August 4, 2008

Watch Out for Kids’ TV Shows

By Ken Brown

As any parent can tell you, it is a delicate balancing act between limiting the amount of television your kids watch and getting anything done around the house.

It is tempting to use the TV as a baby sitter because all you have to do is turn on some cartoon and your kids will become zombies, poised in front of the television with blank stares.

When the kids are watching TV, I feel guilty. Then again, as one co-worker once told me, "That laundry's not going to wash itself."

If I'm home and the TV is not on, my children - Ean, 3, and Ellie, 22 months, want to play.

That's the good news.

But they also want to play with me.

I guess that's not what I would call bad news, but when there is a lot of work around the house to be done, it's a dilemma.

I can tell them they have to play by themselves for a while, but to them a while is five minutes.

In any event, we do limit the amount of TV they watch. But it still is amazing how much they absorb in a short amount of time.

They quickly develop favorite shows, and my kids got hooked on the Doodlebops. So when the Doodlebops were scheduled to appear at the Jones County Fair, my wife thought we should take them.

So two weeks ago today we trekked to Monticello, Iowa, to watch three adults dressed like I don't know what dance around the stage for about an hour.

If you don't know who - or what - the Doodlebops are, picture a cross between the Wiggles and the Teletubbies. If you don't know who either of those are, I can't help you - but consider yourself fortunate.

I don't know who thinks up these children's programs, but they have some vivid imaginations.

Recently, we switched to satellite TV because there is no cable in Peosta, Iowa, which, by the way, I found startling. With satellite, we now get a network called Noggin, which sells itself as "Like preschool on TV." That would be the case if preschool was similar to tripping on LSD.

There are several strange programs. One, which my son enjoys, is called "Lazytown." There are about three "people" on the show and the other residents are these odd puppet/mannequin-type characters.

An even stranger show is called "Yo Gabba Gabba." If you thought Barney was annoying, check this thing out. It's a weird combination of promoting self-esteem and freaking children out. It looks like it cost about $30 to produce.

My theory is the show is an experiment to see if you can put absolutely anything on TV and kids will watch it. It's sort of like that episode of "Seinfeld" when the NBC executive asks George why anyone would watch a show about "nothing," and George says, "Because it's on TV."

For children, I think that is pretty much the case. So we have to be adults and not let them watch anything they want to.

If you do, you might end up getting a lot of work done. But you might also end up someday at a "Yo Gabba Gabba" concert.

E-mail Ken at [email protected]

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