In my ideal mommy world I would not even have a TV. .. but in reality I let DS, 17m watch one (occasionally two) Signing Time video a day. But hey, in my ideal mommy-world, I'd also have extended family around to help me. The reality is that DS is high needs and sometimes I really need to cook dinner and it would be impossible without the distraction. I don't feel great about it, but I keep it limited and he has actually learned a lot of sign language from the DVDs. Of course I reinforce that by using the signs myself, but he truly loves those videos. And now he has seen them all so many times, that he will often just play while they are on, but get upset if I turn it off before it's over. So, I definitely can relate to the child playing better on their own with the TV on.
I was brought up without a TV in the house till I was 10 or so and I was one of those "weird" kids who would totally zone out if I saw a TV, b/c I was so unaccustomed to it. My friends used to tease me about it when I'd go to their house and I couldn't ignore the TV as background.
So I guess I'm aiming for something in the middle for my kids, some moderation, but not total banishment of media.
Right there with you however I was raised with a TV, no doubt. Shooting for the middle ground.
My Son is 21 months and we watch Signing Time as well. We have been checking out Alone in the Wilderness and that is fantastic. We chat while he watches and he signs bear, water, deer, and the list goes on. I personally cannot stand the TV... we do not have cable but occasionally my Husband wants to watch a movie after DS is snoozing. We watch his cues and do not let him watch busy DVDs at all (Disney, I cannot stand all the hidden agendas, etc. ).
When over at friends houses he sees the kids watching and wants to join... which we let him for a SHORT time only.... moving on to something else.... me in the corner clenching my teeth.