Tuesday, December 4, 2007


There are some decisions that don’t quite qualify as decisions at all. Not conscious ones at any rate. It’s only when something you do or believe in is has a doubt cast on-- perhaps this is not even the right word-- day after day, that you do take a step back to think. And if you are wondering what the topic of this intense consternation is, it is the meek television set. I never had any strong opinion either way about it where Chip was concerned. I once met someone who was so afraid her son would be addicted to television that she would hold her infant away from it even if it were for a few minutes; to avoid the odd glance the said infant might throw the television’s way. I am no where that extreme. But I am also a little ykcul (spelled backwards to ward off the J-monster!!).

Chip never showed much of an interest in the television. Some well meaning friends gave him Baby Einstein DVDs which truth be told freaked me out with their linguistically indescribable images – how the hell was I supposed to explain the computer generated purple and fluorescent green swirlies to Chip when he asked the inevitable, “What’s that?” While other kids “graduated” on to Little Einsteins at the age of 18months, Chip seemed to have failed the grade. He had not even finished watching one Baby Einstein DVD from start to finish.

This gap is more apparent at parties. While the grown-ups chat and have a good time, the TV is turned on, a DVD popped inside and the kids plonked in front of it. Chip watches it for ten minutes at the most and gets bored – of what’s happening on TV and because there are no kids to play with. But what is more amazing is that other kids his age do watch. Whole feature length movies. They know all the characters too – Shrek and Fiona and Lightening McQueen and Nemo and Spiderman and other Disney and Pixar inventions. Two and three year olds. Once, at a party, I urged Chip to see the kiddie movies. He wouldn’t. So I sat alongside him and explained what was going on and who the characters were and the general story. He appeared interested but soon found a truck to ride and scuttled away. Which brings me to another question. Do these two and three year olds follow what’s happening in a movie? Because Chip doesn’t. And that’s the reason for his boredom. He simply does not understand the story unless I explain it to him in simple words. But if other kids are engrossed, they must understand what’s unfolding and Chip is missing out on all that, or even worse, he is lagging behind in his comprehension. So, yes, I have to admit, that on some level this bothers me.

Statistics tell me kids Chip’s age watch an average of 2-3 hours of TV every day. Where do they get the time, I ask myself often. But the answer isn’t hard to see. The kids who stay at home watch it almost all day. Those that go to a daycare watch after they get home. I can understand why. Chores need to be done, dinner cooked and dishes cleaned. I do all that too. But Chip is not plonked in front of the TV. We go out everyday – to the library, to the tot lot, to take a walk. When I am on the treadmill, Chip sits on the chair in the study and we sing songs or he just potters around. When I am cooking dinner and if he gets bored and there is no one to amuse him, he is put in a warm bath with empty bottles and cups to play. And we recite shlokas and that keeps him busy for 20 minutes. He might watch a DVD if he is too sick to do anything or if he is just too bored. But it is usually a song Akdam Bakdam from Hanuman movie or a 20 minute Richard Scarry’s ABC which is full of songs. And, yes, he does after a bout of illness ask to watch the videos again, but he is whisked away to do something else, simply because I feel other things are much more interesting than watching TV. But I could be wrong.

BigGeek and I are not big TV watchers. We don’t watch TV on a daily basis. The TV does not get turned on for days at a stretch. We only watch two shows. House and Scrubs. The TV is never running in background, although music often is. Perhaps Chip has inherited our genes or he has been subject to our preferences. Perhaps it is both. But it is a fact that Chip can’t tell Shrek from Spiderman. But he can tell apart a Jumbo Jet from an F-16. He has no idea who Nemo is but he knows what a Chinook is. And perhaps, just like his nerdy parents, he is doomed to be a sad misfit in a society that seems greatly seeped in this popular culture.


Mona said...

personally, i think it's a great thing that chip doesn't wantch any tv. i don't think that he can't comprehend what's happening, maybe he can, but it isn't interesting enough to him.
it's wonderful that prefers to interact and play with other kids or by himself rather than watch tv.
you know, we don't even have a tv at home yet. we just never got around to getting one and it's just as good, we don't have the time to watch anything anyways.

Anitha(Nikki's mom) said...

This question has popped into my mind a couple of times already and Nikki is not even 1 year old. We do not watch much TV at all (TV is being used these days because my Mom is here, she watches some Sun TV and Vijay TV). Many of the babies in our friends' circle who are of the same age as Nikki watch TV already. Their moms(SAHM) put them in front of TV and do work. They are riveted to TV for close to 10 minutes(at 10 months),Nikki would give it a glance only for close to 20-30 seconds, and that too when there is some catchy ad/music going on. Those kids dance when they see songs and Nikki doesn't. He would just thump his foot in response to music. I don't intend to buy Baby Einstein dvds for him and he will grow up watching much less TV than them. I already am seeing difference between him and other kids. They seem hyper and aggressive. He is a tad soft and can occupy himself with something as simple as a bowl and spoon for close to 5 minutes(when he is in the mood for it). I am really wondering if I am bringing him up as a soft kid amongst a majority of aggressive kids? will he have a tough time assimilating and surviving?

NainaAshley said...

Apple is almost 3 and the only DVDs she still watches are Barney and Elmo. She does ot show any interest in movies. She'll ask to watch jungle book a few times but gets bored after a few minutes.Like Chip she may sit and watch longer if I explain the events to her. Like you I have wondered if I should be happy or concerned. I guess I should not be concerned since she's perfectly able to grasp other things.

Preethi said...

Hey.. nice post... one I would have made a year back. Nantu watched no TV till a year ago.. and he does not merely get bored at friends places, but tries to drag his friends away from the tv...
he still wont watch all movies.. the only ones he had watched so far are hanuman and cars... but that too in spurts (he will play and run about and watch in between). On days when he has no school he is occassionally allowed to watch tv as he has his breakfast... but only for half hour or one hour at the max. He will turn off the tv after that himself, and has never asked to see more or at any other time than this! And get this I never let him watch tv when he is sick.. i am weird about that!! i think he will get more sick!!
I constantly see kids watch full length adult movies - hindi and tamil... follow it and repeat the story.. I am amazed at the kids and at the parents who will allow this...

Parul said...

hey dotmom,

we've the no tv rule already in place. I crib all the time in my posts that we don't watch tv anymore cos adi would try to watch it too. mahesh is paranoid that adi will develop ADD if allowed to watch tv and so there we are!

I read in some magazine lately that kids from no tv households may end up feeling left out in conversations with peers and that got me a lil worried. the mag helpfully suggested that such kids should be shown DVDs instead...but I'm wondering how useful that would be.

i'm planning to restrict screen time (gaming, comp, tv) to an hour a day later on....hope these are not famous last words!

choxbox said...

vogay dotmom, one more joins the gang of potentially sad misfits :)

Orchid said...

O.K....time to take the guilty stand...this is one area where I feel I wronged lI'L A early on! yup, i admit I let him watch t.v a little more than I should have (mostly the baby einstein kind!!)...do I regret it..very much so. But its been remedied in good time and now we are back to smelling the roses and counting the stars! Good for you and Chip, though!

Suki said...

I think you're fine keeping Chip off the TV addiction. As long as he's happy, active and learning to use his own head - he's fine.
Give over with the insecurity already! I'm SO GLAD your kid isn't a couch potato!
Baby and I aren't big on TV either. But we're at an age where the occasional movie is good intellectual stimulation or sometimes a chance to unwind, while the news is something that has to be kept track of in a place like West Bengal right now. Other than that - whaddaheck. It doesn't have to be a regular thing.

DotMom said...

mona: no TV? WOW.

anitha: Chip is hyper despite it. But he is not aggressive.. Its interesting that you note this. I was thinking alng the same lines

nainaashley: do write a post and share your views!

preethi: yeah, but what amazes me more is that these kids understand a full 2 hour movie.

parul: the study you mention has been revoked. A new study says that thre is no connections and that kids with ADD watch more TV because parents don't know what else to do with them. The old study fell into a classic trap studies tend to fall in: making causal inferences from associative observations.

choxbox: we should form a club :) I'll do a badge.

orchid: i don't know if that's bad thing anymore orchid

suki: but perhaps kids who watch TV do become brilliant and not retards. maybe they do get an edge over kids like Chip. That's what I worry about.

Suki said...

Here's the question - does ONE source of stimulation, without being the sole influence, affect the entire intellectual growth of a child? I don't think so. As long as he's adequately stimulated, there's no reason why he shouldn't be fine.
Now if Chip was not listening to music OR watching TV OR playing with people OR playing with toys OR beginning to fiddle with the computer, you might have reason to worry. He sounds intelligent enough for his age, and is probably training to be a lot more interactive than those who grow up in front of something as passivity-inducing as TV.

As for your reply to Preethi's comment - are we sure how much of it the kids understand? Remember Kodi's Mom's story about Kodi's jumbled-up story memories? http://thekronicles.wordpress.com/2007/09/05/gajanenda-and-other-stories/

noon said...

Hi Dotmom - nice post. I loved the ykcul bit! I am gonna use it from now on since I too am sentimental when it comes to that and am afraid of the J-monster! :))
And this post is mine! :) Thanks! I too worry a little when KB doesn't sit for more than a minute to watch some TV show. When I went to my cousin's place - all the kids watched TV for lunch and they asked me what DVD KB would like to see and what his favorite was...I felt a little awkward telling them he has none...he really only knows Sesame street characters (and Spiderman from his tee shirt) from his books and Elmo/Ernie car. They might have thought "gosh, just let the poor kid have some fun". But he has not watched any of them on TV. I don't know if I am doing the right thing - I don't go overboard restricting him - he does sit with us in the living room - esp when my FIL is here, he watches TV - but KB does not show much interest. If it is "Animal Planet" then he is amused by a Lion chasing a deer etc...I do turn on FIsher Price online games for him every now and then - he is crazy about the shapes game and also the ABC song - but he only watches it when I turn it on. But I do worry that at age 4 too he may not show much interest and may feel left out in the kiddie world! Kids in India watch so much TV - I don't see parents being paranoid about it - they are all growing up quite fine and doing well it seems like - so not sure if we need to worry too much about it. Either way - this is exactly what is happening in our household too.

Preethi said...

In response to Suki - They do understand alright. Nantu's friend a 3 yr old girl once told me the whole story of a movie. She also recogonizes the heroines and heroes if she sees them elsewhere. Another 5 yr old we know does the same too.. and she asks to see these movies - her favourite is the Dhoom series! What are you teaching your kids by letting them watch this?
Nantu doesnt even follow the CARS movie.. all he knows is that there are cars in the movie - cars that talk. If I read a book to him,he will almost repeat the story word to word. He loves musical videos - and every time we watch a movie he will coem and watch every peppy number in it and dance to it... but thats about as much as he follows in a movie!
As for the being a misfit part - dont worry dotmom. I have never shown Nantu spiderman or power ranger (I dint even know of the existence of the latter till halloween). Nantu tells me about all these characters, he learns this from school from friends aged 3 and left in a full time daycare !!! which brings me back to your question "when do these kids watch all these shows?" and what really are the parents thinking showing 3 yr olds spiderman or power ranger which I am sure has more violence than an average hindi movie!
dotmom... i sure am rambling a lot.. you caught my pet peeve!!!

Ekta said...

Good for you...save on the merchandise shopping :)
My lil brat's well into Nemo, Monsters' Inc, etc. and am quite happy he can also tell a Merc from a BMW (how do i do that fingers cross thing???). My concern: he is a loner, plays by himself even at the play ground. Any clues?

kodi's mom said...

suki: missed the point in your second comment. was that example to prove that kids dont understand as much as we think they do?

DotMom: if you're concerned that Chip's missing out on brilliance because of not understanding TV, come on, I don't need to tell you that ain't so!! You already know that! Some kids learn better through visual media, which would explain why some kids 'get' what is going on on TV. Others through hands-on approach or through audio, and Chip probably falls in these categories.

If you're concerned about him being a misfit because he can't identify with the pop culture characters, you are abolustely RIGHT! But just from the comments here, looks like there are tons of other misfits :) Mine somewhat. He doesnt watch any TV, but couple of select movie DVDs - like Monsters Inc and Shrek, understands the story to some extent, pretend plays that he is one of the characters, enacts little scenes from it, and so on. So it is not all bad, but certainly I won't be promoting TV as a visual learning aid. :) Another thing, almost all the characters that have a TV series also have a book series, we read those often, if they sound interesting, and thats' how K knows about Elmo, Bert and his friends.

Poppins said...

I'm with K's mom here. Poppin hardly watched DVD's, definitely no TV (because we don't) but she knows her Elmo, Dora, Nemo, Simba etc because of books. And soft toys. I buy the Disney books and explain the story and she gets the characters almost immediately. She loves Winnie the Pooh and her current fav is Dora, but she never has watched a single show of either characters.

That is my solution for the peer pressure. She knows who they are, so she doesn't feel left out, but she is certainly not spending time infront of the TV ! Not if I can help it.

choxbox said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DotMom said...

suki: you make a very good point, suki!

noon: let's make that a convention now :) Chip too knows diego from his pajamas. I am not anti TV, but all these TV watching kids can't grow up and be retards, can they be?

preethi: I am amazed by this infirmation. WOW. just Wow. I also did not about power rangers until I read about winkie half-knowing them (cute tale) on tharini's blog.

ekta: maybe that's his personality? maybe do one-on-one playdates?

poppins and kodi's mom: count on you to make an excellent point, as always. And yes, chip knows Elmo and ernie because of the sesame street books he so loves!

Rohini said...

Honestly, like with everything else, I don't think luck has anything to do with it. Most kids get hooked on to the TV because parents don't think twice before using it as a babysitter. I think it is just awesome the way you get your chores done...

DotMom said...

Rohini: you think, really? maybe as kodi's mom sugggestes some kids are just visually challenged?

Kodi's Mom said...

DM!! "visually challenged" has a negative connotation to it, that is not what I suggested, and if anything in my comment gave you that perception, then I am very sorry! Kids do get hooked on TV - as Rohini says, eventually it becomes a habit. But I was referring ot the first few times, some may resist it simply because they are too active to sit still and grasp anything meaningful from a visual media. Check this link, it talks of different learning styles - that's all that I was implying!

DotMom said...

kodi's mom: nononono, i did not mean in the negative sense at all...I know you didn't too..gosh. looks like i am verbally challened :) sitting still is not much of a problem with Chip, he can amuse himself with an activity (it's pretend cooking these days) for 30 mins easily. I just don't think he is getting things from the screen.. he likes books and does study photos of vehicles/planes minutely and make comparisons.. may be the transient images are hard to grasp for him. but he does beg me to switch off the TV or will do it himself.

Kodi's Mom said...

ok, all clear now :) was worried there for a bit!
now, post something soon please, or I'll be hitting refresh on your blog all day long.