The American Pediatrics Association recommends that children from birth to age two not watch television. Having taught more children in the past 10 years diagnosed with ADD/ ADHD exacerbated, they say, by hours plunked in front of the television, I can appreciate the warning. If it weren't for Jeopardy, the Phillies, the Flyers, and the Eagles, we could happily live without cable.
So, worried that I'd be condemning our son to a life of attention span equal to that of a goldfish's memory (eight seconds), I determined that we would keep the television off until age two. Initially, he demanded all the attention that I and my husband happily provided – we certainly didn't need television for our entertainment.
That resolve lasted until baseball season.
We have a picture on our living room wall framed of a laughing Ben in his first Phillie's onesie. I snapped the pic at my parents' when we were gathered to cheer on the Fightins. It was Ben's first introduction, really, to television. And the amount of time he spent looking at the screen? About five minutes. Total.
We've relaxed our strictness as the months have passed. I've been known to watch a bit of Cash Cabwhile unwinding from school; Planet Earth features exotic locations and animals. Ben ignores the myriad explosions on the occasional Mythbusters marathon, preferring to chomp on board books and wrestle his giant panda. Jeopardy airs near bedtime, so we (I) may watch while he enjoys the day's final bottle.
I wondered if Ben would watch shows on the various children's networks. I've been hesitant to turn them on, even when I have a mountain of papers to grade or assignments to plan, preferring to play with Ben or correct work that doesn't mind the occasional interruption to remind him not to play with a power cord or for an impromptu dance around the living room.
I wondered whether, maybe in answer to the APA's concerns, someone has designed programming suitable for tiny tots whose parents do need an extra half-hour here or there to finish a report, grade a paper, prepare a brief.
The local library hosts children's story times, and on Saturdays, shows a five-minute cartoon. Here, I thought, I can see Ben's reaction to a cartoon, and then go in search of that special programming.
He spent the entire movie watching everyone else watch the movie. He may've glanced at the screen once or twice, but the other children drew and kept his focus. Good, I thought, no need for kids' t.v. yet.
My students express amazement that I'm unfamiliar with the shows they watch. I thought Jersey Girlsreferred to chicks whose tease and hair-spray to impressive heights. Isn't Glee an emotion expressed when learning that the test has been postponed?
They've taken it upon themselves to share with me their favorite shows from childhood: Blues Clues, Teletubbies, Spongebob… and the old stand-bye to which I'll introduce Ben in a year or two, Sesame Street.
Until then, I think we'll stick to baseball.