When I really want to frighten my children, I tell them about the television situation when I was young. No dedicated children's channels. No DVDs or videos. Just occasional, earnest programmes that would come on for an hour or so in the afternoon.
They are horrified to hear of this and pat my hand in sympathy.
Because in our house, children's telly isn't rationed, and they can, more or less, watch as much as they want.
Why am I raising a pair of goggled-eyed, tube-addicted tellyheads?
I should point out that my other half works in kids' TV. John makes programmes for Five's Milkshake strand, most notably The Beeps (voiced by Tom Baker, Dani Harmer and Timmy Mallett). So children's television pays our bills, and we support the family business by watching as much of it as we can.
Aside from that, why do I think it's a good thing?
- Much of it's very educational. However disturbing you find Numberjacks, it does teach the littlies their numbers.
- It's social glue for children, and fuels their playground games
- It's relaxing when they're exhausted after school
- If they watch it on weekend mornings, you get a lie in, and are therefore much more rested and better disposed to take them out for a healthy walk in the park in the afternoon.
And I also find that the sanctimonious parents who claim that their child doesn't watch TV are usually lying:
"We don't watch commercial TV, only Cbeebies" Oh yeah? And you think it's just coincidence that the shops are full of In The Night Garden toys, do you?
"We only watch specially selected DVDs" Oh, so that'll be DVDs of stuff that's been on the telly, will it?
"We just have half an hour of TV before bedtime". If that's true, why does your child know every word of the Cbeebies Autumnwatch song?
At least I am honest about my children's telly time. And yes, they also read books, play games, ride bikes, play music, do jigsaws and all the other stuff of childhood. As part of a balanced diet of activities, TV isn't necessarily junk food for the mind.
What do you think? How much TV does your child watch?