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The “electric babysitter!”

February 5, 2011

The “Daily Mail” ran a headline on Tuesday about whether our little ones are at risk from the baby TV stations aimed at pre-school kids.

There is concern that some parents are using the TV as a form of easy and stress free babysitting – plonking their babies and little ones in front of a screen for long periods of time as it keeps them quiet.

It’s all about balance and common sense really isn’t it?

Small children need to play and interact if they are to develop their social, verbal and physical skills with other people – whether it’s mum, dad, grandma, brothers and sisters or another little one.

It’s extremely difficult to be a parent without the “electric babysitter” these days especially as some the programmes are really educational. We lead a very different lifestyle than we did 20 years ago and some of the programmes really are great…. but some aren’t!

So while I was a having a coffee in “Java and Jazz” with my great friend Chris today, we got chatting about the amount of time our older kids spend on the Play Station as well as the TV and we chatted about what we thought was a reasonable time per day and what things we allow them to do.

It got me thinking.

Chris allows different things to me and different amounts of time too– but it’s not a competition just what feels right for each of us.

There’s been a great debate for the last number of years concerning violent TV and video games.

There are thousands of studies indicating that there really is a link between violent video images and increased aggressiveness and violence in children.

According to recent study the average child will see 200,000 acts of violence by the time they’re 18!

Common sense just tells me that this isn’t a great statistic but it’s also really difficult to prove the exact and precise impact these images have on kids.

But as a coach who works with parents, I see the frequent power struggles that come up time and time again around video games and TV watching so I just want to ask you:

  • What is a reasonable, balanced amount of time for you?
  • What programmes and games are suitable for your children?
  • What boundaries do you set for your kids and are they flexible as they get older?
  • What’s your gut reaction and instinct to this whole topic?
  • What do you do if you and your partner disagree?
  • Are you able to stand firm and say “no” to your kids…. if not why not?

I just want to get you thinking really and to make a decision about what sort of family culture you want to give your children.

It’s not about me “telling” you what to do as that’s not my job as a coach – I just ask the questions to help you find your own answers.

Our son Will, knows our rules and knows “this is what we do in our house” and also knows I don’t base our rules on what his friend’s mums and dads are doing either!

Just spend a few minutes making up your mind, setting your limits that feel right for you and doing your kids a great service by standing by your limits, consistently – no matter what!

I find it cuts down on the arguments!

Click here to read the Daily Mail’s article.

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About the author

Sue Atkins is a Parenting Expert who offers practical guidance for bringing up happy, confident, well behaved children. She is also the author of “Raising Happy Children for Dummies” one in the  famous black and yellow series published worldwide and the highly acclaimed Parenting Made Easy CDs. She regularly appears on BBC Breakfast and The Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 and her parenting articles are published all over the world.

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Sue Atkins the Parenting Expert
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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 6, 2011 2:32 am

    This has always been a touchy issue for me. I confess; I have used the electronic babysitter. But it’s interesting – frequently, my daughter will say, “Did you know…?” And I’ll ask her, “Where did you learn that from? Did you learn it at school?” Sometimes she says, yes, but very often, that knowledge will come from some program that I let her watch. When she does that, I don’t feel so guilty.

    However, I did forbid her to watch a program after she was playing by herself one day and as she was playing at least three or four people at a time, one of her characters made a sexist remark. I asked her to repeat it (I told her she wasn’t in trouble), and after I heard what she said a second time, I asked her where she got it from. She said, “Such and such a show…” I told her the problem in what she said, how what she said wasn’t true, and that she couldn’t watch the show anymore.

    We allow our daughter to watch PBS Kids, but we also allow her some other kids programs too (just not Hannah Montana and shows like that). But when we feel she hasn’t read enough in a day or done enough with math in a day, and if we feel she hasn’t had enough play or creative time, we tell her to turn off the TV. (She’s six.)

    Great post! Sorry for the long comment.

    • February 7, 2011 4:47 pm

      It’s always a personal thing for each family but I always made sure that I watched the programmes that my kids watched first to make sure that they were appropriate for them and then I set some boundaries round the amount of time they watched TV. It always a balance but it’s about you driving the bus and not letting your kids drive …. as they haven’t passed their tests yet ! LOL 🙂

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