When I moved I was offline for over one month. I took a long time getting round to ordering internet and phone services. At first I found this frustrating but after a week or so I remembered what I did with my time after the children were in bed, before turning on my laptop. I have read more books and completed more craft projects in the last month than I have in the past year. As much as I enjoy and value electronic media, I have been considering its effects on my life and wellbeing. Before I moved I put the television to one side, along with a box of children's VHS videos I had collected and a bunch of DVDs. I thought lots about what to do with them. I was unsure as to whether the TV should move to the new house or be given to the local charity shop.
Since September 2010 my son had barely watched any television at all. After he began attending a Steiner kindergarten I was advised by the teacher that there should be no television viewing. After much discussion and research, my intuition was validated. Young children develop much better if we do not allow them to watch television or at the very least, if we minimize their exposure to electronic media. Since September I have had a few moments when I felt I needed something to occupy my son while I took care of my baby, however it has been rare because I immediately noticed the difference in my son after watching television.
I have always limited my son's exposure to screens, televisions, mobile phones and computers. He has only ever watched an hour or so of CBeebies here and there and some carefully selected films. I never felt comfortable leaving him in front of electric screens and so I rarely did this. Even though I carefully chose the programmes, channels and films he viewed, I was never totally comfortable with the content.
If you observe a young child watching television you will notice a strange look on their face. To me, it never looked as though he was enjoying watching, instead he looked spaced out. He would sit with his mouth open and glazed eyes. He looked like he was hypnotised. I used to wonder where he had gone because it felt to me like he wasn't really there. I also noticed that he would sit very still and quiet. Anyone who has spent any time with healthy young children know how active they are, they rarely sit still for a minute let alone 20 minutes. I noticed that after watching he would have less energy and less motivation to do things. Maybe my child is different to the majority of other children and maybe my son is affected in ways that other children are not, however, observing my own child and other children confirms my instinct that watching television is unhealthy for young children. I have found a lot of research which confirms the negative effects television is having on young children.
Young children imitate what they see and hear. Do we really want our children moulding themselves on the characters and contents of children's programmes and films available aimed at them, let alone all the other content that so many children see? Eastenders is aired before the watershed and I know of many young children who are regular viewers. Some of the plots are heavy going and have included murder, theft and violence. Do we really want our children imitating this? Children do not have the ability to filter information they way adults do. They are not able to consider things rationally and logically the way most adults can. After viewing televisions they do not think 'oh that's only a programme'. Children are very strongly affected by the things they see. What they see they believe to be real and it really affects them and their behaviour.
For me, it is not just the content but the medium itself. Young children are very sensitive and from what I have observed about young children, I believe that television watching is sensory overload for them. Young children cannot process the information and I believe television viewing interferes with healthy development. Besides, time spent watching television is time taken away from other activities such as playing, singing, jumping and exploring. Young children need to be doing these things if they are to develop into healthy adults. One last reason I am scraping the TV, it affects the imagination in a negative way and personally, that's too high of a price to pay for the convenience of an electronic babysitter.
To finish up here is a fun and fabulous poem about television by Roald Dahl.
The most important thing we've learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set --
Or better still, just don't install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we've been,
We've watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone's place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they're hypnotised by it,
Until they're absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don't climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink --
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK — HE ONLY SEES!
'All right!' you'll cry. 'All right!' you'll say,
'But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!'
We'll answer this by asking you,
'What used the darling ones to do?
'How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?'
Have you forgotten? Don't you know?
We'll say it very loud and slow:
THEY… USED… TO… READ! They'd READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching 'round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it's Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There's Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They'll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.
And once they start — oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They'll grow so keen
They'll wonder what they'd ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.