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Television’s Starring Role in Our Kids’ Brains
Yet another report telling parents how they're screwing up their kids' development came out this past week, and I'm not too big a person to admit I am 100% guilty of their findings.
According to a recent article from Reuters, kids between the ages of eight months and eight years spend an average of 232 minutes a day with TV on in the background (check!), and the problem is worse when a child has a TV in his or her room (check!). Although there are no conclusive findings on the role background TV plays in a child’s development, researchers believe it may slow down language development, cause them to spend less time with friends, and reduce interaction with their parents.
Limiting TV exposure is one thing I thought we were doing well. My girls watch one hour of TV each day – a half hour in the morning while I’m getting ready for work and a half hour in the evening while my husband is cooking dinner. However, I never once thought about the effect having Bravo on while they were coloring and I was dusting would have.
I’m a child of the 80’s, raised on a steady stream of The Price is Right and As the World Turns. My mother never sat around during the day watching her “programs,” but they were always on while she did housework. Even though I didn’t actively watch them, I was well acquainted at age six with the smoldering sexual tension between Lily Walsh and Dusty Donovan (shout out, Brian Bloom!).
As I grew older, having the TV as my cleaning companion was just second nature. If Keeping Up with the Kardashians is on while I fold laundry, I can enjoy the slimy antics of Scott Disick without having to admit I actually watch the show. “Oh, it’s just on in the background.”
But while thinking about the Reuters story, I began to recognize some signs in my children that resonate with the findings: That background TV can climb in through their ears and snuggle in their temporal lobes:
Example One – The other day after I finished wiping the floor down with the Swiffer, MJ offered up her sincere congratulations and asked me if I was now going to drink my coffee on the porch.
Example Two – I would never let my kids sit and watch How I Met Your Mother with me since the characters all sleep with one another, and I’m not ready to have that talk just yet. But somehow, “Suit up!” “Legen – wait for it – dary!” and “True story” have all made their way into my three-year-old’s vernacular.
Example Three – After I had VH1 on one day while making beds, MJ began displaying some unusual characteristics – reeking of Aqua Net and arriving home from first grade in an IROC-Z. Finally, one day, weeks later, she announced, “Mom, I really like Tesla. Can we listen to Love Song again?”
“Love Song? When have you ever heard me play Love Song?”
“I heard it one day on the T.V. It’s my favorite song. Can we see Tesla in concert?”
“Honey, I think Tesla has resorted to playing dive bars that only serve Stag. You’re out of luck, sweetheart.”
While background TV has its critics, I’ve seen some good come out of it. We’ve had important discussions about current events – MJ has questioned the political differences between President Obama and Mitt Romney, and learned how elections work.
KT has come into a room and upon seeing a tragedy play out on the news, asked how she can help the kids affected. But overall, knowing how impressionable two little girls can be, Mr. P and I have been more militant about reducing our passive TV viewing.
And even I did something crazy today – I turned off the TV while making breakfast and turned on Tesla instead.
By Nicole Plegge, Lifestyle Blogger for SmartParenting