Mirror TV Critic
The relationship our kids have with their TV friends is a simple and mostly satisfying one. In the new kids movie Over the Hedge there is a line where a suburban mom tells her kid after an upsetting moment, “just go inside turn on the TV and relax.” And indeed, too many of us parents reach for the television as a way to stabilize our own lives and sometimes to distract, entertain or pacify our children. Television is smack dab in the middle of our lives whether most of us want to admit it or not.
Now, PBS Kids, known for creating the most educational and valuable programming aimed at kids on TV, has developed a show for nighttime called The Good Night Show, aimed at kids from two to five. It will air on Sprout, a cable and satellite network. The show lasts three hours and on it Melanie shows clips from PBS favorites, like Angelina Ballerina and Barney & Friends and she also leads yoga, teaches some Spanish and makes crafts all the while helping a little puppet named Star get ready for bed.
Most of the time there appears to be nothing wrong with a little bit of TV here or there but doesn’t this seem a little like parents fobbing off one of their most important jobs, getting kids ready for sleep, off on TV?
Yes and no. Many kids are zoning out in front of TV anyway, watching something on Nick Jr. or other round-the-clock kids’ networks that are jammed full of advertising. Isn’t it better that they have something safe to watch? After all, parents who are concerned about it wouldn’t have their kids watching it anyway.
But three hours of TV is a lot longer than the recommended amount of television per child. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than one to two hours a day of “quality” programming. If they are watching before bedtime they are not cuddling with mom or dad; they aren’t reading or drawing or playing with blocks – they’re sitting on their beds and watching.
The Good Night Show has been ordered up for another season so it’s apparently working for many kids and parents in this country. The effects of it won’t be realized for many years to come, if ever. But there is something odd about the idea that TV can do what parents can’t; calm their kids down for bedtime.
If our children continue to live their pivotal moments through television might they then not be able to sleep, eat, do homework or relax without the television on? What kind of life does that leave? No life at all.
Sprout, the 24-hour PBS Kids channel only shows on Comcast and DIRECTV right now. But it will probably spread to the other cable companies, like Adelphia. There is no doubt parents will be tempted to turn it on and keep it on. Imagine, a constant stream of great kids shows for small parents.
Hey, think of it – the possibilities are endless. The Morning Show – Brush Your Teeth with Sammy and Simon! The After School Homework Show – Let Peter the Puppet listen to your stories and help you with your math. The Virtual Play Date Show with Russell the Raccoon – for those afternoons when you have absolutely nothing to do.
Think about it, for the cost of cable TV you could work in sleeping, eating, exercising, playing, learning, walking and talking. You might not ever have to parent another difficult moment in your child’s life. A good night kiss is all you’ll have to give away before you get back to the business of your own busy life – you may barely notice you have a kid at all.