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How Bad is TV For Your Kids?

I have a confession: I let my daughter watch a lot less TV than I tell my friends.

There, I said it.

Until she was about three years old my daughter hardly had any TV in her life. Then she started watching some cartoons and shows like Blue’s Clues. The recent obsession around here is Word Girl, which I happen to think is a FABULOUS show for two reasons: It has a strong, smart leading girl character and it helps kids get interested in words. (Oh, and Word Girl has a really cute sidekick, Captain Huggy Pants, who does a dance at the end of each episode which just rocks.) My daughter watches a half our of TV a few times a week and perhaps a bit more on weekends. I guess you could call me a TV restricting freak.

I am sure she would like to watch more TV, but I’ve sat there with her and I see that after about 30 minutes she starts to pay less attention and become less engaged. She is four and a half and perhaps this attention span will soon increase - OK, I know it will — but for now even though we have some whining when the TV goes off, she happily runs off to do something else.

There are some great, educational and fun shows on TV, like the aforementioned and much loved Word Girl. My daughter has definitely become more interested in asking about what different words mean and she constantly announces that she will eat better/try harder in gymnastics/work on her cartwheel at home so that she can be as smart as Word Girl. (Oh, and watching her do the Captain Huggy Face dance is too precious.)

But I think too much TV leaves too little time for other activities, from drawing to building to playing doctor with her stuffed animals. Not to mention you know, just running outside not doing much. And the sheer amount of media in the lives of kids completely freaks me out — my 15 year old cousin came to visit me recently and it took a lot of effort to get him to actually have a conversation without his watching TV, texting, or updating his MySpace page. TV is something we can limit (for now) and I am treasuring the ability to have a bit of control over what media and how much my daughter consumes.

None of this means that my daughter hasn’t, at times, watched WAY too much TV, like the other day when I had to park her in front of it while I did two conference calls. TV is one of the best backup babysitters for working moms, if you ask me, although yes, I’ll admit to feeling guilty about overusing it.

We recently had a great discussion about TV and kids at Momversation, with Mindy, Asha, and Maggie, (I swear the producers there dislike me because they edit 99% of what I say). One of my favorite comments was what Asha said about how TV becomes the easy entertainment, making everything else — like reading books or building with blocks — a lot less appealing.



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