Monday, May 17, 2010

What Pretty Little Bare Feet is Watching

Okay, so how many of y'all watch the Soup on E!? My Prince & I often find ourselves saying, "Oh, no, we've never seen _____, but from what we've seen of it on the Soup..." So no, we don't watch

American Idol,
Dancing with the Stars,
or Jersey Shore...

...but Joel McHale watches them for us. ;)

Anyway, if you watch the show, you may have seen the segment "What the Kids Are Watching." If you haven't seen it - well, here's a clip for you:

I get that there is only so much you can "protect" your children from;
& that you have to "pick your battles,"
which may mean that you find relinquishing control of the television to be a battle you'd rather give up without a fight.

So forgive me, but I fully intend to control my little girl's remote for as long as I physically can.

Back before I was pregnant with Pretty Little Bare Feet (thus before I was even thinking about how to parent), My Prince & I would occasionally have his little cousin Elisabeth over to our house. I suppose technically you could say we were "babysitting," but really

She just liked spending time with us.
It gave her widowed mama a chance to relax every now&again.
& anyway, at that time, they only lived a few blocks away from us.

Elisabeth is a good, sweet little girl - & very smart. But that's exactly what worried me about Elisabeth's television habits. If this was what a good, sweet little girl (with a good, sweet mama) was viewing on a regular basis...well, it could only mean there were potentially even worse things!

At the time that we were "neighbors" with Elisabeth, she was about eight years old. She knew how to work the remote controls for our

DVD player,
satellite box,
& television

at least as well as we did - if not better. She also had no hesitation whatsoever about

waltzing right over to the television;
turning it to "her" channels;
& plopping herself down for what she probably thought would be a marathon session of mind-numbing garbage,
interrupted only for a potty break or a snack.

Until several shows later,
when I picked my jaw up off of my floor,
turned the television off,
& politely explained to Elisabeth that at our house we ate at at the table...
...with the television off.

I wasn't an absolute dictator for the entire duration of her visits, though. After all, I didn't have any children of my own yet. We didn't have a lot for a an eight-year-old to do at our house. So I tried my very best to watch some of Elisabeth's favorite shows with her.

I was not impressed.

Honestly, I barely remember what television programs I watched when I was eight. I don't remember watching all that much television as a child. Certainly not for such long periods at a time.

I played outside a lot.
I read a lot.
& as an only child, I could make up imaginary pretend games that could go on for days at a time.

But I do remember watching some children's television when I was a child.

I remember loving cartoons like Inspector Gadget & Noozles.
I remember loving game shows like Double Dare & GUTS.
I remember loving puppet shows like Eureeka's Castle.

& of course there were shows like Hey Dude & Saved by the Bell. But while the characters were older than me, the subject matter was relatively tame. The most intense plot I can remember was the "I'm so scared!" episode of Saved by the Bell.

But the shows Elisabeth was watching at our house were dramatically different from what I grew up with. & I emphasize drama. Eight-year-old Elisabeth's favorite shows were

Hannah Montana,
& Zoey 101.

Now I've learned the hard way that some parents get awfully defensive about their children's favorite television programs, & I don't understand it. So please know that I know that setting rules about television is a small part of parenting. I don't think that Elisabeth's mama was a bad mama for allowing her daughter to watch these channels. However, I do think that there is something inappropriate about the way that these programs about teenagers are marketed to much younger children.

(Supposedly these shows are for an older target audience, but they are clearly marketed to children as young as Elisabeth was, & even younger - dolls, toddler clothing, toys, etc....& I've even seen where parents are using these shows for birthday party themes for children turning as young as four!)

It used to be that developing an "attitude" was a normal thing to expect from teenagers.
Now, I often hear about or see much younger children acting like smart-alecky, sullen brats.

I got along just fine without a cell phone until I was about seventeen; & I'm pretty sure my mama had plenty of friends&fun before cell phones were around.
Now, I often hear about or see much younger children asking for & owning cell phones.

It used to be that having a "boyfriend" in third grade meant having somebody to borrow a drawing book from, or swing next to on the playground.
Now, well, I am not even going to describe the things I've heard about & seen regarding young children, & their awareness of mature relationship issues.

Bless their hearts.

Now I do realize that there are many other influences on children, besides just the television. But Elisabeth told me herself that she watched these shows pretty much back-to-back after school & on weekends, even while doing homework or eating supper. & I saw an awful lot of

parents&teachers portrayed as idiots;
playing on the internet
(including sites about, ahem, girls' top halves);

& so did Elisabeth.

Now I'm not saying that all of these things are inherently bad - but I think they may be inappropriate for such a young child to digest as part of his or her daily entertainment. I vowed never to allow any child of mine to get so sucked in to these dramas, certainly not so young! & at some point, I stopped allowing Elisabeth to take control of our television. I told her she was allowed to choose something to watch from any of my G-rated DVDs, or we could listen to music while we played. I even got her to watch Breakfast at Tiffany's with me - at least the stuff that was over her head was classy. ;)

Months later, while I was pregnant, I found myself in a waiting room with Spongebob Squarepants on the television. His laugh literally made me cringe, & I thought to myself,

"Oh, no, I am just not going to be able to handle some of these children's shows. I'll go crazy."

& so that is how I found myself watching children's television shows when I was pregnant, & while Pretty Little Bare Feet was a young infant. Even now sometimes I'll DVR an unfamiliar children's show that my momfriends are allowing their toddlers to watch, & preview it during Pretty Little Bare Feet's afternoon nap.
Children's television today is a big ol' mixed bag of

& ugly...

Good: Of some developmental or educational value. You know, the classics. ABCs&123s. Extra points if the show is based on a good book. I also consider anything entertaining in a charming, simple way as a rare find these days. So I consider those good. Especially because even educational television can be bad or ugly.

Bad: Detrimental in some way - be it teaching poor grammar or poor manners/morals...if it is derailing what I am trying so hard to instill, it's bad.

Ugly: These are the shows that I may or may not find "bad" - but they're so annoying or strange to me that I can't endure them long enough to find out. Television shows that have saturated the market so thoroughly with their products, that I can't turn around in Target without running into one of them, are also prone to get lumped into the ugly category. Obviously, the ugly category is purely subjective, & you may well think some of our picks for good shows would get the ugly label at your house!

(& then there are a few that are neither bad nor good, harmful nor helpful. I'll keep them on, if Pretty Little Bare Feet seems to enjoy them. Sometimes they end up growing on me & being classified good. On the other hand, sometimes they end up in the bad category.)

(Pretty Little Bare Feet in her "Cozy Coupe drive-in" setup.)

Pretty Little Bare Feet has a pretty limited intake of television, even of the good. She's only fifteen months old, so technically she probably shouldn't be watching any!

An average weekday:

After that, she's usually pretty content to sit&play while she watches me get dressed&ready for whatever we're doing each day. But about once a week or so, she'll get antsy before I get finished; & she'll get an extra 15 minutes of television before we go out the door. (& I'll get to curl my hair!) This is often the "Elmo's World" segment of Sesame Street, since we're often headed out at about that time.

  • About 15 minutes after her lunch, before her afternoon nap - Sprout airs reruns of old Sesame Street episodes in the noon timeslot, so Pretty Little Bare Feet almost always gets to see Elmo right before her afternoon nap. Occasionally we'll be out&about during lunch, & won't get home in time for her to do anything before her nap. But during the week, even if we meet friends for an early lunch out, we usually get home in time to spend My Prince's lunch break with him.

  • About 30 minutes in the afternoon - Depending on Pretty Little Bare Feet's nap, she may get to watch one of her DVDs during&after her afternoon snack. If she takes a good nap, she'll wake up within an hour or so of the time her daddy is coming home from work. (My Prince gets done at 4pm most days.) Then she won't watch any television. She'll eat, & then get down to play while waiting on her daddy to get home. If, however, her nap is too short (which is about half the time); she will eat a snack & watch one of her never-fails-to-hold-her-attention DVDs. That way I can finish whatever chore or supper prep I had started during her naptime. This current DVD rotation includes DVDs from Baby Einstein, Baby Faith, Brainy Baby, Let's Talk with Puppy Dog, Little Pim, & Praise Baby.

& that's pretty much it! We keep the television on one of the satellite radio stations until Pretty Little Bare Feet goes to bed.

(She's currently feeling bluegrass. Really.)

So, Pretty Little Bare Feet is watching an average daily maximum of about an hour & 15 minutes of television.

In the interest of sharing my interest in critiquing children's television, I'd like to begin occasionally sharing what Pretty Little Bare Feet is (or isn't!) watching (or reading), a la my "book clubbing" posts... be continued...

1 comment:

  1. I am with you - you have to be SO CAREFUL about what your kids watch! On another note, stop by my blog for your Versatile Blogger Award!