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Road trips and the power of TV

By Robin Dearing
We all made it back from our road trip to California, not really worse for the wear. The 800-mile drive went well, thanks to the portable DVD player that streamed episode after episode of the Simpsons directly into the impressionable brain of my 6-year-old. In the past, we split the drive up into two days, staying at the lovely resort town (insert sarcasm here) of Wendover, Nevada, which marks the half-way point for the drive. This time we decided to try to drive straight through. It was the right decision. Margaret is old enough now that she's content to color, solve problems in her math workbook and play with her beloved stuffed animals for hours on end. But really the success of the trip is firmly pinned on that DVD player. Being able to watch her favorite movies or TV shows staved off the boredom and kept her giggling — and sometimes even laughing out loud — for the majority of the trip. The concept of television as babysitter has been discussed in terms of infants here before, but what about for older kids? I wonder at the damage I am inflicting upon my daughter as I let her watch TV and movies. Her favorite shows are the ones on PBS Kids, but she also loves the Discovery Channel's Dirty Jobs — for those unfamiliar with Dirty Jobs, the host, Mike Rowe, joins the average Joe on the site of jobs that are considered for one reason or another to be dirtier than most, often involving the ickiest forms of grease, dirt and poop. Margaret is an incredibly bright girl. She’s a great reader and sometimes can be found curled up with no less than 18 stuffed animals and a stack of books. But the question remains, am I ruining her chance at an Ivy League education by letting her spend some of her time watching a guy shovel poop out of a flooded basement? … I wonder.