TV - A helping hand or a nuisance? I grew up in the 70s and 80s and I watched a fair amount of TV throughout my childhood. However, having only three terrestrial channels meant that it was never that difficult to tear myself away from the screen and go and do something more interesting instead. When I left home aged 18 I moved to London and spent four years studying there. I had no TV and didn’t miss it at all. Nick had followed a similar TV-less existence so when we got together the idea of getting a TV simply didn’t even cross our minds. Eventually we did end up getting an old set to watch DVD’s on (ok, videos… we are that old!). Then the kids started arriving, first Leila and then Edward. Still we did not feel the need for TV, sure we had some kids DVDs (my all-time favourite –Finding Nemo and my most detested - Barney the Dinosaur) but that sufficed for screens. Tablets and smart phones were still things of the future so they were not part of the equation we had to work with. Then I became pregnant with twins and suddenly getting a TV licence seemed like an incredibly good idea. I was going to be breastfeeding twins whilst looking after a three and a five year old - I was going to need all the help I could get and if some of that help was from a screen, so be it. So after a 16 year break I got back together with Mr TV. Hello Cbeebies – you saved my life. Due to their incredibly limited exposure to TV I could plonk Edward and Leila down for a TV stint each time I needed to breastfeed. They were glued, hooked and mesmerised by Ballamory, Big Cook Little Cook and my all-time favourite, Charlie and Lola, but more importantly they were stationary and safe. I also invested in a swinging electric chair and a play pen to safely ensconce the twins away from Edward, who could be rough with them. Mr.TV could keep an eye on everyone in their segregated lounge positions whilst I cooked the dinner or nipped to the loo! The TV helped. I was pretty disciplined. There were time limits. The TV was for times when I needed the kids to be safely occupied whilst I couldn’t fully supervise them. Having the one screen available for the kids made life easier as I didn’t have battles about using a screen at all times and in all situations which must be the case now, with tablets and phones. In 1995, Hart and Risley, published some ground breaking research looking at the language that 1-2 year olds were exposed to. They found that there was a direct link between the number of words a child heard and the number of times the child’s vocalisations were responded to with a child’s vocabulary development, language skills and even IQ scores years later. To put their findings very simply, talking to and with your young child a lot of the time every day, day in day out, is really important and essential if your child is going to reach their potential. Sometimes talking to young children doesn’t come naturally, even when they are our own. It can be tempting to keep a child happy (quiet) though allowing them to use a screen but if this happens at the expense of our communication time with them, then perhaps it’s a good idea to limit that screen use and save it for those essential Mr TV moments. As my kids have got older we’ve allowed them more time on-screen. Screen has been used as a reward. When they were all at primary school, once everyone was breakfasted, washed, dressed with shoes and coat on and book bag in hand, they could sit and watch the TV or go on the computer before we left for school. This motivated them to motivate each other as the TV could only go on when they were all ready. Lynne is a Speech and Language Therapist and a mother to 4 children. Her eldest son is on the Autistic Spectrum. Lynne has a blog full of funny tales of family life dotted with little nuggets of wisdom.