Kids & Television

I received an e-mail asking if this might interest me, and I have to say, just based on personal experience, I can see a real difference in my kids based on what they watch on any given day.

Hardly empirical evidence, I realize, but here's what happens in my house: My kids get up, and they know how to turn on the television BUT they can't change the channel because we keep the remotes up on a shelf (and we're way past the days of hand dials). So every night I make sure the channel is set to PBS Kids. Or sometimes Disney Jr.

And do I miss a few nights? Yes.

One morning I discovered the kids watching HGTV. They were weirdly mesmerized. And then they all went off to draw their own versions of a "dream house." Not so bad.

And PBS Kids is fine, and Disney Jr. is, well, okay (but never my first choice).

And then there are channels like Hub. Those shows are so cute, I totally get it, and my kids just love My Little Pony and Pound Puppies. But the commercials . . . I can't go to a store without my kids pointing out stuff they saw on commercials on The Hub.

Do I feel guilty that my kids watch a lot of TV? Well . . . What's "a lot" I guess is my real question? I watched plenty of television growing up. Loved Pinwheel, Danger Mouse, all that stuff Nickelodeon imported. But I was also allowed to watch Moonlighting and British comedies and Dukes of Hazard and Love Boat . . . My kids don't stay up and watch adult TV. And they watch a lot less TV than I ever did. I had my own television set in my room; we have only one television set in the whole house.

I don't know how much TV my kids watch compared to other people's. TV seems to have become a guilty secret that parents aren't willing to admit to. Like a drug they slip their kids from time to time. No one really talks about it except to say they never, or at least almost never . . . Except maybe when they're sick . . . Or when mom or dad really needs ten uninterrupted minutes . . .

But hey. My kids are really smart. They have fantastic vocabularies and can carry on extremely intelligent conversations. (The pediatrician is utterly amazed at my 3-year-old's ability to express himself.) I'd like to say it's all me. That having a writer for a mother means my kids will naturally be articulate. And maybe that's part of it. But I'm kind of sure Sid the Science Kid has at least given my children something to talk about and be interested in. And I know for a fact that my 3-year-old, the one the pediatrician thinks is so amazing, has culled a lot of his expressions from Thomas the Tank Engine.

I think TV is like any candy or junk food. Everything in moderation. It's about portion control, and it's about taking in the "right" nutrients. We've all heard of kids whose parents never let them have candy, and then those kids grow up and eat nothing but cookies and become diabetic and obese (or something like that). It's the same with television. Let them have a little junk now and then, and also make sure they're digesting the good stuff. But (at the risk of upsetting some parents and/or doctors) don't abstain completely. Your kid is going to see TV eventually—at a friend's house, at the mall, wherever—so start good habits early and you won't have to worry later.

Courtesy of EducationNews.org Better TV Infographic

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