Chan­nel­ing a tod­dler’s TV in­fat­u­a­tion

The Leader (Nelson) - - FRONT PAGE -

The irony is, if my son wasn’t so ob­sessed with tele­vi­sion, I’d prob­a­bly let him watch a lot more of it.

TV puts him into a state of hyp­no­sis. He’s al­most five now and has al­ways had an end­less ca­pac­ity for screen time – an ad­dic­tion that I feel it is my sworn duty to curb, be­cause it’s my weari­some re­spon­si­bil­ity to set sen­si­ble lim­i­ta­tions on al­most ev­ery­thing in his life.

Things like: how many ba­nanas he should eat in a sin­gle day (hon­estly, it de­pends on whether the Fair Trade ones were on spe­cial that week), which of his favourite clothes must be re­tired be­cause they are be­gin­ning to re­strict his blood flow, how many li­brary books he can bor­row in one visit (the rule of thumb is, if he can’t lift the stack, it’s prob­a­bly too many), and what time of day it is too late to start ne­go­ti­at­ing for a play date.

Any­way, in those sweet, sur­real first months of his life, I tried a wee stint of be­com­ing a day­time TV watcher. It seemed to be a per­fectly rea­son­able pas­time, see­ing as how I was spend­ing long stretches ma­rooned on the sofa feed­ing the baby. Also, I was used to the buzz and bed­lam of a busy of­fice, and I craved back­ground noise and com­pany, even if it was in the form of a by­gone Chris Warner.

The prob­lem was, Mil­lan was trans­fixed by screens, pretty much from birth.

Even be­fore I started ed­u­cat­ing my­self about child brain de­vel­op­ment, I found it creepy that he would stare with such in­ten­sity at the flick­er­ing tele­vi­sion. I gave up on day­time TV and be­gan load­ing him into the pushchair in search of real hu­man in­ter­ac­tion in­stead.

Don’t get me wrong – he still does his time in front of the black box of doom, but it’s a ne­go­ti­a­tion. When he’s plead­ing for some Poppa Troll (you know, the show about the lit­tle res­cue dogs), I ask him what will hap­pen when it is turned off again.

‘‘I will try not to be sad or cry,’’ he replies obe­di­ently. ‘‘But I might for­get,’’ he adds, as a sly dis­claimer.

Some­times, TV is the best thing ever. If he’s wound up, and I’m fran­ti­cally try­ing to get tea ready or some work done, tele­vi­sion is the per­fect an­ti­dote. My part­ner winces when I tell him that I just needed Mil­lan to calm down and switch his brain off for a lit­tle while, but I res­o­lutely de­clare that it was one of those days when we both needed the mag­i­cal touch of a few episodes of Oc­to­pus Prize.

You know, the one with the trans­form­ing ro­bots.


The mag­i­cal, hyp­notic draw of the TV screen starts very early in life.

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