Has the TV become my go-to babysitter?

Confessing to using your telly as a babysitter is a sure-fire way to get a few stern looks and tuts thrown your way.

Most mums with young kids like me agree that it’s a matter of needs must. Mummy needs to get something done, the kids aren’t having it, and so the telly goes on and peace returns to the household.

In our home turning on the television is like pushing a miracle mute button, or sticking the kids on pause.

They go a bit slack-jawed, forget to whine and, if you stick a bowl of food in front of them, will leave you to get on with what you need to do for at least 45 minutes to an hour.

The trouble is, I worry I’ve relying on it too much.

Modern mummies are pretty kind to each other. We all support the notion of no-judgement parenting. We all get how tough it is to be a parent today, and that we get through it however we bloody well can.

Therefore when a fellow mama says, in a slightly worried voice, that she left her toddler in front of Peppa for five hours the other day, most mums will simply shrug and say “won’t do her any harm”.

Which is true. As a one-off, it won’t.

I think we all agree one to two hours a day can’t do any harm. But recently my kids have been staring at the telly for entire days at a time. It’s been going on for weeks. It starts at six in the morning when they get up and goes on until bedtime.

Why? Because they are sick, they can’t go to nursery, but I still have to work.

We’ve had chicken pox, colds, vomiting bugs, a grim ear infection and hand, foot and mouth in this house. My two will have immune systems stronger than 10 armies once they are grown up.

The other week my toddler was in front of the TV every day between Monday and Thursday. She had chicken pox and I couldn’t very well take her off to soft play. Even the supermarket was out, as I didn’t want to risk us coming into contact with any newborn babies.

We were trapped indoors all week, and I had to spend all day on my laptop or phone getting work done. So we had Peppa Pig marathons, Paw Patrol binging sessions and I’ve seen the same 20 episodes of Bubble Guppies at least 20 times now.

A study conducted in the US back in 2010 found that the more TV a toddler watches, the higher the likelihood they will do badly at school and have poor health at the age of 10.

The study of 1,300 children by Michigan and Montreal universities found negative effects on older children rose with every hour of toddler TV.

Performance at school was worse, while consumption of junk foods was higher. UK experts said parents could allow young children to watch “some” high quality TV.

As if us parents didn’t feel guilty enough already!

I’m lucky to have a job that means I can be with my kids when they are sick. But I still have to work, I can’t spend all day cuddling them and reading to them.

Rainy days are also to blame for my over-reliance on the telly. The children play nicely with their Lego for about 30 minutes before demands for Ben and Holly begin.

The other week we were out having fun at a play park when my toddler turned to me and said she wanted to go home and watch TV. I felt terrible.

The fact of the matter is, my kids have been watching too  much TV recently. But the alternative is to see them sobbing in a ball on the floor while I try to concentrate on the deadline I’m desperately trying to meet.

So I’m trying to convince myself that this little period of excessive telly use is just a blip. I’m a busy person, but I have two kids under four who demand a LOT of attention.

And yet I know that the next time I have laundry I need to hang up, or the bathroom to clean, I’ll be switching on Netflix and leaving them to it.

The magical mute button is here to stay, for now. But I hope as they grow older, the need the use it will become less and less.

How much do you think is too much TV? Do you think it’s damaging to kids?

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