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Children and TV - are parents being demonised?

65 replies

KateMumsnet · 09/10/2012 17:39

Today's guest blog tackles the hot topic of children and TV.

A report published earlier today called for TV for under-3s to be banned. But psychologist Dr Amanda Gummer, who specializes in play and child development, argues that parents who let their children watch TV are being unnecessarily demonized. She calls for parents - and researchers - to look at the bigger picture when assessing what's really best for children.

What do you think? Is any TV too much TV? Or is it a case (as so often in parenting) of everything in moderation? If you blog about this issue, post your URLs here on the thread - we'll be tweeting them over the next couple of days. Mumsnet blogger Cary Bazalgette has already done so over at Toddlers and TV - so do have a look for a different perspective on today's report.

OP posts:
BirdFromDaNorf · 09/10/2012 21:52

Haven't read the blog post (will go and do that next) but I think we're dammed if we do, dammed if we don't.

If we let our babies watch TV, we're bad parents, because we might want the time to get the washing on / make dinner / get a cup of coffee / have a shower in peace. I used to let my boys watch tv whilst I was doing jobs, in their bouncer, in short bursts. Do I think that's going to ruin them? No.

But do I feel bad in relation to the Mum who I know who doesn't have a tv? Who tells me that babies and children learn to make their own entertainment and that if I were more organised, I wouldn't need to leave them to their own devices, with the help of the TV? Hell yeah!

And when our 5 year old got into trouble at school last week for pinching someone I immediately banned Super Hero Squad. Why? I don't know? Because it's got violence in it and might stop him pinching his best friend in the future?

I don't know !!! But I'm putting it out there, that we are dammed either way. If I get time, I'll go and blog about it and link to this tomorrow....

ActuallyMummy · 09/10/2012 22:29

I haven't blogged about it but I used tv as a really positive influence when my kids were tiny. They watched baby Einstein and then later the younger cbeebies programmes. When my daughter was 2 the only thing that calmed her down from a tantrum was a cuddle on the sofa with some tv to distract her.

These days we hardly have it on and they forget to ask. They're both intelligent kids with lots of interests and friends. I think avoiding tv to the extremes of banning it is ridiculous, and possibly even detrimental

littleboo21 · 09/10/2012 22:34

I do believe in everything in moderation. When my oldest was a baby it never occurred for me to but children's TV on she just watched whatever I had a background noise. However when my youngest was born and the oldest was at school I could see the difference in him if I didn't have children's TV on. As soon as his favourite characters came on the screen he perked up and would dance and giggle. Is this a bad thing? in my book no. I'm not saying have it on all day, everyday but for an hour or two why not?

NotInMyDay · 09/10/2012 22:35

Moderation, moderation, moderation!

Ok so a child might not be at their peak of learning when they are watching tv but you need to look at the bigger picture.
Most parents use the time that children are watching tv to start dinner/ have a shower/ have a cuppa in peace. I'm a firm believer that this often leads to a more relaxed parent which has its benefits.

Sure we could ban tv for kids but I think we'd have stressed out parents yelling at kids and less harmony in the home.

Meglet · 09/10/2012 22:42

I don't control Cbeebies at all, not in 4yrs.

It's on literally all day at weekends. The DC's (5 & 4) dip in and out of it and watch what they like, mostly they play while it's on in the background.

School and nursery have commented on their good speech and vocab, DS is doing particularly well at school.

I just don't let them watch stuff with adverts, which I do have a problem with.

CheerfulYank · 09/10/2012 22:52

I don't know.

Right now I am suffering (and I do mean suffering I'm such a whiner) with morning sickness and I let my five year old DS watch much more than I normally would so that I can relax on the couch. We don't have a TV technically, but he watches whatever shows are streaming on Netflix. It makes me feel better that there are no commercials!

I really think it's fine. It gives parents a break every now and then and that's a good thing!

mumnosGOLDisbest · 09/10/2012 22:56

theres lots of educational stuff on tv. little einsteins and horrible histories. tv can really bring history to life and take kids to places that they'll never see in RL. my dcs relax after school by watching tv while i shock horror get dinner ready. i'd rather they were doing that yhan running around the kitchen or roaming the streets.

HanSolo · 09/10/2012 23:12

I honestly cannot understand parents who put their 5mo baby in front of the television because it 'allows them to do stuff'. Babies love watching their parents 'do stuff', why put the television on?

My children didn't watch anything under 2yo (I know, US guidelines, but seems fairly sensible to me). I believe this new study is not robust scientifically, so will withhold judgement about under 3s.

They still don't watch television, because we don't have one. Occasionally they get to watch a DVD, but tbh they just don't ask. (When my DS was recovering from a serious operation he did watch some films, because he was too young to read, and playing on the floor was just too painful for any amount of time, and he was going a little stir-crazy).

McPhee · 09/10/2012 23:22

Whilst I was eating breakfast this morning, my 14 week old was getting very excited every time Lorraine Kelly popped on to the screen. I'm not sure what that say about me, Lorraine or Dd Blush

But I ate my cereal without needing to put the bowl down. A bonus in my camp Grin

somanymiles · 10/10/2012 01:28

In all honesty Pingu and In the Night Garden have saved my sanity on occasion. Surely the whole tv thing has to be taken in context? My family are very active, and in between (depending on age) hiking, swim club, sailing club, walking to and from school and careening around like a mad thing at playgroup an hour or so of tv does not feel to me like it is going to make them obese, give them heart problems or affect their cognitive development. We are discriminating about what we watch, and usually between homework, after school activities, chores and so on there is not much time for tv or computer games in the week. But if the odd evening occurs when they spend two hours watching tv and/or playing video games I really don't care. There are some weekends where a marathon Buffy dvd session happens and some where we hardly watch anything. And our 19 month old might spend an hour watching Pingu if he is miserable and needs distraction or it might be 15 minutes when we both need some quiet time. Ultimately, I think this is really about saying "no" to having tv on all day long as a given and not caring what you watch, and saying "yes" to using it as a tool in the same way we use books or toys. I don't think any conclusive research exists that says watching your favourite tv programs in moderation (whether under 3 or not) is a bad thing, if it is balanced with lots of exercise, interaction and a healthy diet. This is just more of making parents guilty for no good reason, and I write as someone who did not own a tv until I was a parent! On the other hand I can't stand ads and we mostly watch BBC or dvds for that reason.

Bumpstart · 10/10/2012 01:42

Completely misinterpreted thread title. Thought there were children's programmes out there portraying negative images of parents!

I feel completely inadequate when I compare myself to the ever calm, ever patient grown ups on tv, who always know what to do next and are never late.

The worst was a Canadian programme called caillou.

Long live Charlie and Lola where the parents are barely present!

CheerfulYank · 10/10/2012 02:12

But if you are as patient as Caillou's parents, bump, you end up with a whiny bald-headed shite like Caillou. :o

Redsilk · 10/10/2012 03:39

If they had banned TV for under 3's when my DC were that young, I wouldn't have permanent brain damage from the Teletubby and Barney songs...

So I agree with the proposal but for the sake of our own adult minds....

ZombTEE · 10/10/2012 05:48

I'm just marking my place as I am going to do a blog post on this. Yes, yes, I could "watch" the thread...


poppy283 · 10/10/2012 07:31

How silly. Children like quiet time too sometimes.

Dd likes some cbeebies and wall-e, when she wants to relax on the sofa. She also likes lots of other things little children like, what's the problem?

YesAnastasia · 10/10/2012 09:17

My children watch too much television. I feel guilty.

I do watch it with them though, we discuss stuff, quote things to each other in random situations (DH doesn't understand, bless him) and it gives us ideas for activities, games and crafts.

I switch it on when they need calming and some quiet time like in the morning, after nursery, after a tantrum etc.

I think if it isn't used as a tool and used to your advantage then you've lost control. My DC know that I turn it on and off and they never ask to watch anything (unless I've told them they can & they're looking forward to it.)

We also go to the cinema often. shrugs

thezoobmeister · 10/10/2012 09:46

Demonised? Pathetic. By treating this as a moral issue, I think everyone is missing the point.

I know full well that my DD watches too much TV, and this concerns me. Not because I'm afraid of what others might think, but because she would probably learn and develop better if she watched less.

My lax parenting affects her, noone else - so I don't see the point of making excuses for myself or moaning about feeling demonised. Parenting is not an exam you have to pass, ultimately we have to be our own judges.

Personal responsibility, people!

WitchesTitWhistles · 10/10/2012 09:47

If the toddler is watching tv while you shower and dress and tidy round so that you can both get out to the park or shopping or a museum or whatever, I don't see a problem.
As long as people are honest about their reasons for toddlers/kids to be put in front of the tv. It's never for their benefit and isn't good for them but it might be better for them than being screamingly bored or getting up to mischief while the parent is trying to get on.

WitchesTitWhistles · 10/10/2012 09:59

Also, how can you physically ban tv for under 3's?

Ds3 who is 20 months sings along with the 6 oclock bbc news theme tune.

I'd quite happily support a ban on children's tv, which is puerile.

Takver · 10/10/2012 10:04

Interestingly, I have a book dating from the early 70s which is a whole series of interviews with people in a rural remote Spanish village.

One of the comments that has always amused me is from the village midwife - that she can always tell the children from a house with TV - because they have a wider vocabulary and express themselves better!

Of course, in that time and place TV ownership would have been rare and a marker of a prosperous middle class family who would probably put a lot of time and effort in to their children's development.

Similarly, these days I'd guess that in the US & western Europe families without tv tend to be hippy-intellectual types who also put loads of time & effort into their dc's development. (Not a criticism, we didn't have tv til dd was 7 but we would certainly fall into a certain type of stereotype.)

So I would certainly like to know with these various studies whether they have corrected for all the other socio-economic factors that are likely to correlate with tv viewing. My immediate impression of the latest study in the news is that it probably hasn't, though I haven't checked it out further so I may be wrong.

DueinFeb · 10/10/2012 10:22

I watched TV all the time as a small child - old school Sesame St - which used to be incredibly educative - full of numbers and words and life lessons. I remember watching TV with joy - and I have turned out entirely social, intelligent, with a great career. Of course - the TV was balanced out by books - and I was read to almost from birth! I have not got a child yet - but when I do I will let him watch TV - but... that being said - I will be very 'selective' about what he watches. I think the key is 'what' they view - there are a lot of programs out there that are pure drivel with no educative value whatsoever. I intend on paying a visit to HMV and purchasing vintage TV programs that still had value and were 'intended' to educate and stimulate kids in the right way.

Badvoc · 10/10/2012 10:30

My da2 was 4 last week.
Thanks to porgammes like numtums and Alphablocks he knows all his letter sounds and can count to over 20.
Obv we read to him, and play games and paint etc but IMO these programmes are excellent and I have no issue with him watching them.
Ds1 is older and mostly watches DVDs of his gear, history and wildlife docs, dam busters etc :)
I think as long as kids have access to lots of books and stimulating craft activities and games then tv really can be a great tool for educating and entertaining them.


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MmeLindor · 10/10/2012 10:35

I have blogged about this - do read the Guardian article, which is less biased than the BBC one, and check out the author of the study's other work, which includes a book on 'putting parents back in the driver's seat'.

I would not take his advice on child rearing, so why should I take his advice on how much TV is good for my kids?

I think it is ok to question how much TV kids are watching, but we also have to remember that this is just ONE person who has stated his opinion.

I echo Tasker - where is the research that takes other factors into account, when calling for a ban on TV watching?

gazzalw · 10/10/2012 11:04

Perhaps the simplest way round it would be to restrict the amount on TV? When we were children there was probably a maximum of three hours (or less) children's TV on a day. That seems sensible. All these 24 (or at least 12)/7 children's TV stations need to STOP! But that won't happen because it doesn't make commercial, money-making sense!

gazzalw · 10/10/2012 11:04

Or of course they could ensure that the children's TV programmes are all highly educational...

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