There is much to be said about how much television is too much television for children. As parents we are constantly reminded that our children should not be watching television at all. We hear about the risks of Attention Deficit Disorder, overall disobedience, and many other terrible consequences. I dont disagree completely, but I do believe this topic needs to be discussed in greater detail.
I have a two year old son. I allow him to watch certain television shows and/or videos. Do I use the television as a babysitter or some other form of replacement for my presence? Never. I choose these programs carefully, ensuring that what they project is in accordance with what I want my son to learn. I use the television shows as reinforcement for the tools and lessons I am already teaching him AND I always watch his videos with him in order to help clarify or repeat words if necessary. Let me share with you an example.
Ever since my son had the dexterity to be able to point to the different parts of his body, my husband and I have been rehearsing the corresponding words for him to learn. Over and over and over we repeat these words. We also use childrens books to share these same words. Throw in a couple videos of kids singing Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes and you have a child who can put all these images and words together. I am NOT saying that the video was the key ingredient that taught my son these words. I am saying that children, just like adults, learn in a number of different ways. Why not introduce them to the world around them through various types of media. I believe the combination of books, imaginary play, music, and the right television programs can assist children in learning more than just one of these avenues by itself.
I also believe children learn by watching other children. If you dont believe me, spend a few hours at your local preschool sometime and just observe. Youd be amazed at how children (toddlers especially) imitate one another. In my case, my son is still an only child at this time. I do my best to take him to play groups, tumbling class, and any other socialization activity I can get him to. When he is around other children, I can see an increased desire from him to want to communicate with the other children moreso than even his need to communicate with me! Having said that, he still spends the majority of his time without the company of other children. We own several childrens videos (and watch special television programs) that involve children his age and slightly older. He is able to see these children interact, communicate, dance, sing, and even display their good manners. These programs have been a positive enhancement to the social skills my son has picked up at home and at play.
The bottom line to this discussion is not whether television in and of itself is evil and should be kept as far from children as possible. It boils down to WHAT children are watching, how the programs are playing a part in the childs overall learning curriculum (is it the only source or is it a supplement to many other resources?), and the importance of having the childs caregiver nearby to interact along with the program. I take an active part in watching television programs with my son so we can learn and have fun together.
I realize everyone has their own views about watching television and Im definitely no expert, but this has worked in my home and I hope by sharing my experience that you will be able to gain a little something from it. Best wishes in parenting!