27 January 2012

The TV question: my own take

Time and again, I would find articles featured online on the harmful effects of TV viewing on very young children. And I would honestly say that I've read a good number enough to make me feel guilty. Yup, Lakay and I are among those parents who exposed their children to television too early by piling up on Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby dvds. But our intention was then to at least mitigate the effects of our absence  as working parents while our Bugey was left to the care of his yaya. At the very least, it was a better alternative to simply exposing him to the TV shows that yaya will be watching with him while she rests. I know that this is not the first time you've probably heard a parent make this excuse. And this is not simply to justify the questionable practice. It is simply to state that the modern system of living sometimes hardly leaves us with alternatives.

Now instead of lamenting over our modern slavery, I thought of highlighting some of what I view to have been helpful effects of those dvds to my son. I want to highlight the pluses in order to harness it to our child's maximum advantage.

1. Those dvds may have an educational value. A minimal one at least. Ok. Let's face it. Making parents believe that these would turn our kids into Einsteins would be taking it too far. But I did observe that a lot of the first words that Bugey learned were from Brainy Baby - jump, skip, walk, stand. They were mostly action words performed by kids on the screen, and enthusiastically imitated by my then two-year-old. Yaya's assistance was definitely helpful. Thanks to the audio and visual arrangements, yaya (who was barely a high school graduate) learned a pattern for teaching my son. Perhaps it helped that I am a teacher, and that I took time out to explain carefully to my caregiver how interactive watching would be good for Bugey (and for her).

2. They do help stimulate imagination. I wouldn't say that this would apply to all kids. But if you happen to take pleasure in daydreaming and imagining things, there's a great chance that your kid would be picking on this. Blue's Clues and its magical world has fascinated my son to no end. All four years he'd spent on watching his favorite episodes somewhat gave him building blocks for his own magical world. He now authors stories of his own, combining characters and magical scenes he got from everywhere. I guess encouraging him to talk about the shows he watches also helps here. In this way, TV watching can be another learning activity that can be processed with an adult.

3. They can aid in teaching children how to read. One thing I know about  reading is that it is learned first through word recognition. I think the patterns in Brainy Baby operate on that principle. Word repetition while spelled out on the screen somehow helped my son retain those words in his memory. Of course this wasn't just the only way he learned how to read. As soon as I observed that he was picking on word recognition fast, I and yaya started labeling some things (door, floor, window, toy) in our apartment and read them out loud to him whenever given the chance. This plus the bedtime reading which I've always held to be a sacred bonding moment since he was a baby.

I think the rule of thumb that we can draw from above is that TV viewing can be used to the child's advantage only if we are willing to take extra steps with it. First, make it an interactive moment. Second, process it by encouraging kids to talk about it. And finally, draw ideas on how it can help you teach your child about other things. The point is TV should not be merely used as a replacement for things that we ourselves should be offering our children. Sure, the fact remains that the harmful effects of tv watching will always outnumber its advantages. That's why our constant task should be to find creative ways of undoing them. It's what parenting is all about. 

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