The Real Mom's Guide to Kids and TV
For my family, it all began with Pooh. My son was barely 2, and I couldn't wait for him to meet that silly ol' bear. So as soon as it seemed Henry could sit still long enough, I ran out and bought...the video. That's right. Not the beloved A.A. Milne book but the Disney movie. In fact, I bought the whole Disney Home Video collection of Pooh and his pals. Cherished cartoon characters from my childhood days that I couldn't wait to revisit with my own offspring. Every afternoon Henry and I sat down in front of the television and laughed and sang and hugged each other tight each time Pooh and Christopher Robin were reunited. I like to think that Henry enjoyed this as much as I did.
But having introduced him to the delights of television myself, how could I blame him when his loyalties were transferred to even more exciting fare? Soon Scooby-Doo replaced Pooh, and the clock on Henry's TV consumption began ticking. The types of entertainment media expanded to include other home videos, television shows, educational software, and -- as soon as Henry was old enough to manipulate a joystick -- video games.
Many parents, wiser and firmer than I, are doing everything they can to shore up their child's defenses against the onslaught of entertainment media beamed into households today. Still, it never feels like quite enough, especially when the number of channels, DVDs, games, and other home-entertainment outlets seems to increase exponentially as the kids grow older. Meanwhile, mounting piles of studies blame TV for just about every childhood ill -- from obesity to aggression to problems in school. Do TV and its progeny really deserve this bad rap?
Alix Finkelstein is the mother of Henry, 11, and Margaret, 7.