We’ve all met the parents that swear they will not let their child watch TV at all. And we’ve all met the parents that use the TV as a 24-7 babysitter, too. From one extreme to another. I never gave it much thought really, until I became a parent of a toddler of my own.
The Hubs and I have the TV on fairly regularly whenever we are home. Mainly as background noise – sometimes for music specifically – but generally it’s habit for us to turn it on when we get home from work and are making dinner etc. Never really occurred to me that that may be considered a “lot” of TV time. I don’t think that the shows that we choose are inappropriate for J to be around, so I’ve really not considered what our habit of TV time means for him. Then again before he reached toddler-age J wasn’t really that aware of or interested in what was on the magic screen in the family room anyway.
When he got to about 15 months, we started to use cartoons as a way to keep J occupied for a few minutes at a time while we made dinner or needed a few minutes of adult conversation without interruption. I also started using it as a tool at work for when J was having a hard time finding something to occupy himself and I needed a few solid minutes of “work” time.
Now, only a month or so after we introduced these kiddo shows to J, he’s starting to ask for TV time – especially when at work with me – but also at home. Some days he seems really interested in the shows – singing or dancing along with them, and other days he goes between watching and playing. His favorites are Bubble Guppies, Tickety-Toc, Peppa Pig, etc. on Nick Jr. All of which I am totally OK with him watching 1 or 2 episodes at a time. In my opinion as long as the show has a good message and isn’t followed by 1000 crazy commercials, it’s probably better than most of the things J may see anywhere else – in public, in books, etc.
I guess I’m finding a certain value to having another tool to use to help J focus on something for more than 30 second intervals. At some point he will be in a child-care setting where he will need to be able to sit for 15-20 minutes at a time for circle time or a story and among the many other things that we do as parents to help teach him this skill, a cartoon here and there most days works too.
I try and stay aware of how much TV J is watching still – some days he gets to watch more than others – and some days I feel more or less guilty about using the TV as my “babysitter”. But honestly, what parent hasn’t used TV as a babysitter at least a few times? Why is it that as parents we second guess and worry so much about the ways that we choose to raise our kids? Especially when it comes to something like TV that is present in almost every home & school in the nation?