Sunday, July 20, 2008

TV my drug of choice

I confess tv is my drug of choice when life is stressful. When things are bad with Little T, I watch a lot of tv. In the hospital, at home holding him being human pillow, I watched a lot of tv. When life gets too overwhelming and talking about it just won't help, I watch tv. Being a Silicon Valley mom, I have a Tivo, so I only watch tv of my choice. The tv my kids watch is always educational.

As drugs go, tv is wonderful, the best. It lets you forget about life for a while. It relaxes you. It produces a trance like state similar to that found in a good narcotic. Then you can turn the thing off,and except for perhaps wasting some time, there are no side effects. And you might even learn something.

The righteous parents who decry how tv rots children's brains must have forgotten how much tv they watched as kids. The studies that show kids IQs dropping or speech delays with a few hours of tv a week seem extremely flawed to me. They are often based on self-reported data. Sure if you sit your child in front of the tv all damn day, their brain will rot. Not necessarily because of the tv watching, but because kids need stimulation besides tv.

Or maybe the parents of kids with problems sit them in front of tv because they don't know what else to do with them. These parents will probably not admit in a survey that their child watches tv all day. Instead they'll respond 'a few hours a week' like the rest of us.

Both my children watch tv as part of a balanced diet of activities. Special K also eats treats as part of a balanced diet of food. I feel sorry for those kids who never get to watch tv. I regard them the same as the child who never got to eat anything sweet growing up. She was always sneaking candy, because it was this forbidden treat. Once your kids go to school, you can not escape tv or sweet things, so you may as well teach your kids to be responsible consumers.

We don't watch commercials, though sometimes we zip by them. I've told my daughter how ads make things frequently look better than they are and people are trying to sell things. She notices ads all the time anyway. Ads are not restricted to the tv. Step outside and billboards are everywhere. Another silly argument for avoiding tv, shot down.

The Tivo saved my breastfeeding. Sure breastfeeding is magical for five minutes, but then your baby breastfeeds for another fifteen to twenty minutes. I had limits to how long I could stare at my baby's guzzling mouth and the back of my baby's head.

The Baby Einstein video or any video has allowed me to regain my sanity during the midafternoon crazies when the kids are getting way too punchy and I'm too tired to wind them down myself. The alternative is me yelling at them or putting them screaming in their crib or bed. Instant calm. We all relax.

I'm not saying hand over the remote control to your toddler and let her watch hours of tv unsupervised, but this parent is really tired of reading about how tv or any technology is the cause of a host of ills and therefore should be avoided. Cars accidents are a leading cause of death for children. Nonetheless I drive my children in cars everyday. No one suggests banning children from cars.

I believe my job as a parent is to use technology responsibly. I use tv like any other parenting tool I have. I have no problems with tv rating systems. I do have a problem with parents who expect the rating system to supervise their children when they use tv instead of themselves and then make it harder for me to have access to tv. Unlike a movie on the big screen, it costs nothing but time to watch a tv show.

I personally have watched every show my kids have watched, not every episode, but every show. I plan to do this until my kids are old enough to be saavy media consumers. I don't think any rating system can tell me what my child finds scary or disturbing. My daughter doesn't find hospitals at all scary, so any medical drama is fine. However arguing is scary to her, so Cinderella is scary.

If I had to do slogans for tv education, it would go like this: "TV's a powerful and useful drug, so please watch it responsibly."

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