Thursday, June 11, 2009

TV Blues


Last month PBS Kids hosted a lovely event for us DC Metro Mom bloggers. I ought to have posted something about it, but it was kind of culture shock for me, and I didn't want to write and sound ungrateful. Before the event, I didn't know anything about Super Why or any shows for preschoolers. I came away with a great respect for the creators and all the research they put into these shows. I'm certain that if the students I taught in high school had watched the shows that scaffold literacy skills, many of them would have had an easier time reading. I'm glad these shows exist for populations that are going to be in front of a TV anyway.

But I still don't think I want my son staring at a lightbox of whirling pictures. Especially not shows with fast-paced images that, as an educator, I think are a recipe for generalized ADD. And yet, after the event, I started using some You Tube (mostly PBS) and the Steve Songs DVD we got in our swag bag to keep my son occupied so we could keep the house clean for showing/selling.

Now TV/computer just feels like that yucky place I didn't want to get to -- where he wants this thing that gives me some time to clean, cook, etc., but I still don't think it's at all good for him. He's passive, and those glassy eyes just say heroin addict to me. He's whiny about wanting to watch something and mad when he has to stop. He's not sleeping as well (not necessarily related, but it's possible).

And watching is not doing anything for his spirit, his soul, or his imagination. Those are the pieces not represented on the PBS whole child chart and those are what Waldorf education values. Another mom at the event openly made fun of Waldorf (she brought it up; I just listened). I don't care what you call it, but I really think all this pushing kids to develop skills early -- even if the learning is "fun" -- is cheating them out of what ought to be magical time of their own making. TV may keep my son out of my way, but I think it keeps him out of his way, too. That is to say: disconnected from his body.

I don't know that I'll try to go fully TV-free. Most days are, but some days, a little saves me a lot of headache. I think I'd feel better, though, if I actually did some looking into programs I might feel good about for slow pace, real people/places/animals and/or maybe language exposure (Spanish or French) instead of whatever Curious George episode -- or hip-hop parody! -- pops up for him to click on. Yikes! A little word stuff or science stuff or get-along advice is fine, but I'm not going to seek it out. I'd rather he make up his own ideas about things and take his cues from us (but only on our good days!)

See also: The Unplugged Project

1 comment:

De in D.C. said...

I tend to agree with you on the impact of screen time on creative play. After my son began watching the occasional TV show, his pretend play was always reenactments or interpretations of what he'd seen on screen. While those are a form of free play, I think it also stifled his creativity a bit.

That said, I needed the downtime and don't regret my decision to let him watch. I was WAHM at night and SAHM during the day and sometimes momma needed a rest!

One suggestion for slower-paced shows, especially with a language component... 12-15yrs ago, I used to babysit a family that limited TV. One exception was a series called Muzzy. These were simple stories that helped kids with early education concepts in foreign languages (my clients were German, so that's the language the kids watched). There are a few clips on youtube if you want to check it out.