whoever you want to be…

The Square-Eyed Monster

I can’t remember where I read it now, but some advice body or other recommended that children should watch no television at all until they turn two, and that it should be strictly rationed after that.

Oh, crap.

Allow me to get my self-conscious, pre-emptive parenting defence in. My two-year-old daughter is not allowed to watch television all day, and MUST – for everyone’s sanity, let alone their physical health – do something active every day. Whether it’s a raucous game of hide-and-seek, running up and down the garden, darting around the park or (more usually) all three and then some, she is full of all the rocket fuel of childhood and it must be harnessed and burned. She also reads books. Lots and lots and lots of books. She can narrate the whole of The Tiger Who Came to Tea or Slinky Malinki easily, and gleefully. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But… she does watch TV. Quite a lot of it. And she’s been allowed to watch it since, well, ever. Because it’s on in the house – until now we’ve lived with other family members, so not always by our choice – and because sometimes it can be a blessed pleasure to distract her with some Justin Fletcher creation or other while I have a cup of tea and breathe.

I’m painfully aware that whatever I write is going to sound like justification for being a lazy mum. Maybe I am, at that. I refuse to use the argument of “it never did me any harm” (though it didn’t) because that argument is far too easily used for something that really is against my principles, like smacking or never eating vegetables ever, ever, even hidden in pasta sauce. But, in my middle-class, privileged way, I do worry that by not putting my foot down enough about TV-watching, I might be harming my daughter.

I am selective about what she watches according to my own principles – Small Potatoes, Peppa Pig and Justin’s House yes, anything too pink-and-blue and / or with poor production value, no – and I’m also aware that on the days she’s cared for by older family members she probably watches all sorts because, frankly, they’re tired and need a break from the demands of a toddler. On the days she’s at nursery, I recently calculated, she probably watches a total of an hour of telly; one programme while we’re darting around getting ourselves together and another when she gets home. I also only switch on the television when she requests it (and certainly not every time she requests it), and will invariably suggest a book, building blocks, making train track, drawing with crayons or footling in the garden as an alternative choice.

The fact remains, however, that over the course of the week – particularly early weekend mornings, when one of us is having a lie-in while the other parents alone, bleary-eyed, at 5:40am – she does clock up quite a few square-eyed hours, and she does really, really love the television. And I feel guilty about it.

Despite the all-embracing, wonderful and supportive atmosphere here at Bea, I’m pretty sure there’ll be someone out there ready to tell me that I should. So, I throw down the gauntlet and ask: is there such a thing as too much? Should the TV be off all day, every day? What are the best distractions?

Superparents, it’s over to you.

[Image: woodlywonderworks]

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About Alexandra Roumbas Goldstein

I'm a blogger, social media manager, mum, film fan, feminist and food freak in any order you like. I will shoehorn Disney into any conversation. Follow me @mokuska.

5 comments on “The Square-Eyed Monster

  1. msmac (@msmac)
    September 12, 2012

    Really, the only tv rules we ever had for my boys (now 19, 18 & 15) were no tv before school (try and get a kid ready for school when cartoons are on. Also, I read somewhere that tv before school doesn’t help with concentration in the classroom. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to follow that rule.) and no tv/video/DVDs in the bedrooms. (they had tv for gaming but not watching, if you see what I mean) That way, whatever tv shows they watched were watched in the living room with me either present, snoozing away on the sofa or buzzing around doing housework etc. It worked out for us. They were happiest playing with each other/ their wee pals anyway.

    Then came the Xboxes, laptops, mobile phones etc. A whole other set of problems to worry about.

    • Alexandra Roumbas Goldstein
      September 12, 2012

      That’s a really good point about getting ready for school. At the moment, she doesn’t do a lot of that, so a fifteen-minute cartoon can actually be a good way to let us get ourselves ready to leave the house. I can see I’m going to have to watch out for a future pitfall there.

      And yes, a bit tick to always overseeing TV viewing… though God only knows what clever bits of tech she’ll have at her disposal by the time she’s a teenager.

  2. Melanie M.
    September 12, 2012

    My daughter is 2 1/2. Before I had her, I thought I would keep the television off because everyone knows it’s terrible and it rots their brains! Boy did that change once she hit toddler hood and I was prepared to do almost anything to get a free few moments to myself.

    We buy DVDs, that way we control what she watches and keep exposure to commercials to a minimal. I would say she watches, at most, about an hour a day. That’s not to say the tv isn’t on more than that some days. She just doesn’t sit there entranced. She watches her favourite parts, then reads a books, or plays, or draws or whatever.

    I really don’t see any harm in it. I’m not sure what amount of television is “too much”. If it’s all a kid wants to do, if it is impeding greatly on physical activity or interaction with other people, I think that would definitely be too much.

    • Alexandra Roumbas Goldstein
      September 12, 2012

      Phew – glad I’m not alone! The DVD idea is a good one. I practically hiss and spit when I see the ads that are on some channels, and I’ll switch those off immediately. And it’s true that, while she loves TV, she isn’t transfixed. The other day she enthusiastically preferred sorting clothes for the dryer over watching any more of the programme that was on. 😀

      Thanks very much for reading and commenting!

  3. Pingback: What to do when toddlers fall for gendered marketing | Bea

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