Saturday, December 18, 2010


When I was pregnant, I read that the AAP recommends no TV for the under-two crowd.  It stunts their brain development and they get ADD.  Or something like that.

I knew people that didn't have TVs in their house.  I knew people that had TVs but only used them for bad weather reports or other essential information.  (Note: they did not consider the score of the Colts game to be essential information, just so you know.)

Myself?  While pregnant I would get into House marathons on USA network and even watch shows I'd seen already.  That would be Saturday.  Sunday, of course, from 11 am to 11 pm was football, football, and more football.  Weekday evenings was PTI and ESPN talk shows until network sitcoms came on.

But I totally planned to turn off the boob tube as soon as the baby was born.  I didn't even expect that it would be an issue for me to give up watching TV to spend time playing with her, reading to her, and tending to her every need.  And it wasn't.

Apparently I didn't have this conversation with my parents.  At my parents house, the TV is on all. the. time.  It's the background noise for the background noise.  My father will turn on the tv and then read the entire newspaper, never once even glancing at the television.  Since his hearing is going, he turns up the TV to normal-hearing-ear-shattering levels while he blatantly ignores it.

So I'm stuck between not wanting my daughter to watch too much television, and .... Real Life.

First she became obsessed with Baby Einstein videos.  Those ended up getting incorporated into the bedtime routine, then getting gently phased out again when she returned to her love of books before bed.  Then she got Dora Saves The Puppies which we had to watch obsessively.

But at least it's not "real" TV.  At least the commercials are for OTHER Dora DVD's, or other Baby Einstein products.  At least it's not commercials like the video yesterday analyzed, or commercials for Intervention that Motherbumper dives for the remote to avoid.

My mother is a woman with few routines. Her preferred method of living life for more-years-than-I've-been-alive is spontaneous and whatever-the-mood-brings. One of her few routines, however, is her morning television. Her mother always watched morning television, and now she also always watches morning television. Usually the Today show. I think she was secretly infatuated with Matt Lauer until she found out he cheated on his wife.

So one morning, when dropping the girl off at Nan's before work, with the Today Show in the background, I see a woman with a beautiful dye job speaking.  The caption under her reads "blah blah blah prostitutes blah blah blah".  While talking to my mom and trying to ignore the ex-prostitute talking about johns and tricks with the word prostitute emblazened across the screen, I hear her say "Hookers for Jesus".


Hookers for Jesus.

On the TV.

Given that my daughter now tries to parrot everything she hears, I'm surprised that she didn't try to say "Hookers for Jesus".

(Go ahead, say it out loud.  You know you want to.  Every person I have said that to has had to repeat it.  Seriously, it's like your brain can't comprehend it unless you say it out loud.)

If she was just a bit older, I might have had to field questions like "Mommie, what is a prostitute?  What is a hooker?  Why are they talking about men named Johns?  What tricks are they playing?"  Great, that's exactly the kind of conversation I want to have, THANKS TODAY SHOW.

That's it, no more Real TV.

But then, am I being a control freak?  Am I trying to protect my daughter too much?  Shouldn't I have the conversation about what is a hooker at home, rather than let my mother or someone else handle it?  I can't keep her away from television everywhere all the time.

I've seen more talk on the web about freestyle parenting.  About not really having parenting rules to follow, and just winging it.  I'm not sure how I feel about that idea.  Our life works well with some internal structure and routines.  But do I have too many rules to follow?

That Motherbumper post  really got me thinking.  Do we set rules for our children to avoid what we don't want to deal with directly?  "No TV-watching because I don't want you to see anything that I have to explain" rather than "You can watch this show and if you have questions then we will talk about them" which makes for a more difficult - but more developmentally positive - experience.

So for now I'm trying to minimize the amount of Real TV we see.  Easy to do since she's still obsessed with Dora Saves The Puppies.  I'll do the best I can until I figure out something better to do.  But given the studies coming out about video games, that will definitely be a "no" at our house as long as possible.


Serifm said...

No, I think limiting the amount of television your daughter is exposed to is like limiting junk food. Sure, she can have a French fry once in a while. Sure, she can watch cartoons while Mommy makes some fantastic vegetarian dinner. But you might want to aim for a rough percentage of say, 80% play and books and human interaction to 20% Dora. Or something.

Also, NOT lazy parenting to protect a toddler from Hookers for Jesus. Little ones have less capacity for nuanced thinking and you want them to process age-appropriate info at a pace you feel comfortable with.

Funky Mama Bird said...

We are one of those don't have a TV households. We watch shows from Netflix on our projector.

Gunne has only ever watched vintage Sesame street episodes on my laptop. And I watch them first before I let him see them. His favorite is "No." He will watch that one 15 times in a row if I let him, which I don't because he is also limited to 10 minutes of "videos" a day. You want to watch "No." 5 times or 5 different videos, I don't really care.

But yeah, I'm really anal about not letting him watch any Real TV. Ever.

Jellybean Mama said...

I am pretty lax about TV watching, since there are thousands of people out there who weren't too damaged by it. But I have a few rules; I'm hardcore about the content, at least for a few more years. And we are active watchers (I watch with her and we talk about it, and clap/jump/sing). NO COMMERCIALS. Anyone see that blog post about gender identities and how companies market differently to boys/girls? Blech.

No real TV. No news, sports, sitcoms, reality shows, nothing other than NickJr or PBS. I use to watch The Soup in front of her and I stopped doing that as soon as she was old enough to recognize and say hi to Joel McHale. The bits and pieces she sees when my parents visit, well, not much I can do about that, unfortunately, except try to promote occupying her with doing something else.

FruitFish said...

Last year I was thinking about being all on board with no tv until they're two (remember, I don't have a kiddo yet). Then I thought about real life. My mom will have PBS on for my niece and at home she likes Diego, Dora, or movies. I know that it won't happen, it just won't (and I'll be the first to "break" the rule). After watching a Christmas show on ABC Family however, I told my sister, "Yep, I'm definitely going to buy DVD seasons of those wholesome family shows that I grew up with and that's what they'll get to watch :)