Since we don’t own a TV (ditched our last one in 2000), many of our friends and family members were concerned that our kids would be so isolated from pop culture that they would be ostracized by their peers. Luckily (I guess), the internet solved that problem by offering all kinds of programming for free on the small screen.
Our twin girls got almost zero screen time before age two, per recommendation of… well pretty much everyone aside from the Baby Einstein cartel. These days, as almost-3-year-olds, they watch maybe two hours of actual shows (Elmo and–God help me–Barney, mostly) at home on the iPad, and probably play with kids’ apps for another two hours. And to our snobby delight, they spend several hours every day with books: having us read them aloud, looking at them, and quoting long passages verbatim.
Despite my self-righteousness, I must now admit that there have been a few drawbacks to keeping our kids on this very restrictive media diet.
They have yet to sit through a feature-length movie. I think if they did, it might make their heads explode, or otherwise give them permanent brain damage, since an hour of Sesame Street already leaves them pretty dazed. Also, since most non-PBS kids’ entertainment is full of jump-cuts and crazy effects, they often get overwhelmed when something is playing at their friends’ houses. Anything even mildly dark or scary is likely to leave them quietly sobbing.
But much worse than their ultra-sensitivity to drama is their unnatural love for Dora. They discovered Dora at our gym’s childcare facility, and apparently it has tapped into some primal component of their psyches, because they have been absolutely obsessed with all things Dora, Boots, Swiper, Map, and a bunch of other characters I’ve been lucky enough to not become familiar with since, as I’ve explained to the kids, our iPad doesn’t know how to play Dora. I’ve worked with the Kids’ Club staff at the gym to not let them watch it every time we come in. Sometimes, we tell the girls, Dora is just broken.
When they do watch Dora though, they are absolutely mesmerized. The Kids’ Club ladies say they’ve never seen anyone so engrossed in a show that other kids can bounce soccer balls off of their heads without them noticing. Then, when I try to take them home, even though Kids’ Club is closing, the TV is off, and all the other kids are gone, my girls stare at the black screen and mumble, “I’m the map I’m the map…”
There have been a few times, after a Dora binge, when I’ve had carry them, kicking and screaming through the gym, looking like the worst parent ever. I guess that’s my comeuppance for being a male sanctimommy.