Friday, March 5, 2010

New Weekly Segment: Issues in Parenting

I'm thinking of instituting a regular Friday post aimed at getting your input on various parenting issues.  I'm not sure I have the readership to support it, but I'd like to give it a go.

The way it would work is this.  I'll introduce a topic and then ask for you to share your thoughts and experiences.  You don't have to have kids to participate.  The thing is, I really need your participation.  Without it, it just becomes me on a soapbox being preachy and no one needs that.  (There are plenty of other blogs out there if that's the type of thing you're looking for.)  So, what say you?  Are you with me?

Hmmm.  That wasn't a resounding, "Yes" but, what the hell?  Here goes!

The issue is:  Television.  How much is too much?

It's hard.  Before I had kids, I had very definite opinions on the issue.  Today, I still have strong opinions, they're just not nearly as black and white as they used to be.

In many ways, television is my crutch.  It's what I let my kids do when I want them to leave me alone.  It's like processed food - it's just so darn easy.  Sure, it's mostly high calorie, low nutrition, but sometimes that doesn't really matter.  Sometimes, it just needs to be quiet.

According to Nielsen Media Research:  Kids aged 2-5 average more than 32 hours a week in front of a TV. Kids 6-11 spend a little less, about 28 hours per week, presumably because they're spending more time in school.

That seems like a lot - I mean it's more than 4 hours a day.  As I sit here and mentally calculate the amount of time my kids spend in front of the T.V. I'm horrified to realize that that's about right.  I sink deep into mommy guilt.  A thought occurs to me.  Maybe it's not so bad, depending on what they're watching.   I mean, my kids watch the food network while I'm cooking dinner, now, instead of more cartoons - (Thanks Tara for the idea!  It's a great one.)  I haven't cut down on the amount of television they're watching, but I've certainly increased the quality.  Surely that matters.

The American Association of Pediatricians says no.  

Pediatricians should urge parents to avoid television viewing for children under the age of 2 years. Although certain television programs may be promoted to this age group, research on early brain development shows that babies and toddlers have a critical need for direct interactions with parents and other significant care givers (eg, child care providers) for healthy brain growth and the development of appropriate social, emotional, and cognitive skills. Therefore, exposing such young children to televisionprograms should be discouraged.

Still, educational programming can have a positive effect on a child's language development.  

Studies have found that children at 30 months of age who watched certain programs (one study focused on Dora the Explorer, Blues Clues, Clifford and Dragon Tales) resulted in greater vocabularies and higher expressive language whereas overall television viewing (including adult programs) has been associated with reduced vocabulary.

In an article found in New Scientist, Ariel Chernin and Deborah Linebarger at the University of Pennsylvania, US, points out that..."it is not the amount of viewing that matters but the content of what is viewed".  They suggest that parents should encourage kids to watch quality, educational programming.

So, what do you do?  For me, it comes down to being aware that every time I plop them in front of the T.V.  I'm making a choice.  Sometimes, I'm comfortable with that choice, other times, I'm not.  

Tell me what you think.  Please.  I'm posting early today so that you all have a lot of time to read and respond. 


Annie (Lady M) x said...

I think it is a great idea.... so here goes.

Actually, considering that, by and large, I am a pretty crap mother, I don't let my daughter watch TV at all during the day - I make her go outside and play. If she wants to watch TV, her designated time is between 7.15pm and 8pm each day (including weekends).

Having said that, it doesn't stop her nicking my iphone to watch videos on that.

Please don't ask anymore questions because I am sure my parenting skills will be cruelly exposed! LOL

Riese06 said...

I am one of your under-educated readers as I don't have children, but I know how I was a a kid. My parents got me into a lot of outside activities, so the more us kids were doing the less television we were watching. There was always the one sacred time for me, it was my Saturday morning cartoons(how miss watching Zach and the gang, or Corey and Tapanga growing up), other than that I wasn't always plopped in front of the boob-tube.

Although I do see increased numbers of show that help in a child's development, what I feel that really has to be done is a parents involvement. When the kid is watching a show they should be right there with them. Then when the show is over they can turn the TV off and talk about what they had just seen. If there is something negative in the program taking about it will reinforce the positive values that the parents are teaching.

An example for me is when I was younger, my dad and I would watch the Simpsons, during the commercial breaks we would talk about the negative aspects of the show (and the few positives).

The biggest thing that I feel that will help in the development of a child would be turn the T.V. off and spend some quality time with your KIDS...

Heather Binkley said...

Thanks for sharing. I really appreciate your help with this. We'll try again next week. I can tell from my feedburner stats, that even though people didn't comment, this was a popular segment. I'm open to suggestions for next week's post. Anyone have an issue they'd particularly like me to research? Let me know...Thanks again Annie and Nick.

susie kline said...

With my twins (the older kids) I really watched how much time they spent in front of the TV. And it was grade-based. They spent years not watching TV because of bad grades. And it didn't make them improve.

With my youngest, I stayed home with him and having him watch TV was a way to gain some peace of my own! His grades are fine and he's developing into a generally intelligent, functioning citizen.

My vigilence on quality is pretty lax. "Family Guy" no, only because I watched an episode with Aaron that made me cringe. Today, "Autopsy" on SyFy was a no because I know it's violent drivel.

I know as a kid, when I was told "no" it only made me want to see it, read it, do it more. So I try not to say "no" as a general rule.

I've also watched enough cringe-inducing television with the kids that has led to pretty interesting conversations. Yes, the "Family Guy" episode led to a pretty general discussion about sex with my youngest. I like that he's asking and then when the time to really talk about it, the ground work has been set.

Heather Binkley said...

Thanks for posting, Susie. It's a difficult issue that all parents have to tackle. You do a nice job of pointing out that the amount of tv viewing alone won't determine your child's destiny. I have to admit that I feel much better about my kids viewing habits after reading your post. Thank you.

sszmama said...

Great topic...My toddler doesnt watch TV at all. I usually allow the school-aged kids to watch about 1 hour of TV after school/after homework. But, I admit there have been days that Im overwhelmed with the baby and Ive slacked and let them watch more. If its nice outside (which it has been horrible weather), then usually this isnt even an issue. My thoughts on TV is that they have been in school all day & need a mental break before going to practices/sports in the evening. So, I dont think its terrible to let kids enjoy some TV. I absolutely do think that "what" they are watching makes a difference too and that definitely needs to be monitored! Elizabeth K.

Heather Binkley said...

Thanks, Elizabeth. I agree with you about them needing a break between school and activities and, because they're at school all day, I don't find it's actually as much of a problem for my school aged kids. It's my youngest that I'm the worst about. Like Suzie, I find that I use T.V. to get myself some peace, but I'm pretty picky about what she watches. In all honesty, I think I have more of an issue with all the portable electronics than I do with T.V. per se. It's the cumulative "screen time" that really frightens me.

Tina said...

When I was a kid I watched a TON of TV. I was pretty much allowed to watch anything, especially by my dad, for better or for worse. Part of it was where I grew up (NYC), I couldn't exactly go out and play by myself. I started letting Lily watch TV at 18 months and only Sesame Street. She still really likes to watch it and I swear that's how she learned to count to 20. I allow her to watch anything on Nick Jr and it's commercial free. I am worried that commercials will turn her into a kid who wants me to buy every toy she sees on TV. I do worry about TV and try to stay busy doing other activities but inevitably I get "Can I watch?" It is a break for me, and as long as we keep it to 2 hrs or less a day I am OK with it.

Heather Binkley said...

Tina, you bring up an excellent point that, I believe, we'll use as our topic this Friday. I don't want to give too much away, but, you've inspired me :) Thanks for posting.

Erin said...

Thanks for doing the bit of research, Heather. When my 16th month old is having "a moment" and no amount of me playing with him or going outside is working I pop in this nursery rhyme video that does the trick every time. Sometimes I sit and sing-along and other times I use the time to get dinner started. It is almost like it allows him to settle down for a bit. After the 35 minutes, he is like new. Nothing else seems to hold his attention tv wise, but I have to be honest there are days that I wish he would sit in front of a tv for a bit. I know I won't win parent of the year on that one. Sorry. :(

Heather Binkley said...

It's just the nature of the thing. My oldest watched more television than his younger siblings did at an earlier age, but what he watched was much more age appropriate than most of the things they're watching. I also watched almost everything with him, as opposed to now where I have to admit sometimes walking into the room and having to ask, "What in the world are you watching?" I'm not really sure how these things are going to affect them longterm, but they all seem to be pretty well adjusted kids. I hate to admit that there are days that I don't know how I'd get anything done if I couldn't plop them in front of a half hour show or 2 ;)

Annie (Lady M) x said...

I have to admit, that I will never watch the TV with my kid or discuss it after. Her TV time is my time to run round like a mad 'un trying to get everything done that I can't when she is demanding my attention.

Plus, I have never heard of any adults in therapy because they 'watched too much TV as a child'..... so it can't be that bad!

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