Toddler TV

I’m not one of these parents who thinks that allowing your tiny child access to an iPad is one of the most awful things you can do as a parent, on a par with locking them in a cupboard or making them sit through church services. Like with anything, too much iPad access is a bad thing, just like too much TV used to be and still is, and too much water or oxygen always has been. Its not the tools that you use to entertain, educate, or placate your child, just the amount that you use then and what you do with the gaps in between.

As I am blind and so unable to read books to my daughter, I find that us both sitting down and watching a few children’s shows and talking about what’s happening on them is a great way for us to bond and experience stories together, and for me to get an extended cuddle on the couch. I also think that some of the shows that we let her watch had a positive impact on her language development when she was first beginning to talk, as they were using words and sentence structures specifically aimed at tiny children – and me.

Technically I suppose, Sophie has had her own iPad since the day she was born. I had one of the first original iPads knocking around which was no longer of much use for most things, and so had decided to keep hold of this purely for the purpose of letting Sophie use it when she was older. I bought a kid friendly soft monster case to put around it and stuck it away until she was old enough to waggle her finger in the direction of her choosing.

Since probably about 18 months old Sophie has been a dab hand on the iPad. My wife was caught in that typical Mother’s dilemma in which allowing Sophie to use the iPad was a convenient way of grabbing half an hour so that she could get stuff done, and the stigma and self loathing that can come along with that of feeling like an awful parent, but also amazement that she was able to use it. I am a lot more tech oriented than my wife and have a massive streak of the geek running through me. I was more chuffed and impressed than she was at Sophie’s technical ability at such a young age and didn’t hate myself for that. We are living in the future man, or at least marching further towards it as it retreats with equal haste, and I just think that any level of computer competence before she gets to school age can’t be a bad thing, can it? – unless it’s running Windows 10 I suppose.

Before she was even able to talk properly, Sophie was able to navigate the iPad, close down the Netflix app, open up our home videos, and pick a video to watch that had her in it. She’s always been a bit self obsessed like that, wanting to watch videos of herself running about in her knickers.

“Wow, she’s a genius!” I thought. “Able to use a computer at 18 months – my sperm must be amazing!”

Then one day we were sat in the living room about to watch something together on the TV. We have the Apple TV connected to the telly. Its a little box thingy that gives a similar interface to the iPad, but on the larger screen, that relies on a remote control rather than touch. Sophie ran over to the TV from the couch and tried pressing the Netflix icon on the screen and couldn’t understand why it wasn’t working.

“It’s broken Dada” she said, as she repeatedly pressed it with growing frustration.

“Wow, She’s a fucking idiot” I thought. “Maybe she’s not mine.”

Sophie has recently turned three years old now though, and has known for a while that she can’t just tap and swipe the TV screen like she can the iPad. As I have mentioned in past posts, she has learned that she has to put my hand on things to show me them. This is of course very adorable and sweet of her when she wants to show me the frills on her dress, or when I am looking for something that I’ve dropped on the floor, which is all the time.

The other day though, we were watching Paw Patrol on the TV, which is infuriatingly shit. She decided that she was bored of this and wanted something else, and this is where things got tricky. I brought up the grid of kids shows on Netflix and she spotted a show that she wanted to watch. She wanted to watch something that she either recognised or liked the look of on the screen, but didn’t actually know the name of.

“The bear” she said. “I want to watch the bear.”

As clues go, it’s not a bad one I suppose, but I didn’t know what “the bear” was, and I didn’t know whether to go up, down, left, or right with the remote control to find it. The Apple TV talks as I navigate about it, reading out TV show and film names as I move around the screen. I had a little look about for something that might have had bear in the title, but nothing stood out and Sophie started getting more and more annoyed with me.

“NO. THE BEAR!” she wined, in that agitated tone that frustrated toddlers often use like they’re about to lose their shit completely and punch you in the face.

“I’m looking for the bear” I said. “I don’t know what the bear is.”

“Here, the bear” she said again as she pointed on the screen. “This one.”

I’m sure she thinks I’m proper stupid half the time. The only thing I had to work with though was up, down, left, and right – all of which are abstract concepts that Toddlers have got no bloody idea about..

“Yes Daddy, Just navigate three to the left and that’s the bear show there” she’s definitely not going to say. Unfortunately for both of us, pointing, wining, and repeatedly saying “the bear” is all she’s really got to offer at the moment, and so all I’ve got to work with.

I tried working my way one by one through a number of icons on the screen, with each press of the remote control asking her “is it this one?”

“NO!” she’d respond, each time losing her shit just a little bit more, like she couldn’t quite believe that her Daddy was this much of an idiot. “I’ve pointed at the little picture of the bear five times now, are you winding me up on purpose or are you genuinely this stupid? Honestly, I’m putting myself up for adoption as soon as I can do the paperwork.”

It reminded me of a really funny clip from a spoof movie that Weird Al Yankovic made back in the late 80s called UHF. The short clip was totally incidental to the film’s plot. It just showed a blind man sat on a bench, trying to complete a Rubix Cube, with each twist asking the tramp sat next to him – “Is this it?”

“No.” The tramp would reply, before another twist and…

“Is this it?”

“No.” The tramp would say again, in exactly the same tone like he’d been there for hours and had lost the will to live.

That was me and Sophie trying to locate this sodding bear. Suddenly though she had a brainwave, and over to the couch she scampered….

“Get up Daddy” she said. “Come with me, I’ll take your hand.”

I did as I was told even though I had an idea what was coming. Across to the TV she lead me, and then put my hand on the screen where the icon was for the TV show she wanted to watch.

“That one, the bear” she said like she’d finally gotten through to me.

Well at least I know its somewhere over to the left now I suppose.

It took a little more trial and error, and in the end I’m not even sure if I managed to find the show she was on about, or if she just decided to give up and settle for something else instead. Either way I landed on an icon, she finally said yes and sat back on the couch, and we ended up watching something that didn’t seem to have anything to do with bloody bears at all.

Sometimes I think that the future is more hassle than it’s worth, and things would be a lot easier if we just had the good old four channels that we had back in the 80s and all we had to choose from was Button Moon – I wouldn’t have any of this shit to deal with anyway.

And here’s that clip from UHF…

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