From a young age my younger brother would watch television pretty much when ever he wanted to and with us being fortunate enough to have Sky he could indulge in his favourite cartoons pretty much all day long if he wanted. For what ever reason this was the only thing that interested my brother and he would be glued to the TV constantly and he would rather watch it than interact, play with toys or socialise. To me it was embarrassing because everyone noticed this and I knew that I wouldn’t ever allow my child to watch so much television. Being seven years older than him I could see how unhealthy this was and promised myself never to do this with my own child.
Now, what I will say is this. It’s very easy to judge other parents
and their choices when you don’t have children of your own. So when my
son was born my ideals changed on a lot of things. However I wouldn’t
say I’ve necessarily changed my opinion on the amount of television
which should be deemed ‘OK’ for a child to watch.
My son Joshua was about four months old when we first started to
watch television together. If I needed to do some housework and didn’t
think it would be exciting enough for him I would sit him in his swing
chair and put something bright, noisy and child friendly on the TV for
him to watch. I too at feeding times, or cuddle times would sit and
watch it with him. Slowly he seemed to be more attracted to the colours
and sounds of Peppa Pig and this then stuck. Since about five months old
my son has been Peppa Pig mad.
He is now 18 months old and his love of television is very different.
He watches it like any other child, cries when I’ve told him he’s had
enough and is comforted by his favourite familiar characters. But now
he’s older, he’s more head strong and independant, I’ve had to use
television more than I expected to. Now days I’m lucky if I can get a
shower in peace without him wanting to get in with me, so at these times
I sit him in front of Mickey Mouse or Peppa Pig and speed shower.
Likewise if I have to make important phone calls, or answer the door
then he can sit and watch. I see it as a neccessary evil. It allows me
to get things done around the house from time to time without having my
little ‘helper’ who for all the good will in the world, usually makes
more mess than he ‘helps’ to clear up.
So what is my problem I hear you ask? I am my own worst enemy. I have
all this good intention about not letting him watch too much TV. I
choose to read with him, do puzzles, do messy play etc literally
anything else to keep his attention held before I resort to the
television. He does watch TV for a little while before breakfast and a
little while before bedtime but that is usually it (ok, that’s usually
it in an ideal world). However sometimes during the day, I’ve had
enough. I’ve had enough of the tantrums, the demands for excitement,
entertainment and my lack of ability to provide them only serves to
drive us both to the TV just for 5 minutes peace.
Sometimes (more than I care to admit!) I let him watch cartoons just
to hear myself think (above the annoying theme tunes that is) and then I
feel guilty. If Joshua has been particularly naughty one day, I find we
park ourselves infront of the TV for half an hour before tea time and
then back again before bed. It niggles away at me and I beat myself up
about it. The problem is that I see the same blank expression on my sons
face as I saw on my brothers face years ago as he was consumed by the
moving, dancing characters. It makes me quiver a little inside and
reminds me of the pledge I made never to repeat that mistake. However
some times I need peace, I need to not have a toddler hanging off my
limbs while I try and clean the house, cook dinner and do everything
So I wonder to myself and to you, how much TV is too much TV for a
child? I’m not sure, but all I know is that television gives me a
breather during the day when without it I would probably implode. Or
turn to wine. Lots of wine.