Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Screen Time

Since Leanne and I are dirty, crunchy, granola-eating, garden-growing, bike-riding, Patagonia-wearing, tea-drinking, Obama-voting, pinko hippies, we always thought that we would severely limit Olive’s TV watching. We would prance around as a na├»ve, childless couple going “TV is bad!” and “We’ll never just stick OUR child in front of the TV” and “I hope she never knows what a princess is!”

We would normally say these things while watching our fourth episode of The Hills or arguing whether or not we watch a recorded episode of Little People, Big World or America’s Funniest Home Videos.

Umm, do as we say, not as we do, honey.

When we had Olive we took one major step towards less TV by downgrading our cable from the regular 4,729 channels to about 50. Oh, and no more DVR. (On a side note, this seems to have punished ME more than anyone cause right now we get no ESPN, no NESN, no Food Network, no Discovery Channel. Therefore, no Sportscenter, no Red Sox, no food porn, and no Deadliest Catch or Cash Cab. But we somehow manage to get the Style Network, the WE Network, and some channel that constantly plays re-runs of What Not to Wear.) For the first year or so of Olive’s life it was pretty easy to keep her from TV. We usually fed her and then gave her bottles while watching the tube, but she was probably only in front of it for a total of about 30 minutes a day.

But things were simpler way back then six months ago. Before then, you could just set Olive down with some toys and she would be happy. No need for a TV cause she really didn’t show much interest in it. Plus, for almost the first full year of her life she was relatively immobile. If she wasn’t plopped in front of the TV, she wasn’t watching it.

Oh, the good old days. More and more I find myself flipping on the set as an emergency calm me down for a cranky Olive. More and more I find myself enjoying sitting on the couch with my arm around my daughter and watching Curious George. Before, we used to give her a morning bottle with Sesame Street on in the background and then get up and do something else after she was done. Now, Olive finishes her bottle and she re-positions herself onto the couch to keep watching. Hell, we even bought her a little easy chair and put it right next to the couch, facing the TV. The AAP recommends that kids under two years old watch NO television. That seems impossible if you have a television in the house.

I thinkt he trick is closely monitoring what and how much they watch, and the good news is we still limit pretty strictly what she watches. I’ve quickly figured out that the best shows really are on PBS. Sesame Street has changed a lot since we were kids, but, in my opinion, is still the best kids show on television. Though I cringe when I see Elmo on everything from juice boxes to crackers to toilets, I have kind of grown to like the little red guy. Curious George is a simple cartoon with a simple story. Peep and the Big Wide World is the same thing. They don’t need crazy animation or storylines that seemed like they were written while on an acid trip. Those are pretty much our standbys. We get four different PBS channels so chances are I can find one of those whenever I need it. (Of course, I think I watch these shows a little too much, cause things start to bother me. Things like: why doesn’t the Man in the Yellow Hat realize that leaving George alone is just a BAD idea? He KEEPS leaving him alone! It is clear your monkey needs supervision. It is only a matter of time before George rips someone’s face off.)

Olive still hasn’t really watched too much other TV. Sure, the news will be on in the morning, and Jeopardy is almost always on when she is getting ready for bed. We do get other kids channels, I think Nick Jr, but she really doesn’t watch. I can see the future, though. Olive watched her first movie a couple weeks ago when she was sick. She sat on the couch for over an hour and watched a cheap Elmo flick we took out from the library. She likes TV. WE like TV. As militant as we like to think we will be about “Screen time” the fact is that we are going to watch it and she is going to watch it. For better or worse, it will be our babysitter at times. Eventually she is going to discover the Disney channel and start watching whoever takes over for Miley Cyrus once Miley’s sex tape comes out. Then she’ll want to go to a Demi Lovato concert and a Justin Beiber poster. Then Olive is going to want all the Disney Princess videos and she is going to want to be Ariel for Halloween and before you know it I’m going to be dressing my four year old in a bra made out of shells.

Yes, it is a slippery slope this television, but I’ve never met a kid that doesn’t like to slide down slippery slopes.

So what you’re your views on kids and televison and screen time? Am I slowly poisoning Olive’s brain and sentencing her to a life of ADD and obesity. Or is TV and wonderful cure-all that gives us parents 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to actually make dinner or drink a bottle or two of wine? Choose!


  1. Hahaha Marshall and I ask that same question all the time! Why do people keep leaving George in charge of their candy store, pet bunny rabbits, Italian restaurant, etc? It seriously bothers me. Has Olive gotten into Yo Gabba Gabba yet?

  2. Seriously! You think someone would figure out, Hey the last time I left you alone with my spaghetti sauce you put a pound of salt in it...maybe I should keep an eye on you.

    She hasn't seen Yo Gabba Gabba yet, though I am all for it. And we do get Nick Jr -- We just don't seem to be in front of the TV when it is on.

  3. Ur favorite mum-in-lawJuly 19, 2010 at 9:48 AM

    There is a huge difference between letting your kids zone out in front of any TV show and rarely interacting with them or letting them intermitently watch good children's programming and parents spending time with their kids in physical activities and reading. You and Leanne are one of the best parents out there and Dad & I have often commented on how rare and fun it is to see parents who truly enjoy their child. We are very proud of your parenting skills. :)