Sunday, November 20, 2011

Is TV really that bad?

Now that you mention it, it does look a tad devilish...
I thought we were above this. I thought L.E. was going to be the same kind of quasi-nerdy bookworm I am. She would plie T and I with every book from her shelf in the mornings, demanding we read just one more. Those days are gone. The tales of Curious George, Harry the Dirty Dog and Pete the Cat have been replaced by the evil flat-panel on the wall: TV.
Instead of plopping Baby's First 100 Animals on our laps, L.E. brings the remote. "Babba. Babba. BABBA!!!" which means, "Turn on Yo Gabba Gabba or I will REALLY make your life miserable. I have ways of screaming you haven't even heard yet!" So we relent. Just one episode, just a taste. Next thing you know, she's four episodes in and dancey-dancing until her legs fall off. We really try to keep it limited but at the same time, we're busy people and sometimes letting her watch her favorite show is easier when we're trying to get ready in the morning, get her lunch going, do housework, etc. I'm not using TV as a babysitter; more like TV is the friendly neighbor who stopped by for a cup of coffee and also happens to be the equivalent of a vaudeville entertainer. It makes her happy. And we really do limit it to just Yo Gabba and Sesame Street. Unless the Steelers are on TV... or any football game...
So is it really so bad that she loves TV? Didn't we all grow up loving TV? I can't remember a time in my life when TV wasn't a part of it. Scooby Doo, The Flintstones, G.I. Joe, The Smurfs, Bugs Bunny, The Golden Girls, The Facts of Life, The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers, Friends, Seinfeld, Wings, 90210 (the original), The Simpsons...my sister and I used to skip Sunday night church and go watch The Simpsons at our old babysitter's house. (Sorry, Dad). T and I would have weekly viewing nights for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and South Park. TV was and is a huge part of our lives.
 I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person; I'm a college graduate. My husband has his PhD. The TV in our home is turned on every day. I cannot name a single Real Housewife and think the Kardashians are the most boring people on the planet. I'm pretty selective on what reality shows I watch (mostly the ones with food in them.)  
Try to remember the last time you didn't have access to a TV. Chances are you were camping and pretty miserable.
Stefanie Wilder-Taylor describes "New Mommy Math" in her book Naptime is the New Happy Hour. If any mom says her child only watches one hour of educational TV a day, add two more hours to that. If she says her child watches zero TV, add six hours. It's amazing to me that we've been reduced to lying about something that is ubiquitous in every sense of the word.
The AAP recommends zero TV for children under two. They say talking, singing and reading to your child is far more important. I agree to a point. I would love nothing more than to sing to L.E. all day but being that I have just about the worst singing voice ever, I don't think she'd appreciate it that much. But Elmo singing about how much he loves his tricycle is just the thing for her. We still read to her as much as we can, which is seriously like ten books a day. (No New Mommy Math here!) But she loves to learn in as many different ways she can. Why isn't TV an acceptable learning tool? 
L.E. goes to a wonderful preschool where she learns an incredible amount every day. She tells me what she's learned that day and we keep the conversation going when she's at home. She knows her animals and her favorite foods. She even remembers her friends' names when they're not around. She sings about Five Little Monkeys and Little Bunny Foo-Foo (complete with bops on the head) and even does the appropriate arm movements. She dances her little heart out any chance she gets. She'll throw her arms up at me and we dance the sillies out together. 
But she didn't learn how to dance at daycare; that she learned from TV. 
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