24 hour-a-day children’s television
When I was growing up, we just had a few channels. Shows like Playschool, Roobarb, the Flumps and other classics were broadcast only at very specific times. Television was more of a family thing. We’d all gather round to watch Scooby-Doo (the fact that every episode was pretty much the same driving my mother absolutely insane).
Things are very different now. It’s not about family viewing. There are dedicated children’s channels for very narrow demographics, some broadcasting 24 hours a day. DVDs at the ready at all times. Sky+. Instant children’s television.
Instant gratification. End of family viewing. Never a moment without the possibility of television.
Is this a bad thing?
Well, I don’t know. I was reading a statistic a while back from an old study that said that many children were engaging in ‘passive’ viewing of adult television for around 80 minutes a day. As in, they were around for the news, movies, dramas and so on. No matter how nice and fun those children’s classics were, their air time was very limited. If the television was on outside of those times, it was television inappropriate for young children.
As far back as 1941, it was seen that 76% of children habitually exposed to movies and radio dramas (it was the early days of television) suffered from increased nervousness. Sleep disturbances were found in 85% (Preston, 1941). Stats that have been backed up in research since.
And yet even now, adult soaps like Eastenders, which (let’s be honest) is pretty dark and very miserable, rate highly among young audiences.
These days, we have that always-on children’s television available. While we were always in control of television in a binary ‘off and on’ sort of way, as parents we now have much more control over the content. When and where something will be watched. We can choose our own TV time.
As a result, my girls (4 and 2, roughly) have not yet seen any television that hasn’t been appropriate for their age group.
I am very thankful for that.
So I find it hard to see the readily available age-appropriate television as a bad thing. I’m thankful for my shelf of Peppa DVDs, for my Nick Jr, Playhouse Disneys and others. Thankful to the broadcasters, producers and creators getting shows out there that are age-appropriate for my girls. I am thankful for the choice and what that offers my girls.