Dissing Sesame Street?
As a child of the 70’s, like many of you, I grew up watching Sesame Street on public television. Needless to say, when I had my daughter, I immediately introduced her to the fun loving puppets created by Jim Henson, that teach children their alphabet, numbers, and how to interact in social situations with adults and their peers. Now up until her recent discovery of Barbie, Elmo was the greatest thing in my toddler’s life. Elmo, who speaks in third person when referring to himself in conversations, was a buddy to my toddler whom she could relate to when going to the zoo, trying new foods, playing music, and even going on the potty. Now suddenly Elmo and the rest of the Sesame Street gang are being accused of brand promotion by the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood according to an article written by David Crary from the Associated Press.
The Sesame Street gang has jumped on the newborn video bandwagon, along with other’s such as Disney’s Baby Einstein, teaming up with psychologists to create a line of videos geared to children 3 and younger. In these videos, as vice president of education and research with the Sesame Workshop, Rosemarie Truglio states, “We wanted to invite the parent into the viewing situation, to give the adult information about child development.” The videos simply show characters like Baby Elmo and Baby Big Bird interacting with their parents or caregivers, doing things like eating or sleeping which is in anyone’s daily routine.
The big fuss starts with the American Academy of Pediatrics declaring that no child under 2-years of age should watch television. Many people believe that there isn’t any real scientific evidence stating that children under the age of 2 shouldn’t watch television. So where does the truth lie inbetween this contraversy?
I think as parents we must first look at ourselves and our own personal television viewing habits. Then, we must make a logical decision over what is appropriate conduct for our children to view and what is not. This then coincides with the way you choose to raise your children. Some parents believe the television is nothing more than a mere babysitting service where you can plop your kid on the sofa, stick a tape in and then run around your home doing the daily chores that never can get finished like washing the clothes and doing the dishes. I’m sure many of us have come to fall into this deameaning category at least once in our lives as a parent. Now others believe that children should only watch television when there is an adult or much older sibling next to them interpretting the “real” message of the show. As always, I believe the truth lies somewhere inbetween these two extremes.
I can’t remember how old my daughter was when she first viewed Sesame Street and Bear in the Big Blue House, but I know she eagerly recognized the characters talking amongst themselves discussing issues. As she got older, these shows that were usually background noise while she played with her favorite toys, also reinforced the same things we were trying to teach her such as the alphabet, counting to 20, and sharing. Today, she independently grabs whatever she wants to view off of the shelf and hands it to any adult that can reach the vcr/dvd player. At the same time, she also independently grabs whatever book she wants you to read to her, and if she knows the story well enough, she pretends to read it to us. I honestly have a hard time believing that all television is bad for children. Of course anything without moderation can be harmful. I wouldn’t want my child to obsess over being Elmo or Zoe and speaking in third person, but studying the way Elmo and Zoe interact with each other has actually showed her how to interact with other children her age. Watching Bear In the Big Blue House, Potty Time, has made this scary and foreign transition a bit easier since she can relate to the characters and their situations.
Now even though my daughter didn’t care for any of the Baby Einstein videos, that doesn’t mean that they are not good, just that it wasn’t her taste. Yes that’s right, I believe children develop their personalities in the womb of their mother and follow through as they begin to learn their surroundings. Perhaps a 3-month old watching a friendly character like Baby Elmo eat from a spoon may encourage them to eat from a spoon too. Child psychologists say babies and children easily learn through repetition, which then would reinforce such a video showing the routine things that a baby or child would see their caregivers do on a daily basis.
As a parent I realize how important it is to monitor my daughter’s television viewing since it influences her personality and decision making skills. I try to make sure she only views age appropriate shows on public television, Disney, Nickolodeon Jr., and Noggin. Recently her discovery of Oobi, a mere talking hand with eyeball looking rings, has led her to open up more freely when discussing her feelings and fears. With simply making my hand resemble a puppet, I’m able to communicate with my daughter more so as an equal peer, rather than mommy the parent. Sure it’s silly play, but it’s also interaction and communication with my child, so I look at it as a positive. It’s hard to get into our little people’s heads and really understand what they are thinking and comprehending in the world around them, especially at these times with all the stress that many parents are going through. Right now, finding something to comfort your young one is the best thing a parent can do, and Baby Elmo isn’t a bad thing to comfort your child.