I’m sure this topic has been around since the term “media” became a part of any culture’s vocabulary. Whether you are single or married, have children or not, work outside the home or stay home, own a house or rent an abode, media and screens are a part of your life and decisions are made about them on an every day, if not an hourly, basis.
I’m also very aware that there hundreds of thousands of opinions, factually-based or otherwise, on what is deemed “healthy” or not, whether you’re talking about children under the age of 5, people of all ages, length of time screens should be viewed, noise level, screen flashes, content, level of interaction, and the list goes on and on and on.
I distinctly remember the first night we had D home from the hospital. There he was, all snug in his blanket like a little burrito, eyes wide open as he was taking everything in, and our humongous TV was on. My only “plan” I had at that stage of mommy-hood was that I was going to do everything in my power to keep him from viewing the TV screen until the age of 2, as recommended by D’s pediatrician and the AAP. No problem, I thought. I can totally do that.
So there we all sat, on the couch in our living room, a new family of three. Our TV at the time really was a ginormous beast of electronic material since the flat screen TV had not been mass marketed as yet and Hubs was a strong supporter of viewing as much as could be consumed of sports during his bachelorhood. The house we had allowed for the TV to be above eye level in something called an “alcove”, which really was the perfect scenario for having a little one in the home. Once he was mobile, he wouldn’t be able to touch the TV in any way as well as not even being able to “accidentally” eyeball the screen if we weren’t paying attention.
What I wasn’t prepared for in those early days with an infant was the uncomfortable feeling that he was being influenced, regardless of what he wasn’t actually “seeing”; it was a stark reality that his newly formed ears, brain, and senses were taking everything in, not just what was right in front of him. So even though he was safe and cozy in my loving arms, that his needs were being met and all that good stuff, there he sat with commercials of all kinds and “adult” concepts and language being “poured” into him.
As time went on, I found it was fairly easy to keep the TV screen away from his eyes. Even though my child only slept for maybe 10 hours out of a 24-hour period before the age of 2, I did everything I could to keep his eyes focused on “healthy” things. However, the concern about what he was hearing didn’t really stick around for long. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like we watched all kinds of violent shows or anything like that. But we did watch a lot of TV – a LOT. We no longer went to the movies, for obvious reasons, and Netflix was a new thing for us, so TV series on DVD was our big avenue to entertainment in our sleep deprived state.
The sleep deprivation continued and once D was mobile (around 15 months), the challenge of keeping his focus off the TV became quite interesting. I finally “caved” when he hit 18 months and let him sit in front of an actual kids’ show. There he sat, GLUED to his seat, for however long the screen was on. I was hooked, he was hooked. It didn’t matter so much to me about influence at that point since I was desperate for a way to distract my ever-moving, ever-awake child. I could finally get something DONE for once!!
Favorite shows started popping up, then Disney movies. The portable DVD player was a lifesaver on plane flights and long car rides. Literally the TV became my “go to” when I absolutely needed him out of the kitchen while making dinner or I just needed a BREAK from trying to entertain my kid.
L came along when D was 2.5 years old and nothing really much changed in terms of the amount of TV viewing or the content. We stuck to the usual PBS shows and whatever we happened to have on VHS (yes, we still have a working VCR in our home), and the occasional DVD movies gifted to us. Once D started preschool at the age of 3 is when I started to put some effort into “curbing” the amount of time in a day he watched TV, mostly at the hour or so after naptime and while I was making dinner.
As we started to learn more about Sensory Processing Disorder and the effect that screens have on children in general, I really started to put my foot down. No doubt, it was very gradual and of course, there was some “fighting” against my efforts at control. However, I wish I had known much earlier the “beast” of control that TV had on my particularly visual child as well as wishing I had done something about it far earlier than now. But, it is what it is. Just like every other parent, I’m on a continual path of learning about my child. I’m discovering new ways to keep the world an interesting and vibrant place for him to grow in as well as to keep our home as peaceful and loving as I can for all who dwell here.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about the catalyst to our “big” decision about media and how that’s going thus far.