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Ol’ Square Eyes – Your Kids and the TV
Ah, the television. Every mother’s fickle friend. The television is such an innocent object for non-parents; once a simple source of entertainment, fun and entertainment, you bring home a baby and that innocent black box suddenly becomes an unpredictable monster, loaded with secret messages and influences, populated by weirdos and gangsters waiting to drag your offspring into a hunt. a life of crime That or Balamory, which could be worse, as anyone who knows Miss Hoolie will confirm.
It was a normal weekday afternoon, just hitting that 4.30pm blood sugar crash when I realized I might have a problem on my hands. A normal day: kids tired from school, homework done, cool outside, mom done, so what do we do? We watch TV. I prop my eyelids open with matches and play with Squidget while the other two look at the box. I generally shove them full of fruit at this point, which kind of reassures me that I’m not a total slacker mom. They may be inhibiting their brain cells with TV cr*p, but at least they get their five a day, eh? It pretty much revolves around the same programs and this is when I saw what we were slipping into. During the break, Goldilocks was able and very willing to sing along to a car insurance ad (she knew all the words) and, when the program resumed, Tweenager uttered the immortal words, “I love this bit” – she had seen the episode. before I realized that I did too, and I also knew what was coming next, and yes, it was fun, but that wasn’t really the point now, was it?
Addiction in children is a terrible thing, especially when their drug of choice is purple and fluffy and, for all intents and purposes, completely harmless. From Blue Peter to Teletubbies, Totally Spies to Spongebob Squarepants, through The Simpsons and Raven, my kids love TV. Or rather, I wonder if they learned to love television instead. Tweenager has always been square eyed. It used to be a running joke that she could sit in front of a screen for days and not know if the house was on fire around her. She loved television but, as an only child, her viewing was tightly controlled. I watched with her, all the while quietly attending to the demise of Rentaghost and Saturday Superstore. However, we discussed Tom and Jerry’s violence and analyzed Maisy Mouse’s motivations, all the while wondering whether or not the Tweenies were enough educational content. Television played a small role in an otherwise busy schedule of reading, playing and painting. I saw it as my duty to get on the floor and play Barbies, no matter how much she insulted my feminist leanings. Then came Goldilocks and then Squidget and what was once the box in the corner became a free and welcome babysitter.
If the data is to be believed, we should all stop while we’re relatively ahead and throw our TVs out the window. In a year, the average child spends 900 hours in school and almost 1,023 hours in front of television. The average American child will witness 200,000 acts of violence on television before the age of 18. 57% of all programming contains “psychologically disturbing” acts of violence. The list goes on. And further. Sitting in front of glasses turns our children into socially inept fatties with warped life values and, worse, a penchant for reality TV and Dale Winton. But is it? Of course not. Too much of anything is not great; sticking your child in front of four hours a day of the most educational, uplifting nature programs will result in nothing more than an antisocial child, an expert in raising the yak. So, what is the alternative? You guessed it, it’s time, your time to be precise. Children need supervision much more than we realize and television, even the dirtiest television, is good if that is all. When mom got 4 hours of sleep, the TV can seem like her new best friend when the thought of arts and crafts leaves her reaching for the Valium. I understand now that when television becomes a substitute for something else, then it is a problem. When it starts to replace attention, bedtime stories, fun – then the box needs to be grazed.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. You see, I’m a little biased and probably didn’t do my kids any favors because I also love watching TV. I actually have a pretty restless love for the genius that is Spongebob Squarepants. EastEnders, Top Gear, Casualty, I love them all. Nothing beats that feeling of settling down to watch something you enjoy, turning off everyday life for a while and getting into a good program (and I emphasize the good – we’re not talking about Tricia here). After a long day at work, do you prefer to relax and fool around a bit or do a spot of spring cleaning followed by a few chapters of Crime and Punishment? I rest my case.
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