Don’t we all give into Elmo eventually? Or Thomas the Train? Or Super Why? Or (insert charismatic children’s character here)? Of all of us who swore we would never allow our children to fall in love with a character on TV, did anyone succeed – and more importantly, does it really matter?
Emily Grosvenor of Salon.com laments her eventual surrender to Elmo in her article, I Hate Elmo. It got me thinking, do I hate Elmo? Does it really matter that my child is enthralled with a character on our television set? Besides annoying the shit out of me with that voice, is my child’s love for Elmo harming him in any way?
I was one of those people that thought my kid would never watch TV. Then I actually had a kid. It’s amazing how quickly your views change when you are forced to keep a little human around you 24/7. Inevitably, the TV came on. Not very often and not for very long. I didn’t think anything of it.
Then one day we were in Barnes and Noble, in the children’s section. There is a little area devoted to characters you see on Nick Jr.; Dora, The Wonder Pets, The Backyardigans, Diego – my child could name them all. I was shocked. There’s only one Nick Jr. show that he watches (Yo Gabba Gabba, of course). He had picked up the names of all of the characters from the little skits they perform during Nick Jr’s “commercial” breaks. Nick Jr. doesn’t have conventional commercials, it just runs little mini skits advertising its other shows. I have to say I was impressed.
Yo Gabba Gabba teaches him to dance. Sesame Street teaches him numbers. Super Why teaches him letters and Tree Fu Tom teaches him Karate moves. Of course, we teach him these things first, but he dances along with these shows and recites all the information he learns and generally has a fantastic time. We alternate the shows throughout the week and keep his screen time down as recommended.
We all know a lot of screen time isn’t good for kids. But if it’s moderate, I don’t see the harm. I finally have come to a place where I can say, I don’t hate Elmo. I watched TV as a child, too. Oh well – I’m not a perfect parent. I haven’t successfully kept my toddler from television like I thought I would. But I’m not sure that there is a parent in this country with a TV in their house that has. And if there is, I’m just not sure that I’m impressed anymore.