Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Television, Baby Einstein and Parenting

If you're not a parent, you may not have heard of it - Baby Einstein. They make videos of puppets and drawing and animals and other simply visual things, all set to classical music. The idea is that it will somehow stimulate a baby's mind and make the baby into a genius, a "baby Einstein." This probably grew out of the general notion some people had that just playing classical music for a baby, starting in utero, somehow would enhance intelligence.

I'm sure some parents believe this. I'm sure some used to do so and are disappointed when it didn't work. I have several of the DVDs. I could make the disclaimer that my wife bought them, but I didn't exactly try and stop her. I did tell her that any "enhancement" was nonsense. I don't think she really thought otherwise. One thing that the videos are good for is occupying a baby, particularly when that baby is eating. They are good "baby entertainment." But I doubt they have any positive effects. I've heard it is bad for a baby to watch TV at all. But for good or ill, both of my children watch TV. I suppose I might as well be used to it. I watch TV - I'd be some kind of huge hypocrite if I stopped them from doing so.

Maybe I can steer them toward quality shows - like Battlestar Galactica, or The Wire - or other greats. I think that's probably what would disappoint me more than anything - not that they watch too much TV, but that they watch crappy TV. One could hardly fault anyone for sitting down and watching a Battlestar Galactica marathon - but a Two and a Half Men marathon? I may need therapy.

My daughter watched baby Einstein - then Little Einsteins (on Disney Channel), and on to other Disney shows. She likes them. But now, due to the wonder of on-demand TV, she can watch reruns of ancient cartoons - Tom and Jerry - a cartoon from the 1940s and 1950s. A cartoon I grew up on. I still remember so many of them. She now watches them over and over and loves them. My son loves them, too. He laughs so hard when that poor cat gets beat up by that little mouse. Which reminds me of what annoyed me about that cartoon. The poor cat never gets a break. The mouse always gets the better of him. And it isn't just about the strong being beaten by the weak - because whenever there is a dog on the show, the stronger dog also beats up the cat. So pretty much it is all about abusing poor Tom. Just once I'd like to see it end with Jerry losing and Tom in triumph. Maybe there was such a cartoon, but I don't remember it (and haven't seen it in those on demand).

My daughter is now a sophisticated TV watcher. Thankfully, one thing she hardly sees is commercials - between DVDs, and watching stuff on channels like Disney, there are few opportunities for the ad agencies to get their claws into her. It is funny that when she does see commercials, she says "I want that" to ALL of them - she said it to a car tire commercial - I had to laugh at that. She says it, but doesn't actually press the issue - I wonder if she is even serious about it. Maybe she hasn't figured out how we can get stuff for her yet. Then again, maybe growing up with sophisticated commercials will help her build immunity to them. It certainly will take a lot to impress her. At least I hope that is the case.

Talking about TV now makes me think of horror movies, and my daughter's enjoyment of those. More on that later.

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