Thursday, March 29, 2012

Overheard: My Preschooler Chooses TV Over Sleep

Source: Common Sense Media

This week I volunteered an hour at the local elementary school. The computer teacher asked me to escort a girl from the classroom to the playground. On the way, I tried to make small talk with the eight year-old. "So, what are your favorite things to do?"

"I like to watch TV in my bedroom," came the reply. "And play video games. And sleep in my bed." That was all she had to offer.

OK, not really a big deal. Maybe she has other hobbies, but didn't feel like sharing.

A more interesting story came as I was leaving the school. Our school provides speech therapy for local preschool-aged kids, and the families wait on benches by the main doors to see the therapist. It's here that they talk to her about their child's progress before and after the session. On my way out, I passed by the therapist talking to a frustrated-looking grandmother. Her grandson, who was no more than four, was laying on a bench behind her, sucking his thumb, looking sleepy.

"He's just not sleeping," the grandmother complained. "When I go into his room at night, he's awake. The TV will be on. The lights will be on."

I wanted to, but I didn't stay and eavesdrop. So as I write this, I admit that I don't have the whole story, just this little statement from the grandmother and the vision of the tired boy. I don't know if this is an ongoing problem. But if taken at face value, this is a sad situation.

Why does the grandmother feel so helpless to do something about the boy's sleeping habits? Isn't it  as simple as removing the TV from the boy's bedroom? Sleep is vital for young kids, and I would argue that the boy's health is being compromised. The TV in his room is giving the boy too much freedom over his schedule, which is something that a responsible adult should manage out of love and concern for him.

All I can say is that I hope the therapist pointed this out when I was out of earshot.

I'm not anti-TV. I'm just for parental TV management. Almost half of our kids between ages five and eight have a TV in their bedroom, and I wonder how much TV time is truly managed by a responsible parent.

Talk to your child. Find out what is important to him. If it's the TV, then maybe it's time to introduce a new activity in his life. And listen to the conversations going on around you. You might be surprised what you hear.

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