parents

It takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a TV.

“The television will always be there for us. It’s that tireless and uncomplaining co-worker who can keep kids quiet for hours on end.”

It takes a village to raise a child, as someone or other once put it. But what they were probably too ashamed to add, was that it also takes a TV.

My young children see a lot of their wider family, and our suburb has a very villagey feel. There’s a park down the road, kids their age just next door, and a toy library pretty close by. We have friends who are always happy to help babysit (well, ok, friends who are occasionally prepared to help babysit) and a local crèche that’s so community-minded, it may as well be a big hippy cult.

ee & henry pic
“Can any of them really compare in importance to the cast of Playschool or Peppa Pig?” Image: Supplied.

But let’s try to be honest here, fellow parents of adorable young-people-who-are-just-so-much-more adorable-when-they-shut-up. As vital a part of our parenting equipment as all these villagey things no doubt are, can any of them really compare in importance to the cast of Playschool or Peppa Pig? Parks grow dark, cousins go home, and the school holidays seem to last for six years. But the television will always be there for us. It’s that tireless and uncomplaining co-worker who can keep kids quiet for hours on end.

But is it a co-worker that we should try to use less? It’s an unusual parent, after all, who feels that their child “ought to watch more television”. And I doubt that too many of us are always entirely truthful about exactly how often we put Octonauts on. Our glowing little friend in the corner of the room is a dark source of parental guilt.
But should it be?

According to some people, the answer is “Yes”. We’ve all met parents like this, I imagine. For all I know, you may be one yourself.

I am talking about parents who ban TV for all but an hour for a week – or the even more smug ones, who don’t own a set. I am talking about parents who bond with their children from dawn until dusk, and then wake up all keen to bond more. Fresh air. Exercise. Imaginative word play. Improving board games and health-giving walks. These are the tools of their parenting trade. There’s no Ben 10 or Spiderman in sight. And their kiddies certainly benefit, if the experts are to be believed.

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Less TV means more creativity, they say, plus more social awareness and a much slimmer waistline.

should kids be watching tv
“The television will always be there for us. It’s that tireless and uncomplaining co-worker who can keep kids quiet for hours on end.” Image: Supplied.

“Excessive television,” on the other hand, “can result in problems like emotional outbursts, short-sightedness, heart attack, spine disease, mental disorders, exhaustion, difficulty in sleeping pattern, excessive tiredness and more.”

And when the author of this quote says “and more”, believe me, folks, she means it. From underage sex and drug use and violence, to shallow consumerism and general stupidity, there hardly seems to be a problem in society for which the idiot box isn’t to blame.

But I’m not too sure if I really believe it. Sure, there are some dreadful things on our screens these days – together with a truly awe-inspiring number of ads. It’s certainly worth keeping an eye on what your kids are watching, and stern limit on how much they watch. But shunning TV altogether just because so much of it is terrible seems a bit like shunning food just because some plants are poisonous, or never reading another book because 50 Shades sucked.

It’s worth remembering that TV is a reasonably new part of the parenting arsenal – and new things tend to be frowned upon. No “intellectual’ would have been seen anywhere near a theatre four hundred years ago, and there was nothing more frivolous than reading a novel.

“Sure, there are some dreadful things on our screens these days. But shunning TV altogether just because so much of it is terrible seems a bit like shunning food just because some plants are poisonous, or never reading another book because 50 Shades sucked.”

Or perhaps you’re a Great Outdoorser? Perhaps you believe that children should spend every spare hour that they’re given on God’s green earth scampering about in the health-giving sunshine? That they should be building cubby houses and lifelong friendships, or kicking a ball with the kid next door?

Well, I kind of agree with you. But the thing is, they don’t always want to. And who’s got the energy to constantly argue?

Like it or not, TV ss a part of our world. And if your kids seem happy, healthy, reasonably outgoing and more or less able to remember your name, I think that it’s OK to give yourself a break sometimes, and make it a part of their world too.

Must stop writing now. It’s time for Poirot.

Do you let your children watch TV? 

For more on parenting… 

Is it unfair to raise children in an apartment? 

9 parenting dilemmas you never expected to have. 

The only piece of parenting advice: ‘Don’t kill them.”