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Monday, October 10, 2005

I am no enemy of television as a medium. We have one that gets 2 billion channels through our digital cable package, and we watch it. A lot. But that’s for us, the adults, because we can use TV to stay informed and entertained. Or, after a day of putting Tab A in Slot B, we deserve the chance to flick the switch, turn the brain off, and Sponge Out.

And that’s exactly why I don’t want my kids watching a lot of TV. It’s a passive activity that ingrains a passive lifestyle. When I come home and ask my son what happened today, I don’t want to hear that Bob the Builder installed a ceiling joist or that Little Bear’s daddy went on a fishing trip. I want to hear original thoughts, conjured by his original, weird little mind. The weirder the better.

Have you ever looked at a 2-year-old watching TV? Their eyes gazing blankly at the screen, jaws slack, lids drooping like a catatonic. It’s sickening. All those developing brain cells, which should be in the gym pumping iron, are instead standing in the corner and bumping their heads against the wall.

Then there’s the commercial aspect of it. Our great consumer culture knows the best way to raise new generations of consumers is to get ‘em while they’re young. Therefore, a lot of kids’ shows exist solely so that kids will identify with the characters and nag their parents into buying residual plastic crap. The commercials are unrelenting—they’re even worming their way into PBS stations. 

A small minority of TV shows help kids learn how to think and do, but most of it teaches them how to do nothing and and want everything--a dangerous combination.

Permalink | Television | Comments (5)

Comments

Right on! Great post. Kids do not need any TV. We are TV free and have been since our son was born. He's nine years old and has the most creative imagination.
Anyway, that glazed over eye thing isn't reserved for young children. I have seen many teens and adults engaged in a TV program unable to answer when someone speaks their name. Scary.

Posted by: Jennifer | Oct 10, 2005 9:26:21 PM

and that's not even talking about content, I find that the values represented in most sitcoms and other tv shows are totally antithetical to my own (very progressive) values. Likewise, the tv news has become not much more than propaganda and cheerleading for the bush gang. And local news... This from a tv-free family, tv-free for 14 years, with a 14 year old and an 11 year old. And we're loving it. Thanks for fighting the good fight laid off dad!

Posted by: chip | Oct 10, 2005 10:16:40 PM

I don't know when I'll expose my child TV, but it won't be for several years, and then only as a family educational activity. The hardest part has been for Mom and Dad to break their own dependence on TV as a time occupier (we still watch a few hours per week). I thought I would miss the 24 hour news networks, but found Internet news sources inform me faster and on a broader range of issues, without the depressing slant of pundit talking points.

Cutting TV loose has given us our lives back, spending more of our time productively, and having fun together. We're lucky to be changing ourselves for our child, rather than teaching her our bad habits. And yes, I don't expect the average TV watcher to understand, much less admit their dependency.

Posted by: AJ | Oct 11, 2005 3:41:07 PM

Okay--so what is the big deal with television? It is a form of entertainment... just like arts and crafts, books, playing outside, bike rides, walks, etc.

It amazes me what value and connotation is implied with a television program. I honestly feel if you give your children a VARIETY of activities to do, they'll choose the one they want and it is your job to provide variety. Not point to one as bad. I mean, if your child sat for hours in front of the computer, is that as bad as television? Cause one could argue THAT activity is promoting bad habits as much as a television set.

Posted by: bethany | Oct 11, 2005 4:27:56 PM

It's not that TV is bad, just that a lot of it is bad. Arts and crafts, books, playing outside, bike rides and walking (with parents) are educational activities. TV has great potential to be educational, but it often fails (unless your definition is exceedingly broad).

An issue is the content-to-noise ratio. In my case, most television programs and commercial advertisements do not provide the educational and moral values I wish to impart to my child (and that's coming from a Pastafarian!).

Another issue is how time is spent... sitting in front of a box being shown things vs. actually doing things and interacting with people. Watching sports on TV vs. playing sports outside. Watching a cartoon vs. drawing characters and creating stories around your creations. And so on. Wisely spend your time.

A third issue is that it's easy for parents to use TV as a babysitter. Again, in my value system, that's just not something I'd ever do, nor want to be tempted with.

A forth issue is that many television users do not use the technology responsibly, e.g., they watch too much. That doesn't make all TV watching bad, but it also doesn't mean a non-watcher is over-reacting. TV is not necessary to be a productive and happy person.

Posted by: AJ | Oct 11, 2005 6:40:26 PM

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