Sunday, October 24, 2010

To TV or not to TV?

"And this here's the TV. Two hours a day, either educational or football, so you don't ruin your appreciation of the finer things." H.I., Raising Arizona

I’d like to think that I’m going to be a parent that doesn’t let their child watch TV, but even as I sit here and type the words, there is doubt in my mind. Linda and I don’t watch a lot of TV, although those two words – “a lot” – are so subjective. It’s like when people find out we don’t eat meat and they say, “Oh, I don’t eat a lot of meat, either.” What does it really mean? I could say we don’t watch as much TV as we used to, but again, that could mean we’re down to six hours a day. To clarify, I’ll say we live in the sticks, so we get all of three television stations, so we watch no commercial TV. We pop in DVDs several nights a week, and I find myself feeling less and less guilty about that as I get older. Still, every once in a while, I’ll say to Linda, “Why don’t we just get rid of the TV? There will be so much more time for reading, for actually speaking to one another about something other than what’s on the screen in front of us.” I have visions of finishing the novels I’ve started writing or doing something really creative like making a table. Of course, on those evenings when we don’t turn on the TV, we usually fall asleep by 9 o’clock. Maybe our bodies would need time to acclimate to TV-less nights.

When it comes to our child, though, I’m conflicted. I watched a fair amount of TV as a child, probably too much, but I look back on some of those TV shows with fond, fond memories, especially Saturday morning cartoons. Who am I to deny those same experiences to my kid? I guess it comes down to my fear that I’ll allow the TV to turn into a babysitter. It must be very easy to let happen. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve brought this up with other people and they tell me, “Just wait until you have a crying kid in YOUR house. When the screaming hits a certain pitch, the TV starts looking like a very competent sitter.” I’d like to think that I’d be firm and find a non-boobtube solution. What will probably happen is that we’ll come up with some moderate solution; an hour a night or maybe just on the weekends, with exceptions now and then. Moderation in all things, even moderation.

26 days until baby.


  1. What matters most is that you choose a solution that you believe in and don't apologize for it. I don't believe there's a "right" way, but we have been very happy with our TV-free life, partly because it has freed us from such decisions. And surprisingly, our children aren't totally out-of-touch as I worried they might be. Rather, they can entertain themselves joyfully for hours, and they play, read and draw constantly. Children with TVs do this too, so I don't think H,G,and H are different in that regard, but this was one of our parenting hopes. If you do go the TV route, watch the ads and the time - so many quick changes of screen shot and viewpoint can be startling. Wow! You're into the 20s! Godspeed!

  2. I would be lost without PBS. It's one of the last bastions of sanity in media and does offer so much for children of all ages. But, of course, much of PBS programming is available later in DVD format and/or viewable online. I never used TV as a babysitter or a method to stop the kids from crying - never entered my mind to do that.

  3. We always let the kids watch children's programming. The biggest difference these days is that they can watch whatever they want, whenever they want to, which we never could do. I remember when children's programming ended and grown up tv started. It was time to find something else to do- either inside or outside.

    These days, children's programming is on all day long, plus DVDs and on-demand. My kids truly do not understand the concept of a TV Special- Remember what a big deal it was when the Grinch was going to be on TV? We got to stay up extra late- it meant Christmas was coming- very exciting! These days, my kids pop in the Grinch in July and it definitely loses something :)

    I do think moderate tv watching has benefits.
    Unfortunately, the few children I knew who were not allowed to watch TV until kindergarten had severe speech problems and are completely antisocial. I know that probably isn't the norm, but I know my children all spoke very well and were very social and I give kid's tv credit for part of that. As one of your friends mentioned- I think the key is Moderation!! If kids are refusing to do something good because of a tv show- you have a problem!

  4. My mom always said, "TV is for when you're sick!" While this was not entirely true for us growing up, I do say that now. We love recording animal nature programs, and my husband, Rob, is great at recording video of the boys so that they can watch themselves on TV too. Always fun when 'another' rainy day comes.