Television and (my) Kids

Recently someone at work on a parenting list posted this article done by Canadian researchers that Toddler TV Linked to Low Math Scores.  There was a variety of responses from the parents.  Mostly along the lines of – OMG is this really news?!  As I’ve often said before on the more inane “scientific” research reports that are announced.  Granted, this is Microsoft so many parents often have a sense of superiority and snobbery to the rest of the planet of parents.  What?!  It’s true – so don’t you dare flame me! (and I didn’t say ALL parents)

One of the parents did an informal poll asking – how old are your kids, how much time do they watch TV, what shows do they watch.  OK – I’ll bite, I responded.  In case you all are curious – mine is 7, 1-2 hours a day.  I replied that she watches – Cyberchase, Fetch with/ Ruff Ruffman, Phineas & Ferb, Bindi the Jungle Girl, Fraggle Rock, How It’s Made, Food Network.  This doesn’t account for the time she watches movies (mostly on the weekend) and any iTouch/computer screen time.

I got the results this morning.

I had the oldest kids of the respondents.  People actually said their kids watches 10 minutes a day.  Or that they never watch shows, but the TV is on in the background all the time (um…that counts!)  I guess what surprises me is how defensive people are.  How quickly parents flip into this I Do The Right Thing Mode and truth or not, tell the answer they think people want to hear.  How the world will be SO much better for their kid because of how much and what they watch.

I don’t really have the same outlook.  Yes, I monitor how much A watches.  Yes, I have say in what she watches.  I don’t think TV is rotting her brain.  One of her top faves right now is Cyberchase.  She got a Cyberchase computer game for her birthday (which she loves).  If you don’t know Cyberchase – it’s a very logic/math based mystery solving show.  On the other side of television, once in a while she will watch The Fairly Odd Parents which I don’t think has much value at all.  Sure, it has a veiled message of values – but never my first choice.  I’d rather she watch Phineas & Ferb – those boys come up with the craziest creative ideas of “what to do today”, it’s funny and I enjoy watching it with her.

Guess what people!  My kid LOVES math! She excels at math! It’s easy for her (yes, tooting my own math-degreed horn)

I think about the shows my brother and I watched.  Sure, we had a lot of exposure to PBS and Nickelodeon.  Then there were the Smurfs, Care Bears, Speed Racer, Krofft Brothers, Animaniacs, etc etc etc!  We also were plastered in front of the TV every Saturday watching 3 hours of Bug Bunny.  If anything is going to rot your brain, it’s Bugs Bunny.  Apply today’s logic and the two of us should be insane, cross-dressing, carrot chomping, hot head deviants pushing people off of cliffs and carrying guns around shooting at anything that moves.

I turned out OK.

We cannot blame how our kids turn out based on television, xBox, iPad, computer time they have.  As parents, I feel we have a duty to monitor, make choices, and (probably most important) set boundaries on anything our kids are exposed to as they grow up.  Actually, most important is to engage with them and talk about “smart” viewing choices.  Explain why I won’t let her watch Hannah Montana because I don’t think Miley Cyrus is a good role model or the Little Mermaid because she gives up who she is for a man.  Sometimes I get that confused look, but A doesn’t push back on me.

I’m not even going to talk about the days the TV isn’t on at all, that’s another story for another time.  This one is about taking control of the television, engage with the kid, and remember that we turned out OK. 

Make smart choices, that’s all I ask.