Now, as my three-year-old and his friends have grown, I've found more and more small children who watch TV regularly. Some watch only at night, some before and after school, and some have the TV on all day long. As I listen to other parents describe their kids' TV-watching schedule, I've realized that TV has become my, "thing." The one* thing I really want to limit. I cringe when I see spaced-out toddlers staring at either a TV or at the myriad of gadgets with videos. Because I feel so strongly about TV-viewing, I've been trying to figure out what it is about TV that bugs me so much.
I don't think TV is bad and evil. I don't think watching some will make my children behave abominably--or at least any more abominably than they would without TV as an influence. I also don't think kids who watch a lot of TV are going to be unintelligent or boring. What I do think is that TV becomes a habit. If I let my three-year-old son Monkey watch one episode (of the one show we let him watch) via OnDemand, he immediately begs for another one. Then he begs for it repeatedly the next day but as more days pass between viewings, he forgets to ask for the show at all.
More important than not watching TV is what kids are doing instead. Instead of watching TV, my son is playing with his trains, building towers, playing with his sister, talking to my husband and me, and asking us to read him books. Sometimes he's annoying the heck out of me, but I feel that's a fair price to pay in exchange for him not turning into a starry-eyed blob on my couch. He is learning to redirect his energy, he is learning to be creative, he is learning that he can survive being bored and find an alternative that is not TV. Having the TV off also forces me to take action and to play actively with my kids and to take them outside, no matter how lazy I feel.
I know many (the majority?) of parents feel differently about TV and I understand that, just as I hope they understand (tolerate?) me. I'm aware of the educational TV shows and videos, but I'm also aware of the studies that show zero benefits to kids under the age of two watching them. Until the age of eight, kids don't understand that commercials are trying to sell them something and kids under the age of six can't tell the difference between a commercial and a TV show (I've heard that from many sources, but I found it here today: How TV Affects Your Child).
With all that information in mind, I'm going to continue to limit the amount of TV Monkey watches now and Munchkin watches in the future, which means that TV will continue to be my "thing" for a while longer.
*I also feel strongly about making food at home and discipline, but TV is a biggie!