Raising Mary: Do our kids watch too much TV?

By Tracy Cooper on August 01, 2012
It hums in the back of my brain like TV’s white noise, that feeling of guilt when I let the kids watch too much television.

We have clear rules: no television during lunch or supper, never during homework or other activities, and regular watching times. We don’t want to be a family that turns on the TV in the morning and has it on all day, even when it’s not being watched.

Yet television is a helpful friend. It’s golden for keeping a child still when you’re doing their hair. (I have two girls, remember?) It’s precious for buying a little quiet time to chat after dinner when you have guests. Television also helps me with discipline, especially for Mary, who at six is getting a little old for time-outs. Sometimes, it’s the carrot. (“You can watch an extra episode of Wild Kratts.”) Sometimes, it’s the stick. (“No Arthur after school.”)

We closely monitor what the kids watch. It’s tricky lately, because Mary is getting bored with many of the preschool shows still appropriate for her little sister, and I don’t feel she’s ready for tween shows. The clips I’ve seen from some programs encourage celebrity worship, fame aspiration, shopping and caring way too much about how you look. The characters are often sarcastic and adults are portrayed as idiots. I’m not in a hurry for those shows to get screen time in our house.

We made a big mistake last year by saying yes to a superhero series the girls saw at their cousins’ place. I felt nostalgic because the shows featured TV characters I watched as a child, and I liked the idea of the kids viewing strong women superheroes. I scooped up discounted DVDs of the series and let Mary watch them in the basement when her sister was napping. (Television time is usually in the family room, where I can listen in).

But I hadn’t looked at the packaging, and two of the discs were clearly labelled PG-13. My sister and her boyfriend watched with Mary one weekend and reported too much violence and some sexual innuendo. In retrospect, I realized her behaviour had been influenced a bit around that time. With much protest, those DVDs have been put away for when the girls are older. Another lesson learned the hard way!

In the end, if I’m feeling guilty about TV-watching, there’s probably too much of it going on.

Tracy Cooper is a stay-at-home mom mother of Mary, 6, and Adelaide, 3.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, August/September 2012.

By Tracy Cooper| August 01, 2012

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