Monday, April 7, 2008

Kids & TV Watching

Our daughter loves to watch TV - be it Elmo, Backyardigans, Curios George which is one of her favorites, Dora, etc. More recently, she is crazy about movies and the song and dance routines in them (Indian movies). She loves to dance along with the songs in the movies and can actually do a move or two!

Shutting the TV off when she is watching will make her red-faced and her eyes full of tears and she will flop on the carpet with her palms banging on them crying 'TeeeVeeee........'. A funny sight indeed!

She is also a very poor eater of lunch/dinner at home. When we give her food (rice or chapati which is Indian tortilla made of whole wheat, along with veggies and lentil soup, etc.), she eats only the chapatis, leaving the rest of the food untouched. By chance one day we realized that this wasn't the case when the TV is turned on for her entertainment. At this point, we can easily blackmail her into eating all of her food and be assured that she will finish everything and then some more!

What is it about the TV that makes her succumb to our earnest requests to her to eat her food? On the condition that she can watch the song and dance routines, she displays exemplary behavior which basically means that she listens to what we say to her :-)

What is it about the TV that captivates kids? I don't know if we can generalize this habit for a large population of kids of course. My wife and I sometimes feel very guilty about what we are doing and keep thinking what we are doing here is not right for our child -- letting her watch too much TV (she watches about an hour and 15 mins of TV each day which we think is a lot). But we have been so far giving in to the apparent benefit its providing us -- she eats her lunch/dinner.

Does anyone else have a similar experience? Does anyone have other alternatives that can be used to make sure that the child is able to eat her food properly and at the right time? Agreed, TV is an important medium of entertainment and education based on the shows that are available for growing kids, but just how much is enough? Where does one draw the line?

4 comments:

pradnya said...

My 18mth old does watch her kiddie shows like Dora etc on TV, infact she points out the TV remote when she is drinking her milk in the morning. I let her watch sometimes & I do feel guilty about it. Of lately I have started taking the remote away from the usual place where we keep it & put it away somewhere else. Sometimes when objects are out of sight they are out of their mind. It works for her & then I engage her in some other activity like reading a book, playing with her blocks etc. Watching TV while eating the food can become a routine if we use it as a "means" to achieve the "goal" ie eating the dinner. But at their age its possible to break their routine by giving them a option to choose something else, maybe play her favourite songs instead of TV. I feel at this age they want to assert their independence & they can be rebellious at times to the limit that it can get frustrating for the parents. But giving them a choice makes them feel more independent in making their own decisions & we can also control their habits in a subtle way.

Fizz-Kidz said...

These are comments from http://parameswarier-konthai57.blogspot.com

Watching TV by children is o.k. to some extent like watching cartoon networks, comics, etc. but continued addiction,is a passive activity and would ultimately make their brains only passive and wont allow to develop original ideas.

So it would be a good idea to allow them watch TV as soon as they return from school for a few minutes, say half an hour or so ,and then persuade them to switch off to other activities like out door games within the compound,and also provide them with a PC either a desktop or cheap note book , and initially teach and develop in them an interest to do some original work like painting ,doing home work.. reading stories etc. One such site, where their attention can be drawn to, which I came across recently, is http://www.balagokulam.org/.
In due course they themselves will find new openings to show their capacities either in art, education or understanding our epics etc.

Ketan said...

Both me and my wife try to set limits regarding TV watching for our 3 year old son. He too loves watching the usual Curious George, Dora shows. However we also discovered that he wasn't just into cartoons, but many other things on TV. Keeping this in mind, we try to ensure that he watches shows like Animal Planet. He loves shows by the late Steve Irwin. I also watch the travel channel with him, that shows exotic places and cultures and then once we finish watching the show, I take him to Google Earth and show him the place that we just saw. He loves playing with the globe on Google Earth and exloring it on his own.
One of the things he likes is Hindi film songs especially the old ones (50s, 60s, 70s), so we found them on YouTube, and downloaded them. We tell him that he has to finish certain things--eat his food, pick up his toys etc, if he wants to watch songs, and he happily does it since he has an incentive. Then instead of cartoons he gets to watch songs, and in this manner he gets a bit of Indian culture into him. We found that he also picks up the words/language in this way. To further broaden his exposure to all kinds of music, I have been feeding him a steady diet of other kinds of music such as Indian classical music, classic rock(he likes The Beatles, Led Zep, Tull etc).

My point in all this is--kids will always want to watch TV and there is only so much you can control. What you can control is what they watch and steering them in that direction is up to us.

Fizz-Kidz said...

Ketan
Thanks for the note. We tried the 'incentive' method a couple of times with our daughter, and so far it has worked like a charm with respect to her picking up all her toys and putting them back in the toy basket when she is done playing.

Obviously we wont use it all the time, as then that would become a habit which in itself is not good in the long run.