Baroness Benjamin and the Electric Babysitter

First of all, Floella Benjamin is a Baroness! What does one have to do to become one of those? The only other one I know is Margaret Thatcher and she, quite frankly, scares me. Floella Benjamin has apparently shed her Playschool image and has taken to the House of Lords to berate us for our television habits and our reliance on the electric babysitter. In this BBC article, Benjamin says that,

“Too many modern offerings encouraged “passive viewing and are used as surrogate parents or baby-sitters”

and went on to add that,

“Programmes like these should be banned, especially if television sets are in children’s bedrooms. In fact, I would ban all television and computers in children’s bedrooms.”

Now, I don’t agree with generalisation and with proposing widespread bans in this manner but I think Baroness Benjamin has a valid point. Some of the television programmes out there for kids are just AWFUL. If any of you joined in with Kate takes5’s recent Listography on top five most annoying Children’s shows, more than a few were mentioned on the highly entertaining posts over there. Some of the shows targeted at our children are bad. Really bad. But some are great. I’ve blogged about Baby TV, an entire channel dedicated to babies and these guys really know their audience. The baby is glued. For about thirty seconds. But, hey, he’s glued for that thirty seconds none the less.
Now, the big one does not have a television in her bedroom and whilst I am NOT condemning parents that have equipped their child’s bedroom with one, I am going to tell you our reasons why.
1. we would rather she didn’t spend all her time in her room watching TV before she turns into a teenager
2. we would rather she read books in her room
3. we like spending time with her
4. we like talking to her

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We don’t worry about her watching nonsense because WE watch nonsense on TV- hello? Eastenders?- and at the end of the day the television is there to entertain, not educate. WE are here to educate our children. School exists to educate our children. Anything extra they pick up from television is a bonus, surely. So perhaps Floella Benjamin has got it a little wrong? Yes, there are programmes designed to educate children and yes, no doubt Playschool DID play a part in educating the children of the seventies. But I don’t think its fair to say that children’s television shows today are ALL bad. And I don’t think its fair to assume that all Playschool age children are holed up in their bedrooms day in, day out watching rubbish on the box. For a start, studies have shown that children can only concentrate for as many minutes as the years they have been alive, so the average four year old will sit, rapt, for four minutes (or so they say).

Bejamin does go on to explain the power of television in providing educational stimulation and in improving “attention, expressive language, comprehension, articulation, general knowledge as well as social interaction and life skills.” Yes, I agree. As a teacher, I use clips and videos to help stimulate and illustrate a point now and then. And yes, the television is such a major point of focus for most homes that I am inclined to agree that soemthing needs to be done about the mountain on drivel on the box… Switch it over. There are SO MANY children’s channels on the television now and there are also parental controls! I don’t let my kids watch complete rubbish- not all the time, anyway. I honestly don’t think there is anything wrong with watching a programme for entertainment. Our kids are pushed so hard at school each day, given homework (you know how I feel about that) andperhaps chores too. Is there really anything wrong with letting them watch a little bit of rubbish whilst you whip up a healthy meal for dinner? Are we really unable to guage ourselves how much television our chidlren should watch? Sure, some parents may need more guidance than others but I think that Floella may be taking her Baroness title a little too far… what do you think?


5 responses to “Baroness Benjamin and the Electric Babysitter

  • waterbirthplease

    Well said! All things in moderation x

  • TheBoyandMe

    I personally am chuffed that she has it and think she deserves it because she does a hell of a lot in the field on children’s programmes. I think she has taken the extreme point in order to get across to those parents who do use it as a babysitter, all day and everyday.

    I joined in on Kate’s Listography and explained that I’ve used the parental controls on my own mother because she kept putting channels on that I don’t want The Boy watching. Having asked her 4 times, it was the only way I could ensure she didn’t put them on! We only watch two channels here: CBeebies which is worth the license fee alone as far as I am concerned. 90% of the programmes are educational & The Boy loves them; and BabyTV which is fab, they have pitched the length of the programmes perfectly for a little one’s attention span.

    We have one television in the house and that is how it shall remain for a long time!

  • Him Up North

    I think Baroness Benjamin needs to move with the times. There is far more choice now than when she ruled the Play School. I shudder when the great and the good bang on about banning anything. Let parents decide.

  • mummy@bodfortea

    Wow, a Baroness eh? Who knew? I’m an all things in moderation gal, myself. DD gets a little tv in the morning after breakfast and a little before dinner which lets me cook it, frankly. She watches DVDs rather than TV and I switch them off when her time’s up. I DO agree that a lot of kids TV is dross but I also think parents should be given guidance not dictated to.

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