Letting a child watch too much TV may be as bad for parents as it is for little ones. In fact, depending on which shows a child is allowed to watch, it may be worse for parents.
Like any good mom, I try to keep my daughter’s screen time in check. At 2½, Reese is allowed about an hour per day in front of the television. I probably should count the time she spends with my smartphone as screen time as well, but days often go by when she doesn’t fiddle with it at all. And I’m still uncomfortable with the idea of handing my expensive, work-issued tablet to a toddler, so that’s not even a consideration — and probably won’t ever be.
In addition to limiting Reese’s TV time, I am careful about what she watches. My husband and I let her enjoy Georgia Public Broadcasting cartoons, but that’s about it. She’s doesn’t know that Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Cartoon Network or the Disney Channel even exist, although Disney movies that feature princesses are a different story entirely. Reese knows all about those — thanks to outside influences — so there’s no turning back.
I think GPB programming has a lot of educational qualities, and I like that my daughter can learn valuable lessons while “visiting” with her favorite characters. However, I’ve recently questioned some of these lessons, which may be sending the wrong message to pint-sized viewers.
We’ll take “Curious George” for example. For those who aren’t familiar with the troublemaking monkey that is based on a popular series of children’s books dating back to the 1940s, I’ll elaborate.
During his mischievous adventures, George gets into — and causes — quite a bit of trouble. He often makes large messes, accidentally breaks things, seriously inconveniences his owner (a guy who goes by the name of “The Man with the Yellow Hat”) and loses important items, but he generally manages to turn chaos into triumph by saving the day at the last possible second.
No matter what kind of hot water George gets into, it always becomes apparent to him in the end why he shouldn’t have done whatever it is he did. He’s always contrite, quick to own up to his mistakes and helpful when it comes to righting any wrong. But what strikes me his how patient and forgiving the monkey’s owner is.
George pulls stunts that endanger himself and others, damage property and, sometimes, cost money to fix. Although the episodes never address the financial repercussions, I can’t imagine that The Man with the Yellow Hat didn’t have to either replace his living-room carpet or hire a professional to dry it out after George built an igloo inside the house and allowed it to melt. Just saying.
I realize few children have the wherewithal to build living-room igloos or instigate serious destruction, but are “Curious George” and other TV shows like it telling kids it’s all right to make messes, unwise choices and cause trouble as long as they say they’re sorry, exhibit remorse and help with the cleanup?
I’m afraid our little viewers are being led to believe that all parents (and monkey owners) will be quick to accept and forgive such behavior or — even worse — laugh about it, just as The Man with the Yellow Hat does.
These programs definitely do drive home good lessons about sharing, helping others, being kind to animals, caring for the environment and being a good citizen. I just wish that, perhaps, those lessons could be taught without the inclusion of so much mayhem.
Of course, I get that kids are messy and unpredictable. I’m not asking children to act like perfect angels, nor do I expect television programs to unrealistically portray them that way. I just think little ones don’t need any help coming up with ways to worry their moms, break things and annihilate a house. Let me assure you, that can be accomplished quite easily with seemingly innocent items like crayons, graham crackers and bubble bath. No igloo required.