There are so many topics well-suited to raise the hackles of parents (and non-parents) everywhere. I mean topics which, for some reason, divide parents into camps, vocal and stubborn, topics such as co-sleeping, breast vs. bottle, working and stay-at-home motherhood, baby training and attachment parenting. Instead of accepting that each family makes the best, most informed decision for their children, we are quick to judge. Now, that is not to say that some parents couldn't use more education, resources and support, but that the rest of us should be a bit more open-minded.
Okay, I have my opinions on how things should be done, but really this is about me and my husband and my daughter and I cannot nor am I interested in pressing my views onto others. We co-slept: hurrah some will say, a big no-no to others. I am nursing a toddler; ditto and ditto. People really get worked up over things like cloth diapers and organic food and plastic toys that light up and serve no educational purpose whatsoever. But, what I don't really hear people talk about that much is television.
Yes, you can read a zillion articles about it by doctors and psychologists and teachers and parents. You can study up on what the experts think is good television and bad television, how much is too much, yada yada yada. But, it is something I don't hear parents talking about when they talk about parenting philosophies. There seems to be the attitude that "Yeah, TV is pretty bad for kids, but of course mine watch it, don't yours?"
There is educational TV, "Sesame Street" and the like, and all those Baby Einstein videos and they seem, for so many parents, to be the exception to the bad TV rule. Those are somehow OK, even for the teeniest tiniest child. We got a Baby Einstein video as a baby shower gift that says "for ages nine months and up." Nine months old? Really?
We don't allow Lilith to watch television. That being said, I admit she has seen television, and we own one big one, with cable and a DVR! So, sometimes a soccer game is on and she is in the room, but very rarely. Sometimes at other people's houses the TV is on and she sees it. But, again, rarely. I will even admit that two times I put that ridiculous video on for her: she was teething something wicked and I thought it might calm her and distract her, but it made things worse.
There is value in television. It is a powerful media. But, we prefer Lilith to read books, to use her imagination. We prefer her to remain unriled by the pace of television, by its false brightness. We prefer her to remain blissfully un-brand-consciousness. It seems a way to preserve her childhood and innocence just a bit longer. Plus, these days are zooming past and with work and housework and errands to run, I don't want to miss any more time with her. I don't want to lose out to television quite yet.
For a variety of reasons we feel 16 months is too young to watch television, educational programming or not. But, we don't know any other parents who feel this way.
Sarah Rachel Egelman is a community college instructor and free-lance book reviewer who lives in New Mexico with her husband and 15-month-old daughter.