Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Down and Out in TV land

Two words can have a huge impact on your life. Did you know? Since Noah learned the words for “down” and “out” it’s all I ever hear. He wants to get “down” in the grocery store. He wants to go “out” on a cold and blustery day. Now he can really make his wishes known and I can go about not granting them.

The other day Mark sent me a link to an article on Slate about the effects of TV on small children. The article made some very valid points about the findings of past studies on children and television being heavily skewed by other factors, primarily socioeconomic ones. I don’t however think their point totally negates my interest in the American Academy of Pediatrics statement that until more research is done on the effects they recommend children age 2 or younger not watch TV. In my mind LOTS of TV could be harmful to Noah, so it’s in my interest to limit the amount he watches.

This TV business is a very loaded subject. One that people have opinions, questions and doubts about on many levels. I am not endorsing no TV, some TV or lots of TV for any kid other than my own. I only know Noah and it’s my job to make decisions for him so that’s what I’m trying to do. As always, it is not my intention to offend anyone with my silly pondering on the matter. I’m just sharing my thought process along the way. And I’m interested what you guys think. The AAP can recommend that mothers dress all in blue and never use their right hand, but unless it works for us and our kids we aren’t going to follow it. So, anyway… here I go.

From the time Noah was an infant and started focusing on the TV until shortly after his first birthday, we generally didn’t have the TV on during his waking hours. This rule was partially made because of the AAP finding, but was really created so that Mark and I would not watch TV during Noah’s time. I’m kind of a TV junkie. If I’m in a room with a running television I will watch the TV regardless of the subject matter (except sports) and what I should be doing. I did not want to be home with Noah all day, barely paying him mind while I watched tons of daytime television that I didn’t even enjoy. And since Noah goes to bed at 8 pm (just in time for primetime), Mark has only 2 and a half precious hours of time with him on weekday evenings, time he needs to spend with Noah and not Judge Judy. So the no TV rule has worked really well for us in that we watch Noah and not TV, and then sink our couch potato butts onto the couch after he’s gone to bed.

Noah does watch some TV now. He knows how to turn it off and on and about twice a day he will say “tee… tee” while pointing at the television to ask me if he can turn it on. I tell him yes and then I make sure the TV is on one of the preschool channels, Noggin or Sprout. He watches a few minutes of it and then either wanders away to do something else or asks me if he can turn it off. Some shows hold his interest more than others – it’s clear that any sort of live action is much more appealing to him than animation. He prefers Barney, Oobi, Jack’s Big Music Show, Teletubbies, and Sesame Street. And I feel fairly certain that these increments of television do more teaching than they do damage. I’ve already seen him imitate noises and motions he’s seen on TV and I can totally see how good programming can be an important learning tool. I’m excited that he’s interested in that annoying purple dinosaur. Barney and those dorky kids he hangs with sing, dance, teach basic concepts and life lessons. (Sure, I say that now when I have to listen to him in ten minute increments.) I guess the struggle for me in the future is to try to figure out a good balance for TV – how much is good, how much is too much and how much restriction makes it even more of a treat.

I have two related stories. Last week Noah had a night where we couldn’t get him to go to bed until 11 pm. And it was a Wednesday! Lost night. I was so fried from spending hours trying to get him to sleep that by 10 pm Mark and I decided we were going to watch Lost on DVR even though Noah was awake. At first Noah just did other things but near the end he got up in front of the television whining to turn it off. To me he seemed generally concerned that we were staring at the TV and not playing with him. It made me feel like crap. I turned the TV off, I felt so guilty. And not about TV but a slightly similar situation- yesterday while Noah was playing blissfully with stuff on the office floor I was reading some blogs and leaving some comments. Noah came up to me and made the sign for “more.” I was asking “more what?” and trying to figure out what he wanted. After awhile I realized he wanted more me. He was asking me to get down on the floor and color with him. Again, I felt a little guilty at first. But then I thought about it and figured if he knows he can ask for me to do something with him and I’ll do it, then that is a good thing. He wasn’t letting me know he was feeling neglected, just that he was ready for some company. At least that is what I hope. We can save his disappoinment for when I won't let him "down" or "out."

So where do you weigh in on all this crap?


patrice said...

I think that if I had a bedtime routine like yours and no other kids clamoring for the TV, I would do exactly what you do. I think I mentioned that bella rarely pays attention to the tv when it's on but it's different for every kid out there.

this is probably something that, like cosleeping or extended nursing, I would probably lie about to other mothers just so I don't have to explain myself.

I like that you respect what I do and that I respect what you do. (I hope you do know that I respect what you do!)

juliloquy said...

I hear you on having to deal with the budding linguists. Shmoo says "up," "down," and, worst of all, "please" (well, he just says the "essss" part. And I say worst because how am I supposed to say no when he's asking so politely? Horsey ride for the 27th time please? OK.)

Anyway, it sounds like your TV rules are working well for you. We don't watch any TV to speak of, but I've turned it on a few times with Shmoo when I've been sick or exhausted and have just needed a little break. He doesn't pay much attention to it but is fascinated with the remote. He won't watch more than a few minutes.

Some friends of mine decry the Baby Mozart series saying it's teaching kids to *watch* toys being played with rather than the kids themselves playing with toys. I think my friends have a point, but my philosophy is everything in moderation. (With one exception--the purple dinosaur is banned from our household. I just can't stand that chortle.)

lonna said...

I was very strictly a no tv until age 2 person, but that of course changed once Dermot became interested in the tv. We will watch some shows with him around mostly because we don't have a DVR option. I also think that it's good for Dermot to learn that we get to use the tv for ourselves too. It's not just for him. We don't watch tv much with him, but we have bought some dvds. That way there are no commercials and I know it's educational. He loves Bob the Builder, Dora, and Elmo. Although for the last few weeks it's been all Elmo. He would watch Elmo all day and that scares me. So I've been limiting his amount of time. I also bought an entertainment center that allows me to close the doors on the tv. That way it's out of sight and out of mind. I will tell you that when I teach about tv, I stress that there is very little research out there. We do know that Sesame Street improves verbal scores and preschool preparedness. The assumption is that other well-designed shows should have a positive effect as well.

I think it's sweet that Noah signed more to have more time with you. I also think it's important for children to learn that while they are the most important part of your day, they are not the only part of your day. I wish that Dermot was able to do things by himself around here a little more. At the same time, you are right that he learned that when he asks you for something he is listened to and you respond. That's a great lesson too. That's one that we're working on around here a lot too. Of course, we're working on it at 2-4 in the morning, but still.

Kodi said...

Kiri didn't watch a lot of TV when she was real little because I was working and going to school and my free time with her was precious. However, as she got older, I have to admit it was easier to let her watch a show while I do the dishes than to listen to her scream while I did the dishes. I don't think the TV she watched when she was little did her any harm, but I sometimes regretted using Barney as a babysitter while I did chores.
I do seriously believe that excessive TV in pre-teens is harmful, mostly because they are inactive. But again, Kiri was a latch key kid from the age of 12, so I couldn't control the TV until I got home. Basically what I'm trying to say is, I wish I had been more strict with the TV, but I don't think it has done any real damage letting her watch shows until I get home from work.

Allison said...

My daughter didn't watch TV at all before the age of 2, but it wasn't really that I wouldn't allow it - she just wasn't interested in it AT ALL! She was a little over 2 when her brother was born, and I think by 2 1/2, she would finally watch a Little People 30 minute video at the most. Now, at 4, she could easily watch a whole movie. She probably only watches an hour or so a day. If I'm not feeling well or if her brother is sick, she might watch a little bit more than that. My son didn't pay attention to TV until he was at least 18 months, if not older. He still is not REALLY interested in it and the longest he sits still for it is maybe 10 minutes - and that's only for Elmo's World or Thomas and Friends. I wonder sometimes if my kids are not those kids that are glued to the TV, because I have always had the TV on for background noise, since they were babies. Wonder if they have just learned to tune it out? They don't ever pay attention to anything I have on unless it's a show for them.

Kat said...

Everything in moderation. In this world, TV is a part of life and a way of relaxation for many. I think it's wonderful that you don't view the situation as "No TV" but as TV = time away from the family. As Noah grows older, a TV show might just become a family shared experience.

I think you are doing an excellent job of making decisions that are best for your family. I value the opinions I read here because one day I'll be faced with the exact same things.

KATIEmagic said...

I haven't done any research on the subject yet (OK I probably won't). I can tell you that in the few short weeks that Ellis has been this side of the womb, if he's awake and ready to engage I feel guilty if I'm not doing some sort of learning play with him. That doesn't mean that I do it every time, but I feel like I should be.

I really like your system. I think once Ellis has a real bedtime something similar will work for us too.

NME said...

Thank you all for your candor and openness. It is really nice to be able to exchange ideas on this type of subject matter.

I will add that I watched ALOT of TV growing up. Like Kiri I was a latchkey kid and pretty much turned the TV on the moment I got home and didn't turn it off until I went to bed. In my twenties I even slept with the TV on. Now I make a conscious effort to watch less TV and I feel good about it. I feel like it is beneficial to me. Don't get me wrong - I love me some TV - probably too much. And I'm hoping that won't be an issue for Noah.

Thanks guys!