This article, entitled Don't feel guilty about letting your children watch television comes from Nicole Knepper, writer of Moms Who Drink and Swear on chicagonow.com.
As an adult, when I found myself feeling irritated and annoyed while watching the repetitive, high-pitched exaggerated sounds and movement on children’s television show, I figured out a way to make it less painful in order to spend some time seeing what my kids loved to watch, because despite what some morons might say, it's okay for young children to watch television, and it's silly to feel guilty about allowing them to do so. Kids learn a lot from watching what we consider brain blasting junk that violently assaults our grown up sensory systems.
When Dora the Explorer asks, I mean YELLS, a question, and there’s a long, awkward pause where she just stands there, staring out from the screen not seeming to hear your kid screaming his answer over and over, it’s normal for it to make you feel stabby and impatient. I mean really, you are an adult and don’t have time for this. SPEAK UP, DORA! My kids loved her yelling and staring, and yelled and stared right back, so I shut up and just enjoyed watching them watch the show.
When my kids were small, I used the television as both as a babysitter, an educational tool, and as way to get them to sit still long enough for a nice long snuggle. Before you tell me how terrible this is, that educational children’s television is an oxymoron, let me tell you that I respect your right to your opinion, which happens to be different than mine, and in my opinion, moronic. So let’s agree to disagree and move along, m’kay? But first read this little ditty from Wikipedia. It’s good stuff.
“The Children's Television Act was enacted in 1990 in the United States to enhance television's potential to teach the nation's children valuable information and skills. The Act requires each full-service television station that offers children's television programming in the U.S. to serve the educational and informational needs of children through its overall television programming, including programming specifically designed to serve these needs (or "core" educational programming).”
When you are watching some annoying character whine, nag, disobey their parents, or mess stuff up six ways to Saturday, feeling like there can’t possibly be any redeeming value to what's on your screen, you might be wrong, so save your feelings of guilt and remorse for all the other horrible things you will inevitably say or do to your kid.
For the most part, children’s television shows are created and developed by professionals who work in the field of early childhood education and specifically tailored to the preferences of small children. Unless you have your toddler watching Family Guy, or South Park (Both of which, as an adult, I love and watch regularly).
Otherwise, try to remember that kids squeeze out every drop of what there is to be squeezed out from every song, show, book, toy and experience. That’s how they learn, and they learn slower than adults, because they are still learning the little stuff they need to learn to understand the big stuff. You shouldn’t feel guilty about letting your kids watch the same show over and over if you aren’t overusing it to avoid them altogether or don’t care to interact with them yourself. If that’s the case, you are also a moron, minus the oxy.
If you want to let your kids watch television, you shouldn’t feel guilty or concerned that they aren’t benefiting from the experience. They are. If anyone makes you feel guilty about it, you should feel free to tell them they can shove their unsolicited opinion, and continue doing what you feel is right for your kid.
When Dora yells questions at your kid, it makes them feel important, because she wants to know what they think and how they feel and the yelling just tells them that she is excited about them! We’ve all been there, right? Oh my GOD, someone actually cares what I think? It’s thrilling for your kid! Dora listens and invites them into her world, never rushing them or correcting them when they don’t provide the perfectly perfect answer or when they need a little time to think things through.
When Elmo squeaks out his falsetto ramblings about how he sees the world, you kid is riveted because the squeaking high pitch sounds are appealing to kids for some odd reason, and because Elmo doesn’t expect them to do anything but squeak on along. Elmo loves them, and tells them this every single day, multiple times a day. Let that sink in. Elmo loves you too, you know?
When Calliou messes up for the fiftieth time, it teaches your kid that messing up is normal, and that messing up constantly is part of learning, and growing up, and that they can mess up all kinds of stuff and still be loved as the little person upper they are.
Steve, from Blue’s Clue's would never tell your kid he didn’t have time to answer a question or play a boring game. He’d play it out with the patience of a saint, over and over and over and over. Saint Steve gave me quite a few snack ideas over the years.
And one for the homophobes out there, you should know that watching The Wiggles isn’t going to make your son gay. Over the years, I’ve heard many a father of a young boy declare that he would never let his kid watch those “fags.” You know what THAT teaches your son? Ignorance, hate and fear. It teaches them that if they are indeed homosexual, they should know better than to come to you and talk about it. It teaches them that you are a moron.
But I digress.
I digress quite often. Especially when I watch Max and Ruby. I can’t help but think their parents run a drug cartel and pay granny with cash and weed to look in on the bunnies once in awhile, and none of the other adult bunnies step in and help or report them to child services, because they are scared some minion is gonna pop a cap in their end or send ‘em for a long nap with the fishes. But your kid doesn’t think this way when he watches those crazy cartoon bunnies!
Your kid doesn’t care! He is too busy learning and hanging out with his imaginary television friends without your interference! He doesn’t have to hurry up, or settle down, or knock it off, or be quiet. He just gets to be.
So in conclusion, (steps up on top of soap box and clears throat) I’m suggesting you don’t wish it away, knock it, or mock it in front of your kid or feel bad about letting them watch. So why not let him enjoy the magic and wonder and make believe. You don’t have to like it. But I am suggesting you don’t beat yourself up about it and maybe get in a little snuggle time, taking a break from your busy day and letting them decide what character they want to visit, even if it takes every ounce of self control for you to keep your opinions to yourself. You might learn something yourself.
Why not pour yourself an adult beverage watch it with him? Because if you are anything like me, you can get a whole bunch of snuggles, and instead of feeling annoyed, you can just quietly imagine Diego falling off the zip line into the mouth of a waiting anaconda, and it freaks Boots the monkey out so bad that he ends up doing what you knew he’d do all along – rip Dora’s face off.
I'm pretty sure that watching a little television isn't going to turn your toddler into a moron. But it could. What do I know?