Getting Real with Shadra Bruce
I was never the mom who said no screen time. Are you kidding? How do you ever get anything done if you can’t sit your kid in front of the TV for 30 minutes and start laundry or dinner?
Sure, too much screen time is considered a parenting fail, and even the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 2 hours per day. While we spent far more time reading books, listening to music, talking walks, or playing outside, sometimes, TV helped educate my kids in ways I would never have considered. I simply can’t teach everything, and classic children’s shows touched on topics that I might never have discussed at all.
We celebrate Christmas, don’t attend church, and have not had a lot of exposure to other cultures and customs with regard to the holidays. I was delighted when Blues Clues, one of the favorites in our household, aired a special holiday episode that raised awareness of Kwanzaa and Hanukkah. My knowledge of these holidays was very limited, and I learned along with my children. It was such a great episode that it stuck with all of us over the years.
Both Blues Clues and Dora taught my kids language. Blues Clues used sign language with every episode, which was pretty cool, given we have a son with Down’s Syndrome who uses sign language regularly. I may be fluent in French and know a handful of Spanish words, but the regular exposure to sign language in Blues Clues and Spanish during Dora the Explorer helped open their brains to learning.
I may not have been thrilled with the kids’ insistence on watching daily doses of the purple dinosaur, but we can’t forget about Barney. I may not have loved Barney as dearly as my children, but teaching love and acceptance is never a bad thing. To visualize a diverse group of children interacting and problem-solving is something I couldn’t have recreated myself.
Not only was TV teaching my children valuable lessons, it offered a bit of respite. I could engage with my son while watching children’s programming, while simultaneously attending to his newborn sister. We would connect while watching a favorite episode of Blues Clues, but I could still manage getting a bottle and arranging for nap time. As the two got older, they were able to watch together so I could step away and get some laundry done. Now, as our granddaughter reaches the age where TV can both delight and entertain, I find myself enjoying the occasional Teletubbies episode and the trip down nostalgia lane.
TV programming is not perfect, and there are certainly shows that are more educational than others. Although TV is not a substitute for parenting, there are undeniable benefits to sitting down with your kids and watching some TV to expand their learning.