Friday, August 7, 2009

Ethical values for preschoolers

Most mornings in our household are filled with television.  Madeline likes to get up and watch TV first thing in the morning.  Bryan and I are pretty adamant about having a say in what shows are allowed on in our house.  Lots of things are banned like 700 Club (Ellie can watch EWTN instead, thanks), Yo Gabba Gabba (annoying and a character looks like an adult toy), Lazy Town (creepy predator looking men anyone?), Barnyard and a litany of others.  Sure, most of these shows are probably to some degree harmless, but they're not things I want my children viewing.  It usually only takes one or two questionable things for me to decide the show is no longer being aired in Mommyland.

I have a list of shows that I feel are not harming the world view of my kids.  Some of them are shows that I know other families won't allow their kids to watch because they find them slow or annoying (Max and Ruby and Spongebob, to be specific).  In general the shows I approve of are ones that don't negatively influence my kids or alienate them from their peers.  In many ways Madeline bears the brunt of my TV programming decisions.  She wants to watch Hannah Montanna, iCarly, and a bunch of other shows that Bryan and I don't approve.  My underlying problem with all of these shows is they influence my child to have an attitude that is not age appropriate and it introduces concepts to her that I don't think she should be worried about right now (like getting dumped by a boyfriend, that she doesn't even have yet).  She's getting ideas about how the world works that aren't correct.  I find that bothersome.    I have systematically replaced these shows with programs that I feel are more innocent, like Full House and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.  Both are shows that I watched (used to stay home on Friday nights in college or have my mom tape Sabrina).  

So where does my title come in?  The whole ethical values thing.  Well, Noggin is a channel that I let Ellie watch. It's a division of Nickelodeon and for the most part, the shows are commercial free.  I like commercial free programming.  This morning when Sabrina was over Madeline dutifully  grabbed the remote and began searching for an Ellie appropriate show.  She decided that Little Bill on Noggin was a good choice.  I like Little Bill.  It's not my favorite preschool show (I have three, actually), but I've never had to turn it off because of the content.   If you aren't familiar with Noggin, before each show they usually tell you what values or attributes the shoe has, such as problem solving skills, empathy, etc.  I was actually a bit surprised when I noticed that Little Bill is labeled as "ethical values".  I can totally see how it wound up with that label, but I can't help but wonder are there parents out there who use shows like this to teach their kids ethics instead of modeling these behaviors for them themselves?  

I have no problem with letting my kids watch TV.  I believe that a child can actually learn a lot from watching TV (good and bad).  But, I don't think that we should be relying on shows to teach us ethics, morals, empathy and manners.  Sure, these shows can reinforce these values that should be learned at home, but they're not a substitute for teaching these things to your child.  Something tells me that there are probably a lot of parents who plop their kids in front of the set and let the cartoons teach the important life lessons that they [the parents] should be instilling in their children.


  1. AMEN to this!! We're the same way!! And I thought I was the only mom who thought the Yo Gabba Gabba thing was an Adult toy, so I've never said that aloud. Thank you for agreeing with me! I wish I didn't know what to compare it to!!


  2. I have several friends who have also taken note of that odd red things bumpy texture. All of those characters are weird, and I feel bad for the guy who is the announcer or dj for the show.

  3. I don't have time to learn about all the new shows so I stick with the classics such as Little Bear and Madeline that I know very well. For the most part my kids don't watch tv and when the other kids talk about shows they can truthfully say, "I don't have time to watch tv." Right now they are watching a softball training video with their softball friend who is sleeping over before tryouts tomorrow.


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