Kavi woke me at 2, just…

Kavi woke me at 2, just for a bit, just long enough to give her some water and rock her back to sleep, just long enough that a poem started in my head and I was irretrievably awake. I don't know whether it's more fair to blame my daughter or my poem. That said, there's something a little lovely about being awake in the middle of the night, writing poetry. I ate some injera and curry, drank some tea, brought up the flowers I bought yesterday for the roof garden, finished reading a book, took Ellie outside for a little quiet time on the grass. Ellie doesn't get me to herself in the morning anymore; I think she misses it. The weather is perfect in Chicago these days and nights -- cool and crisp at night, sunny but still breezy and refreshing during the day. I'd say it's like California weather, but it's just a little bit better than California weather, in some indefinable way. Maybe the moisture in the air. Maybe just knowing that it's fleeting.

The book, by the way, I strongly recommend to all of you with children, most especially those with babies and toddlers, or if you're regularly buying gifts for kids. It's Buy, Buy Baby, and is an enlightening and fascinating look at the development of toy/book/video marketing, especially to the 0-3 age range and their mothers. (I'd say parents, but the book's a bit focused on mothers. So.) I'm not sure to what extent it'll change my own buying patterns, but it's reinforced that foreground tv watching really is harmful in large doses for the little ones. So will try to avoid setting Kavi in front of the tv unless I'm really frayed or sick, or she is. Maybe it's like medicine; you can use it in tiny, carefully controlled doses, even though too much of it really will rot your brain. I hope.

Also, try to expose her to less background tv -- that means if I want some distraction while cleaning, for example, turn on the stereo instead of HGTV, and try to watch the shows I really want to watch in the evening, after she's gone to bed. That's mostly what we do these days anyway, but I'm going to try to be better about it. Kevin still wants us to actually get rid of the tv, but I'm not ready to take that step.

Also, try hard to keep her away from commercials -- there seems to be a real link with kids getting quickly attached to cute characters that are then used to sell all sorts of things, perhaps most dangerously tons of unhealthy junk food. Starting as early as eighteen months!! I suspect it'll be easier to use Tivo or DVD's to avoid the commercials than it will be to have to tell her 'no, Kavi, no double-bacon-cheeseburger for you' every five minutes.

Also, will try to stop buying into the specious claims that this or that toy or video is 'educational'. They're really not -- or at least, there's no science backing up most of the claims. Kavi may learn more from a bowl of water that she can splash in than from an electronic drum that sings the alphabet in English and Spanish. (Yes, someone did give her that, and she enjoys it when we let her have it. We left it at the grandparents for now.)

What are your child/toy/tv/video philosophies?

7 thoughts on “Kavi woke me at 2, just…”

  1. I can understand your issue. With so many things marketed at kids and at parents, its really insane.

    Why do you think cereal boxes are bright colours with cartoon characters on them (especially the sugar ones)

    why do you think every 0-3 toy is labeled educational?

    when i grew up i watched Sesame Street, the muppet show, the electric company and 3-2-1 contact. later i watched square one tv

    yes, i also watched GI joe, transformers, and stuff. But i never got into the toys that came with them. i remembered looking though teh catalogs that we got once in a while, but never really got into it

    looking back, i realise that i was lucky that my parents were smart enough to give me the “geek” toys
    matchbox cars and lots and lots of lego

    But then, Sri Lanka didn’t get TV until i was 7.

    Sri lanka still doesn’t market to kids the way the US does. Saturday morning cartoons and ads are still part of the “western” tv culture

    So what’s my point? i think you should get used to saying “no” to your kids. i know mine did. But, i also think that you shouldn’t shelter kids from marketing. They’re going to be hit with it at all times. people will try to sell them everything from products to politics to philosophy. it’s better to show them how they’re being marketed to. of course they have to be older to understand it. but you have to start somewhere

    i recommend reading a book called (i think) “the hidden persuaders”.. its pretty old, but pretty good.

  2. Not having children, perhaps I really shouldn’t comment at all. But I was a bit dismayed once when a friend or relaltive (I forget who it was) said that they “limit” their toddler to one full-length feature DVD per day. That’s two hours, and they think they’re being strict!

    One of my biggest pet peeves is the SUV DVD player for the kids in the back. I want to make up bumper stickers that say “That D-V-D in your S-U-V is turning your K-I-D into an I-D-I-O-T.” Perhaps that’s a bit harsh, but people aren’t just using them for cross-country trips, or 4-hour drives to Grandma’s, they’re using them for the 10-minute ride to daycare.

    It is comforting to know there are parents out there considering these issues seriously.

  3. I’m curious about what the specific issues are with the TV. It sounds like you’re saying both that you don’t want to expose her to commercials and that TV isn’t educational — are those the main concerns? I can imagine others as well; just not sure which of them you’re concerned about. It kinda sounds like the book you mentioned indicates that TV is in and of itself bad for kids; true? If so, could you elaborate a little on that?

    If the commercialism is your main concern, then it seems to me that it’s pretty easy to avoid commercials on TV these days if you want to (as you noted re TiVo and DVDs). If you don’t want to give up TV entirely, but don’t want to risk seeing commercials while skipping through them on TiVo, there’s the middle ground of disconnecting the TV from everything but the DVD player, and only watching DVDs. (Which I did for years, and would still do if not for Dr. Who and BSG.) But there’s so much commercialism in pop culture in general that I suspect it’ll be hard to shield her from much of it even without seeing TV commercials.

    As for educational vs not, I’m a little surprised to hear that. I always heard, for example, that Sesame Street was based on educational research (and that notion is bolstered by Wikipedia and the (annoyingly Flash-based) Sesame Workshop website). And it seems likely to me that most of the educational experiences she’ll have (both formal and informal) won’t be very backed up by scientific educational research.

    …I feel like I’m defending TV, which is weird because we didn’t have a TV from the time I was, oh, 4 or 5 to the time I was about 16, and except for sometimes feeling a little left out of pop-culture references among my friends, I thought that was a fine way to grow up. (Before my parents got rid of the TV, we were only allowed to watch PBS.) So if y’all do decide to remove TV entirely from your lives, I’ll applaud.

    But if your particular objections are the ones you mentioned in this entry, then I’m not clear on why (for example) you want her to not see the shows you really want to watch, even if you skip the commercials.

  4. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Jed, there’s a whole chapter on Sesame Street; I really do recommend the book — it’s a quick read, and well researched. The gist of much of it is that:

    a) most toys / kids tv / etc. these days claims to be educational

    b) those claims are based on very little, despite the presence of academics on their staffs

    c) but it’s not that the corporations are evil; they really are trying to be educational

    d) it’s more that they jump to conclusions based on weak or bad science, or misread scientists’ statements, etc.

    There are a bunch of things I probably should have unpacked more here — maybe in a Chicago moms’ blog post, I’ll try to be more coherent. But some objections to foreground tv for 0-3:

    a) ‘educational’ tv is generally not educational in any effective way

    b) even when tv is marginally educational, it’s generally effective for an older age group than is actually watching it — kids read/watch up, so toddlers watch shows that are designed to be educational for 4-5 yr olds, three-year-olds play with Barbies, etc. They aren’t cognitively able to access the supposed educational aspects.

    c) if it is educational, it often only is if a childcare provider is watching with the child, actively engaged in ‘building scaffolding’ for learning — that’s how many shows were originally designed, and how they earned their ‘educational’ tag, but that is rarely how they’re used in practice

    d) parents and providers don’t realize this, and so feel perfectly happy using the tv as a babysitter; as a result, the child loses out on the interaction with a childcare provider that *would* have been educational

    e) worse, some educational videos such as Baby Einstein have been shown to actually retard language etc. skills

    f) some scientists are concerned that the reason babies watch so obsessively when the tv comes out is actually because they’re in a state of sensory overload, a near-autistic reaction that may have long-term severe developmental consequences

    I think there was more, but that’s what I’m remembering right now on the dangers of foreground tv, leaving aside the whole issue of commercials (which, btw, Tivo doesn’t actually solve unless, again, you’re watching with the kid, and forwarding over the commercials — if you just leave it on, the kid will just watch the commercials).

  5. While I don’t think TV is very, very bad, I do think it needs to be limited. Toddlers are supposed to run around and explore, not sit still. A small amount of TV, supervised by the parent is ok but you need to explain to toddlers what they’re seeing. I don’t think they really understand without the explanation and in any case, adding some interaction is definitely good.

    It’s worth noting that toddlers can be traumatized by the TV. I’ll give you an example. My daughter had watched a number of Winnie-the-Pooh episodes quite happily so one day when when we were all a bit under the weather, we let her watch a new episode without supervision while my husband and I were doing some chores. Eventually we heard sobbing from the other room. Something in the episode made our baby weep uncontrollably and to this day she still doesn’t want the TV on. We’ve actually watched the episode when she wasn’t around and have no idea what made her so sad. To us, it isn’t materially different than the other episodes she watched and liked. While I’m glad she doesn’t want to watch a lot of TV, I’m also sad she’s afraid of it.

    As to the TV characters: toddlers get addicted to things with or without TV. Right now it’s crocodiles for my daughter. TV may make it worse, but all toddlers/children have to learn they can’t have everything they want and how to accept “no” more or less gracefully.

  6. Fascinating. I really connected with the issue that kids hook into the characters and then that’s a marketing tool. I want the kids in my life to care about the comfort of the shoe, the ease of running in it, and maybe the color – instead of just buying it because it has dora the explorer etc. on it. Can we keep our kids from hooking into branding by delaying exposure? Or do we just have to teach them about it anyway?

  7. The book sounds really neat – I’ll have to see if I can find myself a copy.

    My issue with kids being exposed to TV, aside from the whole commercialism thing, comes mainly from the standpoint that it is a passive form of learning (which assumes there is even learning going on, and I’m definitely not convinced that there is).

    The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under two should not be allowed to watch TV at all and after age two that it be limited to two hours a day (which still seems like a hell of a lot of TV to me).

    One study done in Seattle found that “for each additional hour of television their children watched on average before age three, they were 10 percent more likely to have attentional problems by their parents’ report.”

    IMO, watching TV just rewires the way a child’s brain works, and not in a good way…

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