Monday, February 18, 2013
My Case for TV
Does anyone else feel a bit of vindication when a major news outlet reports something you have long since suspected? Satisfaction in a high-five yourself, now I must share this news with the world sort of way? Maybe it's just me...
The New York Times recently reported on a study published in the journal Pediatrics showing that limiting preschoolers' viewing time of violent programming and increasing time with educational programming that encourages empathy had an impact on the children's pro-social behavior. The thing that I find most interesting about the study is that over the course of the year there was no reduction of viewing time, in fact it often increased. Yet the behavior outcomes were positive nonetheless, suggesting that content is as important a factor in media viewing as quantity.
We hear it from pediatricians, we hear it from teachers, we hear it in magazines, we hear it from other moms, we hear it from our own moms. Throw out the TV!
I personally think that is not the best advice.
Media is a huge part of our society. Televisions exist and they will be used. And the great thing is that children's programming can be a tool if used wisely. For too long we have been telling TV people to turn it off. That is advice many parents will simply tune out. Unfortunately, by giving advice that will most likely be ignored rater than providing guidance that has a better chance of being followed we have been missing a huge educational opportunity.
Sesame Street was created by a group of New Yorkers who wanted to provide a slice of preschool in the home. They wanted children not fortunate enough to attend a quality preschool to gain the same skills and knowledge in their own living rooms. An hour of Sesame Street teaches academic letter and number concepts, executive functioning skills such as memory and organization, as well as interpersonal skills like cooperation and kindness. Even the best intentioned, most wonderful, most attentive parent cannot cram this much learning into an engaging hour. Can you imagine the impact if every 3, 4 and 5 year old traded in just one hour a day of Cartoon Network and Angry Birds for this?
Sesame Street was the pioneer, but there is an amazing amount of great programming out there for children. Unfortunately there is also a lot of animation NOT meant for kids. And a lot of "kids" channels that are now meant for tweens. Nothing on Nickelodeon is for preschoolers. Their shows are on Nick Jr. Disney isn't for the little ones either. There's Disney Jr. for that. Cartoon Network isn't for kids at all, from what I've seen. Of course PBS is always a great choice, but can you blame parents for getting confused?
I hope this study guides doctors and educators towards what I feel is more relevant, practical and accurate advice.
Yes, your preschooler should watch TV. Yes, screen time should be limited. Choose programming for your child. Choose programs that teach a skill useful to your child. When the TV is on, watch, when the show is over, turn it off.
You are not a bad parent if your child stares at the screen for an hour while you clean something, make a phone call or shut your eyes for a minute. You just might be a great one.
Posted by Mountain View Mama at 7:29 PM