Sunday, 26 November 2017

Toddler TV Time

I heard the recommendations everywhere. No screen time, except maybe Skype, for the first two years. My family doctor brought it up. It seemed every parent I met had something to say on the subject of TV and ‘screen time’. (Usually, they were checking their phone while talking about it.) I read the studies for myself too (the few I could find) and, though I found them underwhelming at best, I was left with a nagging terror that my child would have some kind of social or language delay. Notwithstanding the underwhelmingness of the studies, I would then spend the rest of my life wondering if I could have prevented all his problems with just a little more eye contact and a little less TV.

Thus, to avert disaster, I would be the world’s most interactive parent. We would play on the floor together, I would talk to him, read to him, make as much eye contact as possible. I would not turn on the TV…I had the best intentions.

I lasted, maybe, a week.

We were very lucky when it came to the first nine months with Kiddo in that we both got to be home. I was not working when Kiddo was born, so Hubby got to take all the parental leave that would otherwise have gone to me. These things are never flawless, however. In those first few weeks Hubby had to go into work here and there to tie up some loose ends.

The first day I was home alone with Kiddo I soon had Gilmore Girls playing on TV.

By this time, I had already seen every episode of Gilmore Girls (more than once). This was not about my entertainment. It was more like my sanity depended on having something familiar and reasonably upbeat going on around me. Before long, Gilmore Girls was regular background noise, even when Hubby was home. To this day, Kiddo will stop and look if he hears the theme song.

At first, my husband was resistant to the TV-in-the-background trend developing in our house. Then curling season came around.

Matches from the Tim Hortons Brier and Scotties Tournament of Hearts quickly replaced Gilmore Girls as the constant background feature and will forever remind me of Kiddo’s first winter. Eventually, (around the end of curling season that year) the TV stopped being on quite so much, but we never did put strict limits on it.

Kiddo is now old enough to have some opinion about what he watches on television. Alas, the days of one Gilmore Girls episode after another are gone. Now it’s Paw Patrol, Puffin Rock, Thomas & Friends, and Dinosaur Train.

Trains, cars, and trucks of all shapes and sizes are a hit, but mostly Thomas comes out on top. Lately, though, Kiddo has developed a love not of the fully-animated Thomas & Friends episodes, but of the many youtube videos people have created with their basement train sets. Some of which are over an hour long. Did you know people do this with their time? I sure didn’t.

I’m left with two questions:

1) Who decides to spend that much time not only setting up these elaborate sets (I knew there were plenty of train aficionados out there), but also creating, acting out, and narrating their own storylines with those train sets? Whoever they are, they are clearly onto something. The video I linked to above has over 7.5 million views.

2) What is it that makes these videos so much more captivating to Kiddo than the professionally written and produced animated Thomas & Friends series? The folks making the youtube videos must have this answer. Personally, I would much rather watch animated Thomas.

You might also be fascinated to learn there are hours worth of videos available depicting the activity of (real) fire trucks, ambulances, excavators, and…wait for it…garbage trucks. Kiddo likes the fire trucks best, of course, but is also perfectly happy to watch 30 minutes of garbage collection--no narration or anything, just garbage trucks doing their thing. Again, who thought to create such a video and took the time to film, edit and upload it to youtube?

All that to say, there’s a fair about of ‘screen time’ in our house. There’s also lots of outdoor time, colouring time, reading time, Lego time, Play-Doh time, and (real-life) train table time.

In case there might be any other guilt-ridden, TV watching parents out there: My son is fine. His language is great. He is social. He is not fat (despite eating more than I do most days). Thus far, it would seem TV has not melted his brain cells or turned him into a flabby sloth. Phew.

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