Parenting is tough. All parents have an underlying feeling of inadequacy because let’s be honest, none of us really know what we are doing. There are no instruction manuals that come with these adorable, pint-sized devils. We often make parenting harder on ourselves by comparing and contrasting ourselves to everyone around us. Sometimes I feel that if I do not feed my children organic, vegan vegetables grown in magical pesticide-free gardens, then I am not doing my job. That when I let my children sit down to a healthy marathon of Netflix cartoons, so that I can shower for the first time in 2 weeks, that I have failed them completely.
We are often made to feel that electronics and television are of the devil. That if we introduce these evils to our children, we are turning them into soul-less, uneducated human beings. I am here to make the argument that this is complete crap. When done in healthy moderation, TV shows can be our saviors. They can educate, stimulate and simply entertain our children and their busy, growing minds.
Take for example my 2-year-old. One part pure devil and one part pure angel, he has the uncanny talent of charming every person that lays eyes on his adorable, dimpled face. He deepens that charm by constantly singing the cutest little nursery rhymes you have ever laid ears on. Genius, some say. Others tell me I must be a wonderful mother, singing to my little angel each night. Nope. He has learned every single one of those rhymes from YouTube. YouTube can be a parent’s enemy, but it can also be our bestie. It has channel after channel of baby songs, which for some reason have magical entrancement abilities for busy toddlers. I swear it must be voodoo. They suck my little guy in. He learns childhood classics like Twinkle Little Star, Five Little Ducks, and I am happily off the hook from singing him songs every night.
I also am a huge fan of television shows that actually teach values, and not just letters and numbers. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood has become a family favorite. My 4-year-old and 7-year-old are still sucked in. A spin-off of my childhood classic, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, this cute little animated series contains a moral principle with every episode, such as being honest, kind to others, or dealing with upset feelings. It does my mama heart proud that when I hear fighting between my kids, I can run up and save the day by echoing that cute little tiger and singing, “When you feel so mad that you want to ROAR, take a deep breath, and count to 4….”. If you haven’t seen this show, you might think me a regular Mary Poppins. Instead, I’ve learned refereeing skills from a cartoon tiger.
TV not only can teach our children but sometimes it is necessary to simply entertain them. Parents do not have to be responsible for entertaining children for every hour in the day. I’ve tried. I don’t think real humans are capable of this feat. It is A-O-K to turn the tv on so you can poop in silence. It is just fine to have some downtime for the kids so that you can scrape stale Cheerios off the toilet (don’t even start to ask why they are there). I love PBS and I love the children’s channels on Netflix. I do not think I could have made it this far in my life without them.
As I said before, I think the real key is moderation. If I plunk my devils in front of the T.V. each and every day from sun up to sun down, this may, in fact, melt their brains in a way. They might come to expect animated tigers singing them happy songs when they get in real trouble. They might start to harm others by thinking they really are ninjas that can morph into dinosaurs. I think it is important to monitor what content they are watching and think about what lessons they are learning. But good grief, parents, give yourself a break if you are having a bad day and you need that TV to save your life and be your babysitter. Your children will be OK. More than OK. If you are worried about what they are turning into, I think you’re doing something right.