We watch a lot of tv in this house. Most days, it’s significantly more than the recommended daily dose (I forgot a long time ago what that number is, but I know we’re over it most days). Some days, like today, when we’re all in need of some rest and recuperation (since we jumped straight from our 2+ week marathon UK trip back in to work and school without a break, and since we all seem to be coming down with a cold) it’s way worse than that.
I know, I’m probably rotting my children’s brains and all that, but although we watch a lot of tv, I’m incredibly picky about what my kids watch. I do use the tv too often to entertain them when I need to get something done (or when I need 15 minutes to not be “on” quite so intensely) but I always try to make sure that they’re watching something that a) they’re going to potentially learn something from and b) is in keeping with our basic household ethical code. I’m astonished when I come across tv shows geared for little kids that don’t make the cut (we’re not THAT picky) and even more amazed at how popular those shows seem to be.
My threshold for “hopefully they might learn something from this” is incredibly low. I’m happy to have them potentially learn basic math concepts, letters, how to share, colors or conflict resolution. Most children’s programming seems to hit on at least one of these ideas. But so often, the characters in the shows behave rudely, dangerously, or unkindly with no consequences shown. Watching Ruby (who is maybe 8?) put Max (who is maybe 2?) in the bathtub, and then leave him there is only topped by her sending him outside to play alone, or to wait by the bus stop alone, while she accomplishes something else. Seeing older characters exclude younger ones, without any lesson on inclusion and kindness, is just setting a bad example. And seeing any kind of meanness or teasing that goes uncorrected would just be putting bad ideas into my kid’s heads.
And then there’s the gender roles! If I watch Daisy Duck bat her eyelashes at Donald one more time, I’m going to freak out. The episode of Max & Ruby where Ruby and her friend get all worked up about impressing a boy makes me want to scream. Just watching the opening of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is horrifying to me in terms of the images and ideas it puts forth about “girl behavior” – if I wouldn’t let a daughter of mine watch it (and I wouldn’t, if I had one) then my sons can’t watch it either.
I’m sure my reckless use of the television as a babysitter for my kids is as incomprehensible to some parents as it is to me that people let their kids watch this stuff. But, I can understand that. I don’t understand why this stuff is still on tv, and why people plop their kids down in front of it. If we’re grateful that Kai Lan teaches them a little Chinese and that Team Umizoomi teaches them shapes and counting, then how can we be surprised then they learn less desirable things by watching girls flirt to get what they want or siblings being unkind to each other?