The Idiot Box

Like most children, the Monster probably watches just a wee bit too much television.

Both of us know that we shouldn’t let our kids watch as much television as they do.  It is, though, an easy solution to the problem of a reward and a distraction when other things are going on – the television is always there, especially in the age of cable where favorite shows are little more than a click away with On Demand and 500 stations blaring constantly.

The problem of the television, when it comes to the Monster, is multi-dimentional.

He has favorite shows.  And we’re not just talking “oh, I know it’s time for Sesame and I want to catch the latest wrinkle in Telly’s obsession with triangles”.  We’re talking an ongoing addiction (like most children) to the show that transcends reason.  If he’s bored, if he’s upset, if he’s feeling willful, he’ll start insisting on “Sunny Days!” over and over again until someone gives in, he gets distracted, or he gets sent to time-out.  He’s become aware that there’s multiple channels that Sesame airs on (between the two PBS networks we receive and Sprout), and that On Demand also has plenty of episodes.  On the other hand, we also had an issue the other night with his not wanting to come into the dining room after discovering we had Jeopardy! on in the kitchen during meal-prep (even though we’d turned it on in the other room).  It took getting to the commercial break between rounds and coaxing him out with a drink to get him to emerge.

He’s also an absolute sponge.  We’ve been subjected in the car to recitations of commercials that stuck in his head or repetitions of scenes he’s found particularly amusing.  Among the amusing ones are a McDonalds commercial that the cadence seems to have resonated for him and the jingle for Farmers’ Insurance.  The disturbing one is a commercial for Family Guy (over which I’m writing a letter to FOX and the FCC about that, to request they air the offending one only after children’s bedtimes).

We’re still, though, trying to figure out exactly what the Monster grasps when he watches television, if anything – since his language development is delayed, we don’t exactly get narrative descriptions from him.  We don’t know if he actually pays attention to and can follow a plot if there is one, because we can’t get responses to questions about what we’ve seen.

Why does this come up now?  We actually got a night out yesterday – we went to go see a preview for Brave – and it’s this month’s sensory-friendly film at the cinema in a week and a half.  I’m inclined to actually take the Monster to the theater, since it’s a scenario where if he acts out, he won’t really be ‘disturbing’ anyone, but the wife expressed some concern that he might not follow the plot.  I’m almost tempted to see if I can’t find something to experiment with at home, to see if he’ll sit still to watch something longer than 15 minutes (he wanders the room during Sesame, for example, but generally watches the screen) before throwing him into the cinema experience….

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