While I am a huge advocate of the Montessori Method, this does not mean we can’t enjoy TV like other families. Excessive screentime may inhibit young children's brain development. Children shouldn't be replacing real-life learning from their environment by using a screen when they could be observing their environment or socially interacting (1). There is notably a great deal of research about the use of screens such as iPads (tablets), television and computers/laptops and I therefore encourage any parent to conduct their own research about screens and take their notes on board when contemplating their lifestyle and see how to monitor and moderate screentime to set their own parameters and boundaries for their own family. As a family, we use the TV as a learning tool or a moderated form of downtime. I have set us reasonable limits to keep everyone secure and safe from any adverse affects of screentime.
I happened to mention on my Instagram stories recently that I was disappointed in Netflix for featuring Peppa Pig, unavoidably reminding my children that she exists. I had downloaded Netflix to be able to access some seasonal films at it was Christmastime. When I loaded up the automatically formatted "Children" profile, Peppa Pig's face filled 70% of the screen and there was a very large button desperately wanting me to push "Play Now". How irritating! Lots of you replied to my comment asking why I don’t let my children watch Peppa Pig.
Here’s what I’ve got against Peppa, amongst an array of other popular children’s TV shows.
Peppa Pig is rude. There’s no two ways about it. She has a big attitude problem and I don’t like the way she speaks to her family and friends. I cringe at her tone and the things she says. Children are impressionable; copying what they see and hear. I know that when my children are consciously copying something they’ve heard, then subconsciously their young sponge-like minds have taken in MUCH more. Picking up behaviours is a natural part of growing up, and that's why being a role model is a hugely effective way of parenting. But, as much as it is good, it can be very easy to demonstrate the wrong behaviours and that's why I would never purposefully expose my children to something that gives off the wrong message.
Aside from her wrong attitude, the other characters in the show are amplified caricatures: a perceptively unintelligent mother and a useless father (who gets picked on for his size). I don’t think it’s acceptable to display this to my children who use characters on the TV as role models. Peppa Pig is deceptive- it is not as “lightweight” as you might think. These underlying poor values are soaked up by young children's unconscious minds and you may not be around when they later manifest in your child's behaviours. I wouldn't leave it to chance, and say "I can correct the behaviour or explain why we don't do x if my child does it after watching the program." The immature reasoning in a child's brain views it more of "If Peppa Pig can do it, then so can I."
Studies have shown that limiting older children's TV use reduces aggression in their behaviour (2).
I personally have noticed a direct relationship between my children’s behaviour and the shows they watch on TV. We exert limited screen time and only watch a certain few shows. I recently found that my eldest had a change of attitude and his imaginative play became aggressive and rude after we had watched PJ Masks for a few weeks. This was not actually direct in that he was copying a few lines from the show, or copying a certain behaviour that a character did, no- this was a whole change in manner and attitude. It was frightening!
When I noticed the affect that PJ Masks was having on Benedykt's behaviour I knew I had to make the executive decision to stop allowing him to watch it, however it was already past the point where he became quite attached to it. I couldn't just tell him he couldn't watch it anymore, as I knew this would upset him. It would be like taking away a favourite toy. So, to avoid as much conflict as possible, I sought to offer a new show that would grasp his interest. Adding the new show in to the pool of shows I do allow took the focus off PJ Masks so it became easy to phase it out. It's been a few weeks now and he has forgotten about it. If he does bring it up in the future asking to watch it, I will just say that we no longer have it. But what if he sees it pop up? If you are using YouTube Kids, or Netflix, both of these streaming services offer a way to remove/block shows (Netflix), and YouTube actually just allows you to create a pre-approved list. I much prefer this option. To block a show on Netflix, go to the relevant profile, edit profile, and head to the maturity ratings options. There you'll find a block list which you can search and click on shows to block them to populate the list. Genius!
There's no perfect show out there, in my opinion, but we have to live in the real world. The shows we are currently enjoying are:
Do You Know - Maddie Moat
Catie's Amazing Machines
Pete The Cat
If you have seen these then come and let me know what you think over on Instagram!
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