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TV for Preschoolers

62 replies

GeorginaA · 13/02/2003 07:58

Anyone else read the advice bit on the front page of Mumsnet today and feel horribly horribly guilty?

Adding up the time my toddler sits in front of the TV (he's 21 months) and I've worked out on a good day it's 1.5 hours (so much for my vow he would only get half hour a day, lol) - half hour before lunch and dinner preparation, and half hour before bed to wind down with (we're fans of Little Bear and the bedtime business song on NickJR!).

Then there's the not so good days which are pretty frequent now that dh works away in the week and we've had this cold for ages (and it's really knocked us both out) and now ds has conjunctivitis so we're in isolation unable to go out and socialise. On these sorts of days the TV goes on for a whole morning or afternoon (and very often both).

In my defence, he doesn't usually just sit and watch unless he's not well or tired - he plays and glances occasionally at the TV when things grab his attention. I also make a real effort to comment on what he notices on the TV (except during meal preparation of course). We also (except while in isolation - argh have I mentioned I hate this week?!) go out at least once a day and socialise.

I haven't noticed any particular delay in development - he's got quite a large vocabulary (although I generally interpret for other people, lol) and strings together 2-3 words for sentences. Doesn't stop me wondering if he could be doing a lot better with less TV.

Anyone else feel like they've sold their soul to CBeebies?

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lou33 · 13/02/2003 21:42

Ds1 loves Busy Buses which is on in the mornings. I have a great excuse for letting ds2 watch tv though, his physio has provided him with an adapted bench to try and get him chair sitting, so she said to put him in it and let him watch telly! He loves it, but only if he can watch while wearing the wellies from his paddington bear, and ds1's bicycle helmet .Only need to find a restraint for a large noisy 4 year old now!

anais · 13/02/2003 21:43

Oh I hate to be the only one to disagree.

As Elliott said, if children are playing then why have the tv on at all?

We do watch Tv, in varying amounts but not much, and some days it doesn't go on at all. Yes, I agree they do learn from it, but not when it's on all the time. I personally feel it's worse to have it on as background that sitting down and actually watching it for 20 minutes/1/2 an hour at a time. To havr the constant background noise is encouraging them to switch off and not be aware of the environment around them. Having the tv on as a distraction is hardly teaching the skills they need to concentrate on one thing once at school.

GeorginaA · 13/02/2003 22:27

Eliott: mainly because ds will happily play and glance occasionally and not come and cling to my knees while I'm carrying hot saucepans. That is a big bonus.

I know ideally, the best way he plays is if he has 100% of my attention every minute, with me talking about what he's doing (that seems to focus his play and he will have a much longer attention span and loves my attention) and I do try to make sure most days that he gets as much as I can give. Maybe this makes me a terrible mother that I'm exhausted by 3pm let alone by after bathtime when that last half hour stretches forever (especially when I know I've still got half a dozen chores to do). Instead I get half an hour where ds is happy, and points out all the characters, wanders off to get a book to read (usually the one we've read 20 times in the day already), slurps some milk, points at something else on the screen or giggles, then wanders off etc.

On the really bad days, it means I can sit in a cold-induced fug and ds is slightly less whingy and I get through a day without losing my temper and hating myself.

If this post sounds defensive, it probably is. I've had a cold for over a fortnight which is driving me nuts, the boiler broke, ds has conjunctivitis and the chocolate button bribery is wearing thin, dh has been working away for ages, trying to sell a house I love to move to an area I have no interest in while we still have money left to pay the mortgage.

I had good intentions today and really made an effort despite feeling really ill, having to wait in for the boiler to be fixed (not that I could go anywhere entertaining due to ds' conjunctivitis anyway), and I managed to get through the whole morning giving lots of good quality attention to ds, get 10 mins quick whip around with the hoover with only minor panic attacks from said child and even managed a quick sweep around with a duster. TV was only on for the obligatory half hour before lunch and a bit afterwards while I cleared up. Then the boiler man arrived in the afternoon just as ds woke up from his nap which freaked ds out (waking up to strangers in the house really doesn't suit him for some reason) so the TV went on for the next hour or two as background noise to distract him from all the repair noises in the next room and to stop him from wandering out to get himself electrocuted. Kind of went downhill from there.

So believe me, you want to make me feel guilty? Don't bother. I already torture myself anyway, thanks all the same.

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anais · 13/02/2003 22:32

Sorry GeorginaA, I don't beleieve anyone was trying to make you feel guilty, just offering a differing viewpoint to your own. If you didn't want to be contradicted then why start a thread???

We all have bad days, no one will begrudge you that, but I still personally think having the tv on all the time is a bad thing.

GeorginaA · 13/02/2003 22:34

Sorry ... just blew off steam in the wrong direction. Consider it a non-silent scream at a steady stream of bad days of late.

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elliott · 13/02/2003 22:43

wow...that was actually a genuine question! And I do understand the need to keep them distracted when you (one, not you personally) need to get on with something - cooking esp. is the hard one.
btw, how long has ds been treated for conjunctivitis - just that our nursery only excludes for 24 hrs once treatment has been started, so would have thought you don't need to be in isolation for any longer than that? (just trying to be helpful here, obviously touched a raw nerve/bad day or something....)

elliott · 13/02/2003 22:46

simultaneous posting, georginaa....hope tomorrow is a better day

anais · 13/02/2003 22:46

I'm sorry too, that didn't need to be quite so stroppy...

GeorginaA · 13/02/2003 22:47

Hmm... a thought. More calm and less ranty I promise.

Why do we have to sit down and watch a programme "properly" for it to be considered responsible TV viewing? I rarely watch TV for myself, I'll read or be on the computer in preference (hmm, an aside comment - should computer time be limited for kids too - is that better because it's seen as more interactive?). I watch 2 shows properly a week (Buffy & Angel) but even then I'm doing something else at the same time (patchwork) so I don't feel it's wasted time. I'll also get up and do something during the ads even if it's just to unload the dishwasher. On maybe one night a month if that, I'll actively watch telly and then I'll flip and just watch whatever catches my eye even if it's 10 minutes. If the programme is boring, I change channel, life's too short, right? Or I'll do something else but keep the news channel on but only stop and watch the bits I find interesting.

What I'm getting at is that I don't think this is irresponsible viewing. My parents used to sit down each week and plan every viewing hour for the entire week - even choosing the least bad option for a spare hour they'd not filled. I can't imagine doing that - and yet they were sitting down to watch a specific thing which is considered more responsible.

Personally, I will be encouraging ds to get up and do something else if what's on is boring, or doing one thing and watching TV at the same time if he chooses (within his alloted TV time of course). I don't see how that's decreasing his attention span, on the contrary I see that as a valuable multi-tasking tool!

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GeorginaA · 13/02/2003 22:48

No no no ... me apologise ME I TELL YOU!

I was just being a stroppy cow.

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ANGELMOTHER · 13/02/2003 22:49

Personally I worship at the throne of CBeebies and Nick Jnr, I'm not really a bad mummy we meet friends twice a week go to music classes once a week and dd goes to school once a week.....but who can deny they need time to do chores from time to time and distraction is what most toddlers need sometimes. Also when sickness, bad weather and at the mo chronic morning sickness kicks in I sing praise for Tweenies.

GeorginaA · 13/02/2003 22:51

2nd day of conjunctivitis treatment today. I suppose I could have taken him in to nursery today, but he's being so wriggly with the ointment I still have to apply, and he's still a bit coldy and clingy... and I like playing the martyr and...

I do hope tomorrow will be better, I keep hoping every day this week!! Boiler man returning tomorrow morning with spare parts but I think I'm going to try the "stuff toddler silly with biscuits so he can't whinge" approach for a change. It's been ... ooh... hours since I last did that

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Clarinet60 · 13/02/2003 22:52

anais, I think you make a good point and one I hadn't thought of. However, the reason I don't switch off DS1's program when he leaves it to play with something else is because I fear this may encourage him to sit there glued to it without moving a muscle. I like it when he stays active (by playing) during a program, as I think it's healthier than just sitting there staring. The concentration issue will have to be pondered though.

Clarinet60 · 13/02/2003 22:56

There are also studies claiming that TV has resulted in children being more developmentally advanced than their parents and grandparents. I think it's a good thing as long as you also talk to them a lot too, and make sure they get plenty of fresh air and excercise.

Clarinet60 · 13/02/2003 23:01

Also, re background noise and the ability to concentrate on several things at once - switch on your ears next time you drop them off at nursey or playgroup. Noise? Everyone talking at once? Distractions? Sensory overload?!!! The proliferation of nursery places also coincided with the alleged deterioration in reception class communication skills. But they blame it on telly. I'm not claiming to know the answers, I just wish they could be more scientific about it.

GeorginaA · 13/02/2003 23:01

Hmm... fresh air... well we've got warm air heating without the warm air at the moment, does that count? And exercise... yes get plenty of that chasing him around the room with a tube of eye ointment in my hand

Sorry Droile, I couldn't resist, but yes that's a good point.

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anais · 13/02/2003 23:04

GeorginaA, well, personally I tend to do other things whilst doing tv - in fact I rarely just watch tv - but that's part of my wind down when the kids have gone to bed (or not in the case of dd - but thats another point entirely).

As far as the computer use, my ds doesn't use the computer often, but if he's playing games (ie children's educational cd-roms rather than just games)I will sit with him and supervise. He does do 'typing' on word on his own, but to me that is an extension of practising his writing skills.

I just don't understand why, if tv's boring, you don't just switch off. We usually though not always, switch on for a specific program, and then turn it off aferwards.

I don't see the point of having it on - it seems to me it's like a crutch. I just don't understand.

anais · 13/02/2003 23:12

Droile, to answer your points one at a time - I am not anti TV and agree that it is a useful educational resource, I also thing that having it switched on all the time detracts from this. I also agree that sitting just staring immobile at the screen is not healthy, but surely if the child is to learn anything then they need to be absorbing and thinking about what they are watching (which is where watching with them so you can discuss it later comes in). I'd rather my kids spent 20 minutes concentrating on a carefully chosen program than drifted in and out while it was constantly on in the backgound.

As far as the noise level in nursery/playgroup, well yes, I guess that is a factor. But surely if they are going to be exposed to that kind of thing in childcare, then surely home should be a place where they can get away from it?

GeorginaA · 13/02/2003 23:19

I think the problem lies in that children of that age group generally can't tell the time or follow TV schedules! Also, what they seem to enjoy changes from one day to the next. One day, ds will be enthralled with Bob the Builder to the point where he'll excitedly point out and name all the characters over and over again (and get really cross when the "camera" pans away before he's pointed in time, aw cute!), another day he may only look up at the theme music.

I am not for one moment avocating switching it on all the time. I would shudder to think that ds would ever get to expect the TV on on demand (you'll be pleased to hear that he hear's the word "no" on a regular basis with regard to the TV!). Even though I have resorted to having the TV on as a background "sitter" (because it is easy entertainment in the lull moments when we're having a hard day) on occasions, I still don't think it's good. I do find it next to impossible to stick to the half hour/hour (whatever the newest study says next) simply from the whole chore perspective. I've been avoiding doing chores while he's awake (like hoovering - he hates the hoover, cleaning bathrooms - there's no way he should be in the same room as bleach even if it is supposedly out of reach, etc) simply because that would be yet more time put on his TV allowance and I feel bad enough at the time he does watch TV. Yet I wear myself ragged running around when he's asleep trying to do everything.

At the same time, I'm torn. He does really enjoy some programmes (even if he has never sat down and watched one completely), he does learn things off them, they've also given me ideas for entertainment without TV at other times. I do make sure they're age appropriate - in some ways having satellite really helps (or hinders?!) in that respect. I think I'd be more inclined to cut it right back if he did sit their zombified for that entire half hour - for some reason that would worry me far more.

I know that this still probably mystifies you, and if it helps I'm insanely jealous that you manage to get by on recommended telly doses!

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GeorginaA · 13/02/2003 23:25

One more thing, and I'll go to bed and get some rest, honest!

I know this is way past preschooler age and doesn't have that much relevance, but my tired brain still wants to spit it out into text anyway. I remember there was a kid in my school who's parents refused to have a TV in the house at all. I'm sure it probably did wonders for her concentration span and educational ability. I do know however, that she had a real hard time making friends because most of the playground conversation was about TV we'd watched, or imaginative games based on a TV programme. In retrospect it must have been really hard for her.

Hmm, that reads like a really desperate attempt to justify TV watching... argh I'm doomed

G'night all.

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anais · 13/02/2003 23:29

GeorginaA, did you ever think that maybe he is losing interest in things like Bob the Builder because the tv is left on when he's not really watching? Don't know if that's the case, just a thought.

As for the cleaning thing, well, my house gets by on the bare minimum! Dd (22 months) stands up at the sink while I wash up (ds 4 tends to entertain himself - usually reading), she drifs round with the vacuum cleaner while I vacuum, they will both fetch and carry and put things away. The house would never win a beautiful home award, but it's reasonable, and I'd rather spend the time with the kids playing.

Your ds is old enough to help you with some little chores around the house. Otherwise, just lower your standards a little. There's no point wearing yourself out and stressing yourself out, your son will appreciate a calm relaxed Mummy far more than a spotless house.

willow2 · 13/02/2003 23:56

No anais, he's losing interest in Bob the builder because he (Bob) is xxxx (that's my pov I hasten to add). Also, the age thing starts to come in to play - what they once liked they grow out of. Ds used to like Bob - now he sings: Bob the Builder, is he boring? Yes he is.

GeorginaA · 14/02/2003 07:09

lol. No, yesterday was a day he loved Bob the Builder.

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GeorginaA · 14/02/2003 07:55

Oh and the housework does have to be done - see the bit about selling the house

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Gwynie · 14/02/2003 11:44

Whoever mentioned that TV is like a crutch, I think, is right.

For instance, right now, DS is running around playing while I have 'Listen and Learn with Mozart' on the CD (I know, sad), but he takes no more notice of that than he would if the TV were on.

I suppose what I am trying to say is that the music/TV is really for me. I have the TV on when I am at home alone as a form of company, just the same as with the music, as I hate being in a silent house.

Ds is 18 mths so at the mo, when I do try to play with him, he is more interested in exploring on his own.

Maybe when he is older (2?), he will take up a lot more of my time with interactive play.

BTW, that's not to justify having the TV on (in fact, I feel so guilty about it, that I have cut right back), but it gives a reason why some people do it.

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