As someone who worked, briefly, but fairly-happily in television animation, I had no built-in hatred for TV animation for kids. And as our daughter got old enough we would watch some TV each day. Usually in the morning and before bedtime. We tried, not always successfully, to limit it to 2 hours a day maximum. We’d watch a movie from time to time as well. Finding Nemo, Up, The Nightmare Before Christmas. (My daughter LOVES vampires…The Twilight folks will be happy to know they have got the preschoolers onboard… )
I enjoy several of the cartoons on Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel. I’m actually more likely to watch cartoons than anything else (except that National Geographic and Science channel…what a geek I am!)
But as part of a final salvo in potty training we turned the TV off completely. And almost 3 weeks later it hasn’t come back on. Which at first doesn’t seem like a big deal, or something we should be THAT proud of. But the thing is, my daughter no longer asks for it, concentrates much better and plays much better by herself. We’ve also filled the time gap with reading a lot more books. (this didn’t seem possible but I think we are reading at least 10 picture books a day together)
As part of a generation raised with, basically, unlimited TV (but only 4 channels where I grew up) I hadn’t come to understand the media saturation kids face. Even though I worked and continue to work in ‘kids media’. When I grew up, there just wasn’t that much TV to watch. And (wow, am I old or what?) no VCR’s until I was 11 or 12. But I remember watching all the cartoons I wanted. Of course that was on Saturday’s from 6AM until about 10. Cartoons were on 1 day a week. (the history of animation for kids on TV is complicated but the emergence of animation of TV was for networks to meet Federal guidelines for providing ‘educational’ content. Thus, Scooby Doo)
My wife and I didn’t want to become a TV ‘nazi’. We discussed the TV issues and decided allowing some TV was reasonable. We could find a comfortable zone where our daughter wasn’t cut out from the TV culture, but not overburdened with it either. Where it wasn’t ‘rationed’ as a SPECIAL thing (does this just make TV into that much more of a secret desire?). We’d just be casual about it. And the days when you are sick and have a preschooler running around, sitting on the couch for 2 hours of TV is a hard pleasure to forego.
But from what I see, the continuous exposure at this age resulted in less ability to concentrate, less ability to entertain herself (Why play when the TV plays for you?) and generally a sense that everything had to be overwhelmingly entertaining to keep her attention.
Every child is different and not all shows are equal, but across the board our daughter is partaking in more imaginative play and able to concentrate on age appropriate tasks better than when the TV was part of her routine. I didn’t expect this. I’m a little amazed. Though there are supporting studies saying very similar things as well as the opinions of many parents on various parenting boards my wife frequents. I am surprised what a difference there is just going from an hour or two a day, to none. This is kind of scary when you look at the amounts of TV kids on average watch.
I’m not even getting into the violence issues on TV, or the lack of physical activity, the obesity, the inability to study. Honestly, I never REALLY thought about those issues that much (I mean, I managed with no TV restrictions growing up, but as I wrote earlier, there wasn’t much TV back then in the stone age. And, come on, cartoons are funny!)
And we have all heard how TV can help a kid learn the alphabet ETC. But from what I see, they learn MUCH better when it’s a person reading a book with them or doing a puzzle, OR struggling to figure out something on their own, without a bright orange frog dancing with letters. (that sounds kind of cool actually).
I’ve become very suspicious of any claims made by TV shows for preschool children that their ‘educational’ content is good for kids or helps them in any longterm way. Perhaps being honest and saying, “It’s entertaining content that, in moderation, most likely won’t harm them. But most likely will not help them either.” would be the best way to go.
And, if learning from a TV was so good, why don’t they study for Bar Exams via TV? Or Medical Board exams? Or when you are at work and your boss asks you to learn a new product or a new system tell them, “I learn best by TV. Just get me a show to watch and a comfortable couch.”
How much TV is bad for a child? From what I have researched there are a LOT of numbers. From limiting it to 1/2 hour a day to 2 hours a day. And no study says that no TV is a bad thing.
An interesting perspective on preschools that have TV’s.
In the long run I don’t think we will be a no TV house. But I am very much open to see where this takes us. I think I’m missing the cartoons more than my daughter! I sneak down,after bedtime, to catch up on Fan Boy and Chum Chum. I think the damage has already been done to me.
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