If the Simpson’s has taught us anything, if not everything, it’s that “No TV and no beer make Homer… something, something.”
This explains why most of us have at least three TVs in our homes, not including the myriad of video consoles, smartphones and tablets that pump non-stop entertainment and info-tainment in one ear an out the other.
Now, there are both benefits and risks when using these devices, but the key is to regulate your kids’ screen time. This is because real-life personal interactions, with you and others, are much better for your child’s wellbeing, learning and development. As are things like sleeping, exercising, playing with friends, doing homework and helping daddy vacuum his car after little people spilled popcorn and muffins all over the back seat.
The Raising Children Network http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/screen_time.html defines screen time in a number of ways – from interactive to recreational. As I’d like to keep your attention during our screen time, I’ll let you go to the site and check it all out for yourself… in your own time.
I will say that studies have shown that kids who watch too much TV are more likely to be overweight— and, depending on the content of what they see, more aggressive. Excess TV viewing also has been linked to poor grades, sleep problems and behavior problems. Moral of the story, don’t let TV raise your kids. That’s your job.
Now that I’ve got all that responsible viewing info out of the way, here’s a slightly askew look as to what these shows are teaching our kids. I’ve stuck to the free-to-air programs that can be viewed on the ABC, as these shows are available to everyone. They truly do have some great educational shows, and some truly whacked out ones, too. Here are a few of my favourites.
In the night garden http://www.abc.net.au/abcforkids/shows/s2948265.htm
This show is mesmerizingly freaky. It explores the magical place that exists between waking and sleeping in a child’s imagination. I don’t know about your parenting, but I’m pretty sure we don’t feed our kids magic mushrooms before they go to bed. Because if I did, this is what they would dream about. There’s no real plot. Freaky, colourful creatures with names like Igglepiggle and Makka Pakka bounce around in a post-apocalyptic, verdant world of make-believe, and take the most tricked out public transport you’ve ever seen to nowhere in particular. You can only wonder what the producers of this show are smoking, and where we can get some. Because it’s a trip, but one you just can’t seem to turn away from. Not sure why it’s on at midday, but if you’re stoned all the time, time is irrelevant.
In the quaint seaside town of Pontypandy, Fireman Sam and his cadre band of fire fanatics save the day in all kinds of emergencies. Most, if not all of them, are caused by Norman, the loveable town pyromaniac, who has the most annoying voice on kids’ TV. What he does do, however, is keep the entire fire department in business, which constitutes roughly half the town’s population. Their city tax must be enormous. Each episode has a lame lesson which is basically: “don’t do what Norman does.” He’ll eventually end up in prison when he grows up, so we have that episode to look forward to.
Hoopla Doopla, which I believe roughly translates to “WTF” in any language, is a joint production preschool show created by China and Australia, on a set that resembles an Italian villa. If that makes no sense, the plot won’t either, as it’s as loose as Australian-Chinese relations. Six characters tumble, juggle, leap and somersault in and out of trouble. Once again, like our political relations. However, when anything goes wrong, and it usually does, they have each other to fall back on. But who catches dads when we fall after just seconds of watching this circus train wreck? Nobody. But kids seem to love it. So, this could be a long bathroom break you’ve been waiting for.
Peter Rabbit http://www.abc.net.au/abcforkids/shows/s3789063.htm
A mischievous little rabbit and his meddling friends spend every episode breaking into a forbidden garden to pinch vegetables. Thus, teaching kids that it’s ok to steal, just as long as you don’t get caught and turned into a pie like Peter Rabbit’s dad. Oh, and there’s a flexitarian fox who can’t hunt to save his life. With a pretentious, affected accent, Mr. Fox teaches us nothing. But he does hone your remote-control skills, because his presence makes you instantly want to change the channel, as does the contrived soundtrack which would make any lame 80s band sound awesome.
Bananas in Pyjamas
This is a cultural mainstay, so I’ll be kind. But as an American, it’s new to me. Two giant, androgynous bananas, B1 and B2 dress each other every morning and finish each other’s sentences thanks to their banana mind-reading powers. They live on Cuddles Lane with their friends, the Teddy Bears: Amy, Morgan, and Lulu and Rat-in-a-Hat. The bananas try to solve problems, mostly caused by Rat (as if a Rat would do something bad) and play pranks on their bear friends. Luckily, for the bananas, the Teddys are strictly carnivorous, otherwise the bananas would make more than a meal. Anyway, everybody means well, so that’s all good. But they always seem to resolve every situation with a big bowl of yellow jelly, which doesn’t help your cause when you’re trying to get your kids to eat more fruit and veg.