for most of the day and two, the parents put a bag of Cheetos in front of their face. By all means, choose healthy snacks and don’t keep them flowing in a steady stream. And if it is a nice day – have your kid play outside!! It seems like common sense. My daughter watches a lot of videos and movies and she still loves to go outside and run around. She still has more energy than I feel I ever had.
I guess this is all to say that only you as a parent know what is exactly right for your child. But I always feel that if you deprive your child of something, they will only want more access to it. If you let them watch TV sometimes, they will be grateful for the chance to go run around outside! And don’t just walk away when your child watches TV. Know what they are watching and keep an open dialogue about the content. Let them ask the difficult questions and try hard to answer them honestly. They should be learning about life from you, not the TV. Unless you’re a jerk. Then let them learn about life from Elmo.