I don’t think we’re on Sesame Street anymore, Toto

If you’re old like me, your parents (and maybe even you) remember when Sesame Street debuted in 1969. Maybe there was children’s television before then, sure, but it was Sesame Street that arguably gave parents permission to let their children watch television. It’s educational! Don’t feel guilty!

I grew up on Sesame Street and then countless cartoons and, still later, insipid sitcoms. It was that halcyon time when society hadn’t yet figured out that kids might, you know, watch too much TV and get fat and lazy. But having both grown up on television myself and as someone who allow my kids TV time, I can’t get too worked up about the nay-sayers. Moderation, people. There’s nothing wrong with television in moderation.

But reading this post by Amy Davis about the proliferation of YouTube videos of babies watching TV did give me pause:

I am fascinated by this. And kind of appalled. A YouTube search of “baby watching tv” tonight turned up 1,500 videos.

What motivates a parent to post video of their child WATCHING TV? Is that the most interesting thing their child has done? Really?

Look, there’s videos of everything on YouTube, and heaven knows that new parents think that hour-long videos of Junior just drooling are fascinating, but I still think there’s something to this.

First, there was new! exciting! educational! children’s television, and we embraced it. Then there was a proliferation of studies about how television is bad and evil, and many parents began staunchly insisting that their precious babies would never watch TV. Now we seem to have moved into the next phase, where television is hip again—there’s certainly more educational shows than ever from which to choose—and parents are bound and determined to prove just how fully they embrace all of this new media by showing the world just how much Junior loves the shiny box with the moving pictures.

On the other hand, in a time where a parent is willing to spend nearly $50k to give their kid 15 seconds of fame, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if parents aren’t just embracing TV, but hoping for a bit of fame.

Either this child has a few obsessive relatives who can’t get enough of this 43-second clip, or this video has gotten some major exposure. Why? How? What are these parents trying to achieve here?

That’s a very sobering question. Can’t we just enjoy the good stuff on TV without trying to get our kids in on the action? And can we maybe put down the camcorder and sit down and watch with our kids? Hey, if it’s not a show you can stand to sit through… maybe you should change the channel. It’s not like there aren’t a thousand great choices.

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