Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Glimpse into Eco-Babyz #3: Media and Baby E

Before baby E was born, I thought my views on television and media in childhood were pretty clear. Up until she was about six months I still thought I was set in my decision. Of course, then I realized I was facing two problems. First, I work online and I am often in front of the computer screen, sometimes while baby E sees me checking email and what not. Second, our [rather huge, in-your-face] television is in our living room, which doubles as a play room. Oh, and there is a third, I think it's called the-only-way-to-do-housework-without-baby-destroying-what-you-just-did-or-it-taking-three-times-as-long.

Alright, so no TV until five was pushing it, but I was pretty set on none until 2. My dreams are thoroughly shattered! Yes, I know that watching television brings a child's mind into sort of an ADHD mode, and there is loads of scientific evidence it isn't good for them. I also know that mothers before me have done just fine without the television, even when they had one in their home. I am just not that firm. Besides, you know what babies do when they suddenly see their favorite thing, food, or toy. They need it... now! Or else! So my only refuge all summer has been the great outdoors. We've been outside every day for at least an hour, sometimes more. I also try to avoid bringing her to the living room when I don't want her staring at the screen. I am dreaming of the day we finish our attic so that we can move our office and the TV there; baby E would finally have her own room and the living room to play in sans screens. I can live without the TV altogether, I watch it all of once a week, usually the Food Network for some inspiration and recipe ideas. Baby E watches Curious George, Thomas the Tank Engine, and Caillou. More or less gender neutral because I despise too much pink and just because those are her favorites.

You see, I think this way not just because television is passive and anti-social. Not only because it hinders brain development. I just don't want my daughter to be so absorbed in this media culture that it would thwart her imagination and creativity. There needs to be a good balance of creative play, the outdoors, and screen time. Before the age of two, in my opinion (and the AAP recommends), the television is not necessary at all. Real life doesn't care about recommendations unfortunately. I don't want her to be one of those kids who is constantly asking for the new toy advertised or talking about nothing but the new teen pop star. Just another reason we warmed up to homeschooling. Not to shelter her, but for her to be her own unique person - not thinking and doing just like everyone else for the sake of popularity.

She is at a stage where she is craving play and attention, and unfortunately I'm the only one around to give it to her. We have a neighbor with a baby 4 months younger, they play well together almost every day. But for obvious reasons I can't let her stay there all day! So there I am with her, trying to get her attention away from the TV, playing horsey. Teaching her to count. Drawing with her and for her. Building towers with blocks. Hoping that someday soon she'll get to another stage, the it's-alright-mommy-I-can-play-with-my-dollies-for-a-whole-hour-while-you-work stage. Aaah...! Deep breath.

So if you're attempting to minimize screen time with your toddlers, my advice is to put the TV away somewhere behind closed doors, or it will not work. We can live without it. We're canceling the cable when our contract period is over.

What about you? Toddlers, preschoolers, teenagers? How do you embrace or battle the black stare tube? :)


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