10/11/2011 08:24 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

TV In My Child's Room? Not On Your Nelly

Family watching TV Rex Features

I was nine the day we got our first television. With three whole channels to choose from, I grew up watching Blue Peter, Newsround and of course, classic Play Away with Floella Benjamin who now, over 30 years later, has spoken out about her opposition to children having TV sets in their bedrooms.

Then, the idea of having a TV in my room was as inconceivable for me as it was for my friends.

Things have changed. A Mintel survey this year found that an astonshing one in five children aged four and under already had a TV in their bedrooms.

"Muuuummmm?" (Extended vowel here invariably means child wants something.)
"Yeeeeeees" (Extended vowel here depicting sarcasm always lost on a five-year-old.)
"You know Lena?
"She has a television IN HER BEDROOM"
"Oh really? And do you think that is a good thing?"

My daughter considered the question, eyeing me closely for hints as to which answer might cause her the least amount of stress. Deciding upon the path of least resistance, she answered in the negative. But I had the bit between my teeth. As she was making a hasty retreat, no doubt congratulating herself on a situation well handled, I asked her why. Without hesitation (or conviction) she replied that too much television gives you "Telly-eyes".

What had I expected? Surely too much to ask that she quote The American Academy of Pediatrics: "Video screen time provides no educational benefits for children under age two and leaves less room for activities that do, like interacting with other people and playing".

Which is all quite fascinating. And by fascinating, I mean utterly obvious.

I'm neither a scientist or child psychologist but I could have told them that and saved them the research expense. Television per se I have no problem with. I know there are educational benefits to be had from anything David Attenborough presents for example, but nonetheless we do not have a single TV set in our home. Before you call Social Services, our daughter is not completely deprived. She is allowed twenty minutes of a DVD before bed every second evening. Obviously she's not glued to Black Hawk Down before she slips off into the Land of Nod. She favours Winnie the Pooh at the moment.

Our home has been television free since her birth. She accepts the situation and in my opinion benefits from it. Last time I visited my dad and switched on the TV on a Saturday evening looking for intelligent entertainment, I was left not only disappointed but could actually feel my IQ dropping. After half an hour of flicking I switched off before I flatlined.

Just recently we visited some friends and their six-year-old son. He was sitting on the sofa when we arrived, practically glued to the screen, which was, at the time, showing adverts. He ignored us until his father switched off the set at which point he went into meltdown. "Turn it back ON I was going to put that on my Christmas List!" he demanded, with such venom his head nearly spun round. My daughter hid behind my legs for the first time since she was two. The kid was sent upstairs on strict instructions that he should, under no circumstances, switch on the TV in HIS ROOM!

Words failed me. Which is unusual. You may argue this was more of a case of bad parenting than a negative influence from the telly but surely The Box was not helping.

My girl still finds sock puppets hilarious. She draws a lot, builds fantastic things out of Lego and can play in the garden for hours. Her power of imagination and fantasy is wondrous to behold and long may that continue. She gets bored occasionally, of course she does. When that happens, as the Americans so succinctly put it, she can "suck it up".


Television is not my babysitter and will not be a substitute for parenting. It is not some form of Dickensian form of punishment not having a television in our home, it is a lifestyle choice.


Call me old fashioned if you will but I promise you this. You'll see me wearing ortho-shoes and high waisted pants before my child gets a television in her room.

What do you think?
Does your child have a TV in the bedroom?
Do you give your children set TV hours?