How much television our kids should watch – indeed, whether or not we should let them watch television in the first place – is a question that has plagued me almost from their birth. In my column, I discuss a little bit of my previous experience with the idea of toddlers watching television. But I only briefly touch on the possible hypocrisy I feel I'm indulging in by curtailing their own television viewing when I enjoy TV shows myself. Intellectually, I know that I shouldn't feel this way, as their brains are still developing and it's far better for them to engage in active play and reading. I also am concerned when they fight me at the end of a program, and have a tantrum if I refuse to show them another episode of Dora or another Sesame Street video on YouTube. So part of me thinks I should keep them away from TV completely. But, you know, I want them to enjoy many of the same things I enjoyed as a kid, shows like Star Trek and M*A*S*H, although I do wonder if they will come to like them the same way I did.
At the very least, with our lifestyle they've learned that we don't watch "videos" or "pictures" on the Jewish sabbath, and I think they've come to accept that.
I know that as a kid I watched a lot of TV, and I wonder – did it really do me any harm? How could I possibly quantify it? The answer is, I can't. I'd have to go back in time and repeat the experiment by having an earlier me not watch TV and see how I turn out. I guess at any moment in life we simply play the hand we're dealt.
I will note one final thing with amusement. Since all of Muffin and Squeaker's TV watching is via tablet computer, they really have no idea what that old CRT box in the corner of the living room actually does. When they were playing the iPad app My PlayHome, a virtual doll house, they discovered they could turn on the TV set in the doll house's living room, and the little screen would start to show images of a program for the doll house family to watch. Muffin and Squeaker, who are quite familiar with many of the other virtual appliances presented in the doll house, had no idea what that box was. If they don't know that the TV box can be such a big distraction to them, I feel like I may have succeeded in some small way.
Go read Telling Off Television to see what else I have to say. Also, there are cute pictures with funny captions. And take the poll!