It seems that one area where many natural-minded parents break ranks is on the topic of “screen time”. Some consider it a badge of honor that they don’t have a TV or limit their child’s computer time. They quote articles about how damaging it can be and how it ruins a child’s concentration. Some even send their kids to preschools such as Waldorf that forbid it!
We’ve taken a different approach. In our house, visual media is a just another activity choice. We have a TV, but without cable. It really only gets PBS channels plus one or two others. Some days our son watches many programs in a row, other days not so much. He rarely chooses the TV because he can’t watch what he wants, when he wants it, and will usually opt for a DVD or something from the computer so that he can fast forward/rewind, pause, repeat or skip parts as he chooses.
The majority of the time he’s doing one or more other things while he views a show, but sometimes he’s watching intently. Sometimes he even abandons the program or forgets it’s on. Often the choice is to play games, type or draw on the computer instead, still forms of screen time though. In getting his shows from the Internet he has so much to choose from!
Full episodes of nearly any show or movie, from many different countries, can be found on YouTube (though sometimes you have to be cautious about what you get). Almost every kids show has a web site with games, educational or otherwise, filled with fun activities.
I watch with him and pick up on what he’s most interest in to try and bring more about those topics into our lives. I can’t even count the number of things he’s learned about via watching or playing that I wouldn’t have thought to introduce or that wouldn’t have interested him in the same way.
He likely wouldn’t have been building oar fish out of Legos or telling Grandpa about the Midnight Zone this early in life without the Octonauts! And he wouldn’t have been using gestures he learned from Curious George to help him get his point across as he was learning to talk. We’ve had numerous interesting conversations featuring things that have come up on Spongebob. Plus he’s learned a lot of complex language concepts from the Alphablocks (it’s fun to hear him explain how “silent e” transforms vowel sounds). And you should see him laugh hysterically at the antics that Garfield gets up to with John and Odie!
Whether to allow TV and other forms of “screen time” into your child’s life is a highly personal decision and depends in large part on your parenting world view. For some additional reading on the topic of TV and Videos that I found interesting, including commentary on whether to forbit or limit access, check out some of the articles and shared experiences on Sandra Dodd’s TV page.