Television, it seems, is our universal vice when it comes to raising our children. Well, throughout urban North America anyway.
Whether from one episode of Dora The Explorer, which lasts about 20 minutes, up to four hours of programming, children are being allowed to watch TV at a very early age. And I mean early. Many DVDs and children’s programming are aimed at newborns.
However, according to the American Association of Pediatrics, television watching is not recommended for children under the age of two. But according to all of the women I asked, this is completely unrealistic.
I’m not passing judgment here. I can’t because I’d fall prey myself. My two-and-a-half-year-old watches some TV in the mornings, and sometimes in the afternoons as well. Of course I’d rather he be reading, doing some creative art work, or involving himself in imaginary play. But I’m not a preschool teacher with various activity stations in my home and he’s not the only focus of my day.
There are times when knowing that he’s quiet, safe, and even getting some level of education is necessary for me to get on with other things that need doing. Besides, throughout any given day, he does all of the above as well.
Still, when I talk about it, I feel guilty. And so do the other mothers I spoke with. The irony is that none of these women are forcing their children to watch (which would definitely be a no-no), nor are they using television as a baby-sitter, letting the kids sit there for hours upon hours with no other stimulation.
Nor are they letting the children watch inappropriate shows, or channels that have excessive commercials. Mothers of newborns and preschoolers today have the choice of age-appropriate DVDs, such as the Baby Einstein series, several TV stations devoted to children’s viewing, such as Treehouse, and now the new 24-hour commercial-free BabyFirst TV.
The Toronto Star recently asked readers what they thought about this new channel, and most (a whopping 86 per cent) didn’t think it was a good idea. But who are the people who have the time to answer these polls? Are they young working mothers with several children and a house to run? Perhaps not.
It’s simple — as an educated person, I certainly wouldn’t want my child to suffer as a result of too much television. The effects on his eyesight, his attention span, and his ability to communicate are obviously important to me. But like any mother, I can only do the best I can with the resources I have. Truth is, sometimes it’s us mothers who need the TV for a break — and that’s important for baby, too.
If there are mothers out there who get through their days without any television at all, then kudos to them.