October 17, 2009

The television debate

"If you read a lot of books, you're considered well-read. But if you watch a lot of TV, you're not considered well-viewed. "*
~Lily Tomlin

The t.v. topic has come up a couple of times recently on various forums of which I am a member. We watch a fair amount of television here, far less than we used to, but still more than many families. I'm not always thrilled with the t.v. being on, but I don't think we'd be any happier avoiding it more than we do now. I also don't think that watching t.v. is inherently evil. We still read many books, and do things outside and with others. Here's a breakdown of the viewing in our house.

The girls generally watch two hours a day during the week (a movie and maybe a 3o minute show afterward), while I read or do other school things with Robotson.

Robotson gets to choose what screen time he wants from 7 to 10:30pm. Most days he's using GarageBand on the laptop, so he watches very little t.v. overall.

During the week, if I am feeling particularly tired after a long day, I'll stream something from Netflix after the kids are in bed.

Weekend evenings, the kids watch movies while B and I watch movies or t.v. series that are not for children.

On Sunday, B and I watch sports: tennis, football, hockey. There seems to always be some game on, but when there isn't, the t.v. is off.

Some of that is about to change when B begins his new work schedule. He'll be working the weekends, so the t.v. will be on less. I probably won't watch any sports by myself. B's new off days are Tuesday through Thursday. The girls screen time should go down, because there will now be an adult to spend time with them. But we'll probably watch more in the evenings. Time will tell.

There are a few things I do think we get right. I am very careful about what shows make it into the house. Every once in a while they get a movie I would not normally buy. I usually go through their collection once a year and weed out the riffraff. I am also aware of what they see on PBS, the only local station they watch. I'm alright with Sid the Science Kid, Dinosaur Train, Super Why!, and Word Girl. Most everything else I turn off or only let them watch the one episode. They don't get exposed to programs that aren't appropriate. While B and I watch crime shows, or violent/dark humor movies; we don't let the kids see them. We are also upfront and honest about it. Robotson has asked several times if he is old enough to watch Robot Chicken (it has the word robot in it after all), but we've explained that he wouldn't understand the humor and it might upset him. When he's older, he'll have a chance to view the series if he wants.

I also don't think that if you let kids watch a lot of t.v while they are young, it will be hard to break them of the habit when they are older. Robotson used to watch much more than he does now. B also had an addiction to the boob tube, but he's much better now (his choice by the way). So while the girls spend a lot of time in front of the t.v. right now, I think things are about to change for the better.

*When I went looking for a quotation related to television, 99% of them were negative. Wow. There is value to t.v. You just have to look for it.


  1. I don't know if you've seen the website Parenting Science before. I recently discovered it and was reading an article today about TV. I thought you might find it interesting. Not nearly as negative as most of the reports.


    I agree with you. My kids have excellent vocabularies and they do watch TV. More than I'd like, but with my husbands schedule sometimes it's the only way I get things done.

  2. I hadn't heard of it before, but it looks very interesting. Thanks!

  3. I am on the other side of TV debate. We had no TV before Anna turned 2. Now she watches occasionally - loves Sid the Science Kid. But I feel strongly that TV is bad for imagination, because it created prefabricated worlds. And, more importantly, I do think that if the child is used to watching TV when he/she is bored, that's what he/she will do as an adult as well. Kudos to you for managing to reduce TV watching for Robotson, but usually it goes in the opposite direction as the child matures.
    There is one more thing. I don't think that the young children get majority of movies, since they are, after all, geared for slightly older audience. I do think that my daughter is quite intelligent, but she was utterly confused by Wizard of Oz and even by Cinderella. It's hard for her to process so much information at once, but believe me, she is as hypnotized by TV as pretty much every other child I know. It's up to me to break this spell.

  4. We are also on the other side -- no tv family. And the irony is TV is my career (writing/ producing/ directing). I have a perhaps jaded but no less real point of view on TV - esp "educational" kids TV - because I made it for a while pre-kids of my own.
    Aside from just never having the time or desire to veg out in front of the tube in our family, I feel that I am giving my son a life skill by teaching him to be with himself, to be with the quiet of an unplugged environment, to pass time without distraction, to find ways to entertain himself without needing to plug in. It pays off when we are at the DMV for 2+ hours or on a 16 hour flight and he happily piddles away the time.

  5. Don't get me wrong, I'd chuck the tv's out the window if it was just up to me. Sure, I watch some shows, movies, and sports but I can certainly live without them. I was always a picky viewer, but even more so these days. That said, I'm so impressed that B managed to go from having to have all the channels and keep it on every waking moment - to watching sports on the weekends and the occasional Netflix movie. We may very well get rid of them someday, I just don't think everything about television is bad, especially when you are knowledgeable about what you are viewing.

    I used to feel guilty about how much t.v. we watch, but I don't let it get to me anymore. It is what is for now and it works for us.

    Besides, I was right. With B's new schedule it's been on a lot less this week. :)