Thursday, June 17, 2010

Baby TV... Really???

The media never ceases to surprise me. Whoever comes up with such ideas? Anyone who's been around a kid long enough shall tell you that too much TV is bad; and that goes even for adults because you seem to forget that you have a life of your own. But that is another topic, which by the way if I start rambling about, might fill a whole book.

I have cousins who are still in school and given the age difference, you can say that I have seen them grow up. And I remember each phase of their growth right from when they needed support for their heads, to when they didn’t anymore, to when they started to roll over on the bed, to when they started to sit up, to crawl, to point at stuff, to recognize colors, to their first tooth, to saying their first words, to standing up, to walking and then running behind them; everything.

Not that I want to brag, but I have actually taken care of all six of them - four from my dad's side and two from my mom's. So even though I don't have kids of my own (yet) I have a fair idea about kids and growing up (the latter, which I’ve managed to pull off with great difficulty myself). I'm a woman after all and we are born with maternal instincts; well, most of us at least.

I remember my childhood from when I was about five or six years old and what we were and weren't allowed to do. And to compare, I have a fresher memory of their childhoods (which in two cases is more than a decade apart from mine - my youngest cousin is going to turn seven!)

When we (my sister - the only one in my family who is safely in the same age group as I am; and I) grew up, our free time after we finished school was utilized efficiently by attending Carnatic (Indian classical) Music class and Bharata Natyam (Indian Classical Dance) class which left me tired by the time I was back home on the days when I had them. On other days, we rushed to play almost immediately after we changed and had our evening snacks. We used to return home before it was dark (of course, that deadline extended as we grew older) and were supervised (not spoon fed) by our mom as we did our homework.

The door to our room used to be locked while we did our homework, or we sat in the kitchen while we studied where my mom kept track of us while she was cooking. Our grandparents used to be in the living room watching TV, which we weren't allowed to watch until we were done with our studying. We then had our dinner (the only time we got to watch TV properly - which would be extended if we dragged dinner on purpose, but our mother was quick to catch us!)

By the time I was nine or ten, we were staying separately and my sister and I started watching TV on our own after school (with permission from our parents) and even then we had only Door Darshan (which had Disney hour - one hour with cartoons and stuff for kids) and Metro (which also had some thing for kids for about an hour or so in the evenings.) We didn't have cable in our house then and the minute we were done with these shows, which coincidentally matched with our snack time after school, we would still go down to play.

In the later years, I admit the TV time did increase. But what's important here is that we didn't slouch before the TV when we were pre-teens or worse, when we were toddlers!

When it came to my cousins, the TV was switched on practically the whole day. We as kids had to ask permission before we could switch the TV on. But when it came to my cousins, we were the ones who still had to ask for permission – to change the channel from Cartoon Network or Pogo and the likes.

We came back home with bruises on our elbows and knees from falling down while running and one of my cousins (now eleven – then about eight or nine) has a scar from sitting on a hot hair straightner!

We played games like brainvita, snakes and ladders, ludo, monopoly, hide and seek, running and catching; whereas they play GTA, Game boy, have a PSP and what not!

See the difference???? And we’re talking about the same family. People with the same last names!! So what about the generation that has still to come to this world? What conditions will they grow up in???

A few hours ago, I saw an Ad for “Baby TV” a new 24-hour channel for toddlers! What has the world come to???

In the age where kids should be learning from interacting with other kids, using their limbs to move around and get some exercise, running around and even falling down sometimes; they’re going to be watching TV which is made available specially for them 24/7? Is that even necessary?

What did we lose out on because we didn’t have a channel dedicated to us 24/7 when we were toddlers? Didn’t we learn the alphabet alright or how to recognize colors or sing rhymes without being taught by a machine – tapes are a totally different thing! Rather, as a kid, did we learn anything at all from TV?

TV is for entertainment. And let’s face it; a toddler doesn’t need a kiddie soap opera/ sitcom/ reality TV for him/her to be entertained. They’re more accommodating than adults that way. They’ll settle for colorful toys, or even one toy that happens to be their favorite and believe me, they wouldn’t complain. Pinky swear!

So what are these people trying to accomplish by creating a new channel for kids. Do you know what this’ll do to family time? Let me elaborate.

Already there’s a mom who wants to watch her soaps and a dad who wants to watch news/sports – that seems to be a true story in most homes. To solve this problem, they have two TVs so that they don’t fight; or in case of smarter families they have Tata Sky+ (I’m getting that one in my house for sure!) where one of the shows can be recorded and watched later as agreed upon mutually.

Imagine that there’s also a teen in the house who wants to watch a sitcom at the same time. Now even the smart family with the Tata Sky+ that can record only one additional program, not two. So there has to be another TV in the house. Fine, everyone has their own TV but what does do to family time? They either have dinner in their own rooms where they have their own TV to watch or rush through dinner as a formality in the family dining room so that they can go back to their rooms and watch their shows. Trust me, I’m not exaggerating. TV has that effect on people.

Now, with this new Baby TV, there’s little baby in the house who loves everything that the magical rectangular object in their house shows because things move, they talk, there’s music and there are loads of colors before his eyes and the baby doesn’t want that to stop. Babies don’t get bored that easily. I’ve seen kids playing with one object in their hand, toying with it for hours and still being content! So don’t think that after one show on Baby TV is over, your kid will want to or be okay with turning the TV off.

They’ll watch it till their tired and groggy. And then when they wake up, they’ll want it again and you don’t want a kid in the house that doesn’t know the formula for water (maybe Baby TV teaches that; but you know what the other better way to learn that is?? In School!!!) but knows what show is on, what time.

Okay, I agree it may not be exactly that way, but it is a possibility. An extreme one, but still a possibility!

I could go on and on (most of you know my capacity to stretch a point, especially one I feel very strongly about) but it would be a waste of time because obviously the channel doesn’t care. But if you do, keep your kid away from the TV as much as possible at least till he/she’s eighteen! I swear, I’m not kidding!!