When he was young Sawyer never liked television. Never glanced at it or took interest, even when other kids his age did. Unfortunately, once he turned two he started taking notice of some cartoons like Special Agent Oso. I encouraged him to watch because I thought it was an educational show and because I was in the thick of it working full-time and heavily pregnant with the twins. Ditto once they were born.
Now he is a cartoon monster , and even when he is not watching he wants them on the television at all times. It doesn’t help that its winter (and -21 today) so going outside to play is out, and just getting out of the house to the mall or something is nearly impossible by myself with all the kids. Still, I absolutely hate the fact that he feels entitled to it, rather than it being a privilege and have wanted to change things but it wasn’t until recently that I read an article about children and television that really opened my eyes.
I had always assumed television was bad for kids for the same reasons it is for adults, but not so. It is actually much worse.
Here are some of the excerpts from the article I read on Aha Parenting (one of my favourite parenting sites).
Drawing from the research, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest that children under age 2 not watch any TV and that kids over age 2 be limited to an hour or at most two, daily, of quality programming.
That comes out to about ten hours per week. And yet, toddlers and preschoolers in the US watch an average of 32 hours of TV every week.
Why is this a problem?
- TV changes brain development. Dr Dimitri Christakis will blow you away with this talk about brain development and the effects of TV (click here).
- TV can sabotage kids as they learn to read, and keep them from becoming good students. Why? Click here.
- Toddlers and preschoolers have other, very important developmental work to do. This is a huge amount of time spent on TV that should be spent on the things that are better for their brains – blocks, art, running around, engaging with other people. These activities teach kids self-regulation, and are the foundation for the next stages of learning.
- TV is addictive and this sets up a habit for life.
If you’re protesting this as an extreme position, consider it from another perspective. Would you let your child engage in any other daily activity likely to change the way his brain is developing, or damage her body?
TV and computer games stimulate your child’s brain to develop differently, and many of those changes seem to have to do with shortening attention spans, reducing impulse control, and heightening aggression. There’s increasing evidence that the more TV kids watch the more likely they are to have ADD and ADHD symptoms.
Young children’s brains were designed to develop optimally by engaging with the physical world, and with the imagination–being told stories, for instance–rather than to be fed passive viewing that bypasses the need for imagination.
Toddlers and preschoolers may not look busy, but they have important developmental work to do. Fantasy play, building with blocks, artwork, social interaction with their peers and siblings, cooking with their parents, climbing, swinging, looking at books. These activities help your child’s brain develop as it’s designed to, giving her people skills and problem solving creativity, as well as the foundation for math and reasoning.
Television and Aggression
We have solid evidence from hundreds of studies on the effects of children’s TV viewing, and there is no question that “violent” programming causes greater aggressiveness in children. Think your children aren’t seeing violent programming? Think again. According to the University of Michigan’s Health System:
- Even in G-rated, animated movies and DVDs, violence is common—often as a way for the good characters to solve their problems. Every single U.S. animated feature film produced between 1937 and 1999 contained violence, and the amount of violence with intent to injure has increased over the years.
- Even “good guys” beating up “bad guys” gives a message that violence is normal and okay. Many children will try to be like their “good guy” heroes in their play.
- Repeated exposure to TV violence makes children less sensitive toward its effects on victims and the human suffering it causes.
- A University of Michigan researcher demonstrated that watching violent media can affect willingness to help others in need.
- A 15-year-long study by University of Michigan researchers found that the link between childhood TV-violence viewing and aggressive and violent behavior persists into adulthood.
- Even having the TV on in the home is linked to more aggressive behavior in 3-year-olds. This was regardless of the type of programming and regardless of whether the child was actually watching the TV.
If this doesn’t scare you, well, it scared me.
So, I have decided that on my watch we are not going to watch any more cartoons. I am going to allow one movie a day since we can’t go out, but that’s it. We already decided a few months ago that when our contract expires in April we are going to get rid of the cable and just go to a basic package with Netflix, so this will be good practice anyways.
After by parents left, I bravely reached up and turned off the television. It actually went better than I thought. He got mad, said he wanted to watch tv, and I explained the situation that we were not going to watch cartoons at night and I was going to play with him instead. He got mad and punched the fireplace. He immediately apologized and sent himself for a time out (pretty good eh?)
The rest of the night we all played together on the floor, me without my phone and him without his television. You know what, the night went by so much faster and I did feel that underlying annoyance I get from watching the fourth episode of Jake and the Neverland Pirates in one day.
The icing on the cake was that Sawyer was even having so much fun, he declined my offer of a movie and just played. He was so well-behaved and helpful, I was so happy. I plan to keep this up, so I will let you know how it goes. Since we are all the outdoorsy type once the good weather hits I am sure it will be much easier.
SIDENOTE: Of course the moment you think you have it all under control life laughs at you. After playing with the kids all night, on day five of my six day workweek, I somehow had enough energy to start cleaning once I put the twins to bed. I was vacuuming and mopping, and loving it. The as I was moving our wooden side table Sawyer yelled something at me about a muffin (you know toddlers and their freak outs, mommy this muffin has a crack in it) and I looked up at him and the table collapsed on my foot. It smashed all my toes, and I think the big one is fractured. After writhing on the floor for a half hour I realized there was nothing I could do since I couldn’t leave the kids and I had to work today because I have my forklift recertification today (luckily it was my left foot). Cross your fingers it isn’t broken and my nail (which is now blue) doesn’t fall off.
Thanks for reading!
Stay tuned for my three week update on this and all my project me initiatives coming next week :-)