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Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

Why I Let My Kids Watch TV

The cycle on Sid this week is about health. In one episode, called “Must See TV,” Sid decides to watch TV for a whole weekend. Sid soon discovers that his body doesn’t feel great after a while and the kids explore exercise at school. I like the concept of the show and it really got me to thinking: Why do I let Henry and Leo watch television?
As many of you can attest, television watching is one of those hot topics that parents talk about on the playground along with sugar intake, video games, and potty training. Television elicits some pretty strong opinions, for and against, that sometimes can turn into a competition or an awkward moment among parents. I, for one, have found myself feeling alternately guilty and comfortable about letting Henry and Leo watch television regularly; depending on what friend I am talking to.
Let me state, for the record, that I am not an expert on preschoolers and television. I feel like there has been a lot of information swirling around out there about the dangers and benefits of watching television at an early age. Some studies give an age when it is appropriate to watch television, others give a time limit, while others say children shouldn’t watch at all. I try and keep up, but ultimately, as with all the other hot topics, television watching is a decision that Gerry and I make on our own for our family.
I know why I let my boys watch television (we’ll get to that), but what about my peers? Instead of asking for reasons why parents DON’T let their preschoolers watch television, I thought I would ask my friends on facebook why they DO allow it. I got a nice batch of responses. One of my cousins told me that she is able to put dinner together while her children watch television. My friend Sam said that every mom needs a break every once in a while, and the TV helped her get that. My friends Michaela and Susan spoke about commercials and advertising and limiting exposure for their little ones. Some friends said that PBS was the only channel their preschoolers watched. I, of course, agree whole-heartedly.
My favorite response was from my friend Liz, mother of four:
“Some days none, some days more than I even thought I would. Usually I do it when I need time with another kid/s for talking, reading or homework, but even when it was just the two boys I let them. Not to get all soap boxy about it but I think our society is always telling us to go, go and multitask and fill every moment. I also think we need to teach our children the value in allowing your self to relax, veg, do nothing or nothing of any importance. I watched when I was a kid. I think I turned out alright.”
There seemed to be a general consensus about television providing us, as parents, with a time out of our own to take a breath, and get things done. Frequently, I do let Henry and Leo watch television just so I can reclaim a bit of my sanity. I do not think there’s anything wrong with that. But what does it provide for them?
I can only speak for my family when I explain why I allow Henry and Leo to watch television. My boys are active, in constant motion, running around the house, playing in the yard, and having daily adventures. I (along with Gerry) am in charge of their health and well-being. I am not worried that TV will make my kids sedentary. I, like my friend Liz, believe that television gives them a change to stop and relax for a little while. I have also noticed that Henry and Leo self-regulate when it comes to the television. When they’ve had enough, they stop watching and start playing.
I believe we live in a media-driven world. Parents have to make their own decisions about when to introduce their children to that world. In our family, we made the choice at preschool. We limit the time the boys spend watching and we often watch TV as a family. I do not let the boys watch a show that I have not screened. We try to watch channels that do not market products to small children. We set our own rules and we are aware of what is needed for our own family. I think that is key.
I am also a strong believer in the power of excellent children’s programming. I am a first generation Sesame Street kid and I am grateful for the experience of growing up with that show. My boys love the programming on PBS and often use the content as a springboard for play. Just this week they were animal rescuers in the jungle and became animal superheroes; all based on a new show they are watching. Finally, as most of my readers know, Sid the Science Kid has changed that way I think about science for preschoolers. The show has provided me with countless opportunities to explore, create, learn, and communicate with Henry and Leo. I wouldn’t think of pulling the plug on us now.
I am really interested in knowing why you let your preschoolers watch TV. What goes into your decision-making? What advice would you give to a parent who is trying to make the right choices?

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