A few months ago, a friend gave us a Tinker Bell
dvd. It sat on the shelf for a while, and then one day when S was teething and nothing was working, I put it on for her. She was instantly hooked. It quickly became our go-to dvd for when S was feeling a little sensitive, or teething, or over-tired. Over Christmas, when she was suffering with four molars, we watched it daily. Sometimes several times a day.
|S watching Tinker Bell
At the beginning of the movie, a baby laughs. One day, S started saying “baby!” right before the baby came on screen. Then one day I noticed she would do a little pretend sneeze right before one of the characters sneezed. There’s a bit where they’re riding in a horse and card (with a mouse instead of a horse) and it falls over. She puts her hands to her cheeks and exclaims, “oh no!” In another bit, two of the characters are insulted and hang their heads. S copies their movements and facial expressions. When the fairy queen nods, so does S.
I know that TV can be influential on children, in a sort of theoretical way, but I don’t think I ever realised to what extent. To see that my 21-month-old child can remember a 90-minute storyline well enough to pre-empt sneezes, even when it often looks like her attention is elsewhere, is both cute and frightening.
When it comes to children’s TV, we’ve only ever watched CBeebies – because it’s a whole channel devoted to S’s age group, so I don’t have to be familiar with the TV listings to know when there will be something on that’s suitable for her. My sister prefers CITV, but I told her that S is only to have CBeebies on because I don’t want her watching endless adverts for crap.
I don’t watch any live TV these days. If I do sit down in front of the TV, I use the Virgin Media catch-up service or watch a dvd. I’ve not seen adverts for a long time now. Until recently, when I happened to sit down to watch Celebrity Big Brother one evening… I actually didn’t watch very much of it; it pissed me off so I went to bed. But the next morning when we got up, the TV was still on that channel, and that channel was showing children’s shows so I decided to leave it there, for a bit of a change.
I was quickly horrified by the adverts between the shows. For one thing, they’re really quite frequent. For another, just… yikes! So much crap! There was one ad that appeared in every break for “Ever After High,” a school for the children of fairy story characters. I’m not even sure what they were selling; there didn’t seem to be a doll or a magazine or anything. The end of the ad just directed us to their website, which I am loath to check out if I’m honest.
What are these people trying to sell my child, in between Peppa Pig and Ben and Holly? What are they trying to turn her into? Having recently realised how much of what’s on TV goes into S’s head without her even looking like she’s paying attention, I was terrified.
So we’ve switched back to CBeebies. And I’ve made the conscious decision that in future, we’ll be listening to a lot more music and watching a lot less TV all round!