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Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out

Yesterday evening, Londo called me up right as I was leaving work. The babysitter had left and he was watching the Pumpkin. And he told me the following story:

The Pumpkin walked over to the TV in the family room. She turned it on. Then, she turned on the DVD player. (The way the DVD player is set up, if you turn it off without stopping the DVD, it will start back up when you turn the DVD player back on, however you have to have the TV channel on the right "input.") Next, she started changing the channels until she got to the right input. In fact, Londo said she initially went past the right input but went back when she saw Baby Signing Times playing. Once she had it on the right channel, she stood back and watched her favorite DVD.

Isn't that amazing? I'm very impressed with my Supergenius's ability to figure all this out. Londo said she did it all very deliberately, and I believe it. There are a lot of specific steps you have to do to get the DVD to play, especially finding the right input channel. In fact, I'm not sure if my mom or my MIL could do it! But my 15 month old? No problem. Anything for Baby Signing Times.

But that's the part that scares me. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with her ability to put on the TV and her DVD any time she wants. That way lies addiction! Trust me, I know. We have really limited her TV so far, which has been easy because until recently she wouldn't sit still and watch anything for more than 5-10 minutes. But now she will sit there like a fidgety zombie and watch the whole DVD. Then want to watch it again.

I'm not against some TV. But I'm concerned about the amount and the programs she will be watching, especially at this young age. To be honest, I'm especially worried about the example that Londo and I set. I don't want the Pumpkin to feel the need to constantly have on the TV just to be background noise or a slight distraction (yes, Londo, that's your example). I don't want the Pumpkin to zone out when she's watching something so that she doesn't hear a word of what real life humans are saying to her (yes, that's totally me).

TV is a useful tool, both for teaching kids (with the right programs) and for giving Mama and Daddy a little (and much needed) break. But I want the ability to limit my child's use of the TV. I want to be (and want Londo to be) a good role model for my child's future TV-watching habits. I want TV to be a treat or a reward, not something that is always on and considered a prerogative.

At 15 months old, she already has the ability to turn the TV on, she's starting to tune in... I just worry about the third item in the Timothy Leary quote. Because it's never too soon to get that mommy guilt working!

Maybe instead I should be concentrating on how amazing she is with her ability to follow steps she sees and figure things out. She's really quite brillant, isn't she? She gets that from her parents, too. hehe.

Comments

- Dana said…
If the time isn't right for her to watch TV you can do the whole switch-a-roo and tell her "NO". She's not the only one that gets to use that word. haha. That is pretty cute that she figured all that stuff out. From infant to toddler they just are so amazing with all the things they learn.
Becoming Mommy said…
Wow, she's smart!

We've been trying to stave that off by making the remote (and actually, all grey/taupe electronics) off-limits for Sasha. I see nothing wrong with certain things in the house only being for Big People.

Anyway, last time he got hold of the remote he bit a chunk out of it.
MommyEm said…
Dorothy figured out the remote not too long ago, which made me happy and sad all at the same time. My mommy TV guilt goes off the chart when I accidentally hum the theme song for Caillou, Elmo, or Max and Ruby, and Dorothy gets huge happy eyes and exclaims "OOOOOOOoooo" while pointing at the TV. After all my sanctimommy blathering about no TV until she was 23, she practically woos at the thought of Elmo at 17-months. Sigh. All of this is made worse my hubby's constant pestering of me to read Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman

And for those of you who know me and my ludite ways, I have attempted to use HTML tags in this post for the first time, which I suppose is mildly ironic, since it was on a Neil Postman reference. Hee.
Jan said…
I have some of the same concerns you do with our kids. My husband particularly likes to just have the TV on (plus he likes to watch stuff I don't think is appropriate for the kids -- think Military Channel). We got a TiVo in part so that we can turn the TV off without him missing the rest of something if he was watching it.

But we use words for teaching. I'll say not just, "Munchkin, would you turn the TV off please," but, "Munchkin, nobody's watching the TV -- would you please turn it off?" Or I'll say, when I turn it off, "I've watched enough TV for today -- time to do something else!"

Watching little ones mimic complex things is one of my favorite things. When the Munchkin was first potty training (19/20 months?), she had a whole "do it myself" thing going with the little potty. It was a hoot to see her remove the seat, empty the pee into the big toilet, climb the cabinet, turn on the sink, rinse the little bowl out, turn off the water, climb back down, put the little potty back together and flush the big toilet, then climb the cabinet again to wash her hands.
Cloud said…
We hide the remote in a drawer- not because she has figured out how to use it, but because she likes to chew on it too much.

We also seriously limit her TV. She gets to watch rugby with us when the NZ All Blacks are playing (we have to honor her Kiwi heritage, after all) and some TV to distract when her Daddy is cutting her nails, but so far, that is about it. But neither of us were really TV people before she was born, so this hasn't been a hard switch to make.

Good luck!
paola said…
Wow super smart!! It seems that Littlies are either interested in the idiot box or they're not . Noah was so into it at a very early age, but I learnt very early on not to put the tv on when he was around as he would just get so absorbed by it. We only started letting him watch programs (The Wiggles, so lots of singing and dickheads dancing)when I was at the end of my 2nd pregnancy (so around 20 months ) and at least I had 1/2 an hour to rest. Little Zoe at 17 months is just not interested at all. Noah watches his hour a night (Thomas and Friends or Bob the Builder, never regular tv, mainly 'cos I prefer him to watch English programs so his English can benefit)and she dances when she hears the jingle and then grabs her book or some other toy and doesn't even turn around to see what is happening unless she catches Cranky the Crane's image out the corner of her eye.

I agree it is really important for us to set good examples for our kids. We don't put the tv on until after 7.00 for ourselves and that is to watch the news. It is never on as background noise and so the kids don't depend on it that much. But you know I really need Noah's hour of tv time for me to prepare dinner, prepare for work or flake out for a while and I even ask Noah what he wants to watch and he often says 'nothing' and I am so pissed off. Guess the good modeling is working .
Rudyinparis said…
I let the girls watch 30-45 minutes of tv when we get home from daycare... I need the time to change out of my work clothes, let the dog out, and cook dinner. But I still feel conflicted if not outright bad about it. On the one hand, I think in the big scheme of things it's not a big deal. On the other hand, seeing them sitting there staring at a tv screen makes me kind of want to cry. It sort of helps that we have an open floor plan so as I'm preparing dinner they're right there in front of me and I can talk to them.
ImpostorMom said…
I have a love-hate relationship with Boog's tv watching. Yes I feel somewhat guilty but when we get home and i have to cook dinner it is the first thing I go to to occupy him. I think you have to find a balance. When we are here all day on the weekends we don't spend all day watching tv so that's saying something I suppose.

MommyEm-HAHAHHHAHAHAAHAHHAHA :P
Tranny Head said…
Gawd I was all "no TV for my kids." And then my husband went to Iraq. *snort* Then I got a clue and discovered two wonderful things: 1) the Sprout Channel; and 2) Noggin.

Cheers to them.
Shellie said…
She is so smart and observant. I hear you on the concern she get too into the TV. If I had known before what I know now, I would have been so much stricter on this one, so these are good concerns and things to think about. I agree there are some great things out there on TV and on computers, very educational. I agree we need to be selective what gets watched and how much gets watched. It is very hard with a guy in the house. LOL. My husband loves to just have the TV on to relax to, but for the under 3 crowd, it's like the worst thing in the world. That background chatter actually makes them tune out our voices more and the flashing lights and colors on the screen affect their focus/attention negatively. Since I have kept the boys out of the room with the TV on in the background all the time, both things have improved. I feel huge amounts of guilt about all the bad background TV in their lives, as well as not controlling when and how much and what they watch more. But, if I had known more, I would have been more diligent. Live and learn. The American Pediatrics Association had an article in their newsletter within the last year about this, maybe you can google it?
She is a SUPERGENIUS!

I read a book when baby was little about screen time... it was helpful in helping me find my own comfortzone... kinda... I still struggle. But the book (Into the minds of Babes) was good!

This is a hot topic around our house and we never end up agreeing... though we agree in theory. Baby doesn't watch any kids programing, but he does watch some TV with us. We have the whole TIVO thing so we record what we want, can stop it ect. He ends up watching the daily show and colbert report with me in the afternoons and sometimes falls asleep with us on the couch while we watch something in the evening. If he wakes up and DH takes a shift, they go down and watch tv. I am not comfortable with this... really with any of it. I feel guilt. But I don't think I am going to change how we are... so yeah. But TV zombie I DO NOT WANT, as a kid I always had the tv on for comfort... but I actually ran around doing things so... ?
OneTiredEma said…
Two things:

1. My kids figured out how to turn on the TV quite early, and AM can fiddle with the remote to get the cable box on also.

When we absolutely do not want the TV on (Shabbat), we hide the remote up high AND unplug the television.

2. Signing Time addiction is something we know all too well 'round these parts. BUT--I have watched my kids sign the sign back to Rachel many a time (so it's interactive and somehow better than, say, watching the food network, which happens on rare occasions as well), and blah blah Signing Time Rules All and I am such a groupie I should get a tattoo and my speech delayed two year old now "says" and "signs" the ABCs (swoon) and I am on the phone to the tattoo parlor RIGHT NOW.

What I am trying to say is that there are MUCH WORSE things she could be watching.

But I personally can't function with the TV on as "background"--I find it distracting, so when it's on it's on to be watched. Which I guess cuts down on the accidental exposure. I've also found that it can act as a carrot to get Miss M through some experience that she's not really happy with, a la, if we can get done with our errand quickly (i.e. not too much complaining or asking for snack or dragging behind), we will be home in time to watch X.
Colleen said…
yeah, well...ahem. I should just say that I do admire all of you moms who can keep the TV off since it's generally better to not turn your kids into zombies. And I do, cuz I just don't care too much what Gavin watches as long as
(1)it's on Sprout or Noggin
(2)it's one of his movies
(3)one of us watches with him

Gavin rarely watches TV on his own, or for very long. We try to engage him a little, even if we're not really watching because we're making dinner ("Funny Oscar!" "what did Pingu do?" "is Caillou sad?") and really the only time he watches TV by himself is if I'm in the shower, he gets up at 6am on a weekend, or I need to manage Cooper without Gavin distracting him. But we're bad...we tend to have the TV on most of the day since both come from long lines of couch potatoes. :) And heck, how else is Gavin going to get initiated into Star Wars if he doesn't get to watch it 1700-bazillion times?
&BabyMakes75 said…
Score yet another one for "mommy guilt." These conflicted messages many of us hear about absolutely no television vs. the reality that sometimes dinner needs to get made or maybe you were up most of the night so need a breath... Amazingly my son has never seen the one television in our home but he has watched videos on the laptop. Not many but some, typically once a week for about an hour. But I am incredibly lucky on the evening and morning rush thing because the "no tv" was also my husband's idea. He has stepped up to help on that front and plays with out son outside while I prepare dinner or when I shower in morning etc. Weekends can be tougher to avoid a 30 min or so video but I try not to sweat it. I do think that children can be taught to amuse themselves for about 20 minutes at a time by "reading" familiar books or looking an unfamiliar ones with many things to look at (such as the Richard Scary books) or playing with trains, blocks, etc.

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