The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under two should watch no television, and older children should watch less than two hours per day. They also say that excessive television makes kids fat, delays literacy, and may lead to aggression and the development of attention problems. If we do have our kids in front of the TV, they should only watch educational shows and videos with no commercials. Better yet, we should watch TV with them and use it to teach life lessons.
I have no problem with those recommendations. I think most children's television is dubious, with the exception of shows on the commercial-free PBS Kids and Noggin channels. There are also some good shows on Nick Jr. and Disney, and educational programming on the National Geographic, PBS, and Discovery channels, among others.
But I confess: as a mom of two children under five, I've needed television. Some days the only way I'm going to get anything done is to sit Nathan and Lucie in front of the tube. I can't call the pediatrician's office or run the vacuum after everyone has gone to bed. Luckily, my kids are restless types who don't just sit there. Instead, the TV serves as background noise while they're playing with their toys, chasing each other around the living room, and climbing on the furniture.
However, it was when my kids were infants that I needed television most. No way could I have kept conscious during those middle-of-the-night feedings without Dave or Conan. There was only so much looking into my child's face (like the parenting books preached) that I could do before falling on my face. TV kept me awake.
It was also there for companionship, since I was by myself most of the time. Reruns of "Law & Order" and home decorating shows helped pass the time while I sat on the couch with a sleeping infant in my arms. How I wish I had TiVo, Netflix and the Internet. It would have been a much easier and less brain-numbing time.
So, my question is: Is it so important that we eliminate TV from our children's lives? Though I was an avid reader and played outdoors a great deal as a child, I couldn't have imagined my childhood without television. I loved everything from the "Electric Company" to old monster movies. Mr. Rogers was as special a TV friend as Mr. Spock. Some of my fondest memories of my father involve watching football on TV with him.
What was your favorite TV show growing up?