Parenting doesn’t come with a manual. Over the last thirteen years, I have had my ups and downs and own doubts about my abilities. There are so many hot and contested topics in the parenting-sphere, but nothing is more controversial than deciding what is the appropriate amount of tv time.
I am one of those parents who limits how much time their kids watch. My oldest (13) gets about 2 hours a day, while my 9, 5, and 3 years old each get about an hour and a half (and that’s me being generous).
I’ll admit, it’s frustrating at times because even with the little bit of time they have, I feel like it is too much. Even if the reality is that it’s not. However, that fear of being judged and shamed by my peers for allowing my kids to have screen time is real.
I have started to realize that allowing television for my two younger children, doesn’t necessarily mean they can’t watch shows and still learn. Does this mean I would tv to solely teach them? Of course not. As with everything moderation is key.
How do I know what is appropriate media?
Angela Santomero, the creator of Blue’s Clue’s and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood new book Preschool Clue’s: Raising Smart, Inspired, and Engaged Kids in a Screen-Filled World (available April 3rd) highlights ways that parents can properly balance media and learning in their home.
When trying to decide how much or what types of television shows your child should be watching, Angela points out there are a few keys to ensure your preschooler is watching a high-quality show. Try and think of screen time like a healthy green smoothie.
-Education (the greens)
-Interactions (the protein)
-Engagement (the sweets)
The preschool years are some of the most formative year’s development wise for kids. Angela shares a few gems about preschoolers that we as parents, may not have known:
Universal truths of preschoolers:
- All preschoolers play to figure out their world.
- All preschoolers need time to Pause.
- All preschoolers like to Repeat.
- All preschoolers imitate their parents as the “stars” of their show.
- All preschoolers, universally, want to help – they are innately empathetic, and we can strengthen their empathy muscles through everyday activities.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Angela, and had a few questions about media and families; here’s what she had to say.
How do you think television has evolved over the years to ensure that our kids are learning more of the skills that are needed to enhance their cognitive ability? For instance, I often hear people say “80’s kids had it better with Saturday morning cartoons”, but the truth is, those cartoons provided no educational value whatsoever.
Angela: I firmly believe that all media is teaching our kids something. Really, Blue’s Clues in the ’90s was my answer to this question. I believe that preschoolers come to media with an active mind, and the best way to enhance their cognitive ability is to invite them in to interact, participate, and think. The best way to watch is to motivate preschoolers to “view and do” – whether it’s to create a craft they saw on the show; do some dramatic play and play out the episode or be inspired to look at the star in a different way and learn the names of all the planets.
How do you feel that parents can use media in a positive way to strengthen their role as a parent?
Angela: Kid’s media can be a bonding experience that brings families together to laugh, bond, and learn. Knowing and talking about the media that your kid’s love is the first step. Asking questions about the characters and providing some activities after the show is over is another great way to be involved. Co-viewing is a wonderful activity – if time allows – to snuggle up, watch, and ask questions about the show. A show like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood works on both levels — kids love Daniel Tiger and there are nostalgic “nods of love” to Fred Rogers that parents will remember.
What are your tips for parents who struggle with whether or not it is appropriate for their child to watch television? I often have guilt even if it’s just an hour or so for my three years old.
Angela: Ditch the guilt! Know kids programming the way you know the ingredients in your kids’ food. Finding the good quality media with the intent to teach that is the best for your three-year-old is the difference between an educational media experience and “junk food” media. When parents have the information that they need to make smart, informed choices about their children’s media they can feel confident using that media to their advantage and in a way that strengthens and supports your role as parents!
Do you have any advice or tips for people who do not believe that children learn anything from shows such as Blue’s Clues, Daniel Tiger or Super Why?
Angela: The truth is, kids are learning from EVERYTHING — the question is – what exactly are they learning?
In my book, Preschool Clues, I teased apart my preschool shows and broke open the clues that are inside all of them. I cite and explain a lot of children and television research that proves the success of using media to teach, influence, and inform. When a show is created with the intent to teach, research has proven that it can move the needle and teach as well as in a classroom.
I hope that by the time folks are finished reading Preschool Clues they will not only understand exactly what children are learning from the shows they watch and why their shows are so effective at communicating that learning — they’ll know exactly how to apply that same tried and tested approach to the way they parent with the same powerful results!
This post is sponsored, however, all opinions are my own.
Love of impromptu dance parties, 80’s cartoons, and horizontal life pauses (aka naps); Natasha Brown is a stay at home mom of 4 kids, and wife to one lucky guy! In her spare time, she is co-editor of Grits & Grace, as well as editor for The Mother Hustler Blog and Creative Director for the Mother Hustler podcast.