Monday, May 25, 2009

Raising Vidiots? Or Baby Einsteins? 1/2009


I was recently with a small group of mom bloggers, and the topic of TV time for children came up. It seems there are many views (pun intended) on this subject. Here’s what I said: “The TV is on in my house all the time. I am ok with that.”

Now, now . . . drop your rocks and listen to the rest. ‘Let ye who is without sin cast the first stone’ and all that. Kids’ screen time is one of those subjects like your drivers’ license weight. There is your real weight, and the one on your license. People say their children watch appropriate amounts of TV, but how much are they actually watching? Screen time for kiddies is controversial. The reality is that we live in an electronic age. That doesn’t mean we must watch TV or be on the computer all the time. But it does mean it is more available as regular entertainment. The University of Washington’s 2007 study specifically slams many infant focused DVDs, claiming a higher chance of problems beginning around age seven. And, of course, there is a lot of judging that goes on between moms, creating intimidation and one-upping scenarios at every local park.

I am a parent of one year old triplets and a 12 year old boy. If I am alone with the trio during the day and they are all screaming and crying, how do I choose? Who do I choose? If a Baby Einstein or Signing Time show can entertain two of them while I feed, bottle, or change the third, it makes my day so much more manageable. They are not watching CSI or Gangland, and they are not alone with the TV ever. They are watching something with classical music, sign language and beautiful imagery. I often leave the main menu on to replay the classical music (which does not have flashing imagery), and I enjoy it as well. Frequently I see my kids bouncing to the beat or trying to mimic the signs when they see hands on the screen. How can this be a bad thing?

I understand the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation on screen time. However, they failed to come to my house and observe multiples and one mom trying to get through the day. I also understand neural pathway development (to the degree that I am not a neurologist), and, admittedly I’m stubborn. “You may not tell me what to do or how to do it in my house, with my family. Don’t judge me.”

Perhaps I am not the norm. I don’t know. And yes, my children watch TV often. However, we do not, nor will we ever, have TVs in any other room but the living room. Our children must watch with us if they are to watch at all. Homework has to be done first (for our 12 year old). How much TV do your children watch?

Parents are marketed to aggressively. Do some products make your kids smarter? The word “Einstein” certainly inspires the perception of intelligence. Who doesn’t want that for their child? Personally, I love Baby Einstein. They are a smart company, with a sincere intention to provide meaningful, authentic programs and products. My children love it. My four and six year old nephew and niece are still fascinated by it when they come over. My sister in-law who has taught kindergarten for 14 years, loves it. My mother has taught elementary and preschool for 40 years. She is a fan.

The real distinction is that no matter the amount of TV, parents must be involved with their children. I know I cannot be everything and teach everything to my children. To the degree that I can, I will. Then there is school, friends, family and life, all from which they will learn much. I have no fear that seven years from now my children will have behavior problems in school. I have no fear that they are being set up for failure. We are involved, intelligent parents. We read to and interact with our kids. After 12 years of TV, our son is in the gifted program, is socially adjusted, and in several instances already had knowledge of historical events which my husband stopped to explain. From where? An unlikely source - parodies on the Simpsons. Surprisingly, he has developed quite a sharp sense of humor as well – and knows how to use it.

What I want for my children in the way of toys and TV, are seeds planted and inspiration of their imaginations, not a room full of too many toys and too many choices. I do not want them to watch violence. I do want them to watch interesting programs, and listen to a variety of music and language. I hope they learn the beauty that is Led Zeppelin, the genius that is Eric Clapton, the great music of the Beatles, Billy Joel, Carol King, Pink Floyd and more.

My babies have social interaction with each other, and we get out occasionally. If I only had one baby, I would likely be able to be more socially interactive with other babies and moms. Maybe we wouldn’t have as much screen time. Then I could be that judgmental mom. “Tsk, tsk. Your child watches HOW much TV??”

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