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Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Dora Dilemma

National Turn-Off-Tune-In Week began Monday.  Apparently, I missed the memo.  But thanks to Lisa Belkin over at The NYT's Motherlode, I'm now aware that for the past three days, it was my mandate to forego the flatscreen.  Oops.

Truth is even if I had gotten this message (one endorsed by a bevy of authorities from the American Medical Association to the American Academy of Pediatrics to the National Education Association to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports), I probably wouldn't have listened.

Why?  Sure, the numbers are alarming.  Children are watching more television than ever and, alas, as Belkin notes, attention spans are shrinking as waistlines expand.  She offers a few lovely stats: (a la TurnOffYourTV.com):
  • Number of 30-second commercials seen in a year by an average child: 20,000.
  • Number of minutes per week that parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children: 38.5.
  • Number of minutes per week that the average child watches television: 1,680.
No, none of this is good.  But I will continue to let Toddler and Baby watch as much Dora as they want.  And I will also continue to spend many more than 38.5 minutes per week conversing and cuddling with them. As Belkin so eloquently states, "I have come to question rah-rah, all-or-nothing statements for subtle situations."  We are always eager to point a finger, aren't we?  I'm no expert and I'm not quite sure what the problem is, but I don't think we can blame it all on that poor little bilingual girl with the bowlcut.

Toddler knows the alphabet, and how to count to a very high number, and what a chinchilla is.  Why? Because we are stellar parents? Maybe.  Because she is a language and learning sponge? Perhaps.  Because I let her tune in from time to time?  You betcha.  

Now, I'm not advocating that all kids should be able to watch TV all the time.  I know there are abuses here.  There are plenty of issues that need to be looked at.  But I do advocate, as Belkin does far more compellingly than yours truly, that we get past this black or white, turn-off or tune-in, all-or-nothing, one-size-fits-all way of seeing the world.  It's all about the greys, baby.

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