Why I Stopped Fast-forwarding Commercials During Kids' Shows
During our childhood, we had barely a couple of shows every weekend aimed at children. We would wait eagerly all week long. Then when the show times would approach, we would put sibling rivalries and play time squabbles on hold to watch the shows together. There was no pause button for live TV and no record button to watch it for later. So, if you missed a show, you missed it. There will again be the nail-biting wait till the next weekend before a one-minute recap will let you live the precious seconds of what your missed episode.
Then there were the commercials…
…Many, many commercials – chocolates, school supplies, toys – all vying for our attention and our very limited buying capacities. We had no option but to “suffer” through them. So we developed what could only be described as Commercial Blindness similar to Banner Blindness of today. And a commercial break meant exactly that – a break – for a quick trip to the bathroom, a sip of water, grabbing snacks, discussing the plot and characters, singing and dancing or just doing nothing but waiting.
Many things have changed since then…
Countless research studies have made us aware of the derogatory effects of commercials on the mental and physical well-being of our children. As a mother, sidestepping those proven statistics would be fool-hardy. So, I did what any conscientious mom would do. I recorded our son’s favorite TV shows and then fast forwarded through the commercials of every “Cat in The Hat” and “Ready, Jet, Go” episode during his designated screen time.
The hidden aspect of commercials
But there is an aspect of commercials that we may have failed to appreciate. That is the ability for our children to practice patience and delay gratification. In today’s fast-paced world, we habitually condition our children to an “I want it yesterday” mentality. I noticed this thought-process in action first-hand when our son would hate even nanoseconds of delay and insist on fast forwarding through ads THAT VERY INSTANT.
So, I did a small experiment and stopped skipping a few commercials during his shows. Here’s what the outcome has been from that experiment:
1. Patience and delayed gratification
If there is a single takeaway from the Standford Marshmallow Experiment that has to be the power of delayed gratification in determining how our children will fare in their future lives.
When I stopped skipping commercials, after our son’s initial impatience had subsided, I did see a definitive improvement in his patience levels and his ability to wait progressively longer for his shows to come back on the air.
He developed coping mechanisms like playing with his toys in the meantime or jumping and hopping around – a plus from physical activity perspective too!
2. Disappointments are but natural
The major reason experts discourage commercial viewing is due to the exponential increase in demands from children for toys, junk food etc. that comes naturally after viewing children-centric ads. And I agree completely. I did see an increase in our son’s whine-factor but even this whining has come with a silver lining for us.
Because we cannot (rather won’t) fulfill his every demand, he is slowly learning to take disappointments in his stride. Over time, he has learned to ask us only for things that he really wants and doesn’t care much about the ten thousand other commercials.
3. All that glitters is not gold
Watching commercials has led us to many constructive discussions about their credibility. Whether an advertised food will make him healthy, whether the pencil is really unbreakable, and many such big and small questions.
With time, he has come to take ads with a pinch of salt, which in my opinion, should be the ultimate goal. Being critical and not getting influenced by the underlying messages portrayed in the commercials is better than trying to shield him from the bazillion different sources spewing out commercials at the speed of light.
It will be reckless for me to suggest that we stop limiting commercials altogether during our children’s viewing time. But when I see our son demonstrate “Commercial Blindness” the way we used to as children, I feel that it may not be such a bad idea to let him suffer through ads occasionally and discover patience in the process.
Daisy Suman quit her Solution Architect job working for one of world’s Top IT Firms, TCS after a stint of 12 years in September 2014 to stay home with her son. These days, when she is not busy trying to keep up with her soon-to-be 5-year-old, she can be seen fervently typing away for her parenting blog FertileBrains, dabbling in creative writing or networking with fellow parents around the globe through various social media channels. Her work has appeared on Mamapedia Voices, BabyCenter Blog, Parent Co., BonBonBreak and BlogHer. You can follow Daisy on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.