“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.
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.