Friday, May 26, 2006

Interesting article about kids and TV

Just stopped over (via Bloglines) to Barbara's site where she has a couple of interesting articles. This incredible woman has raised (is still raising some of them) twelve kids. Her love for children is obvious, and I like her no-nonsense, let's-get-to-the-heart-of-the-matter attitude.

Really liked the on Kids and TV. This is yet another one of my Soapbox Topics. Now, don't get me wrong, we own a TV, and have a horrendous number of family and children's videos. But I am always shocked at how many of our kids' peers' lives seem to revolve around TV, and even more shocked at how many have one in their room (next to their own personal, internet-linked computer). The statistics of children's (especially preschoolers') TV watching habits are very discouraging.

My husband and I had to work through our TV convictions when we first got married. I came from a non-TV watching family. My dad was fond of saying:
Watching TV is like sitting in the sewer with your mouth wide open waiting for a piece of cake to float by.
Plus we lived out of the country for several years, and TV was just not an option. My husband's TV-watching background was much more liberal than mine. So we've had to compromise some.

Here are some things we have done over the years to help curb the TV appetite.

1. We don't get cable. Well, at least not the cable that has a million channels to choose from. I know my own weakness. It's just too tempting for the kids when there's always something "good" on the Disney, Nickelodeon or Family channels. It's too tempting for Mom when there's DIY, cooking and decorating shows to choose from. And let's not even go to the sports options for Dad.

We made a decision early on in our marriage to invest only the $13 a month for basic cable so we could get a decent picture, plus local news, Discovery, and PBS.

2. We don't allow surfing.

If there is not a specific show you are intending to watch, you are not going to channel surf until you find something that catches your eye. If you are bored, you will be instructed to "make your own fun" or I will assign you a chore.

I know our kids get tired of me asking questions about a situation or character being portrayed on a TV show or movie. The big kids know to go to Plugged In before even asking to watch a movie. We are trying to teach them to make good decisions about what they watch, before they watch it.

3. We have specific "TV times."

I have a friend that swears by TiVo, but for us, not having it has helped create boundaries that make it easier for us as parents to say "no." The TV show you want to watch starts at 9:00 p.m.? Sorry, too late for a school night. The preschoolers get to watch a bit PBS Kids in the morning, and sometimes a DVD movie in the afternoon. The TV is generally not on in the evening at all, except for Friday night movie night, and for a few shows like American Idol (as it got toward the end) and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

4. Our TV is off during meals.

Well, except for some special events like the Superbowl. We sit down together for most meals (softball/baseball season is killing that right now!). It's just one of those things I'm not willing to compromise on (I know, Mean Mom). There's nothing worse than trying to have a conversation with someone whose eyes are glued in another direction, even if that person is two, and she is watching Clifford.

In the summertime our limits are more lenient. But the principles are worth sticking to. Barbara concludes her article like this:
The only way to counteract this [culture promoting sex and materialism] is through pro-active, intentional parenting - thinking through exactly what kind of men and women you are trying to raise and then taking every step to raise them to be those men and women.

It's really not so much in the big decisions that our character is shaped and revealed, but in the little choices we make each day.

Make good choices for your children, and then teach them to make them too!
Hear hear!


Nettie said...

Good for you! Way too many parents are too lenient in this area. I'm always shocked to see bright pink tvs designed for preschoolers to have in their rooms at the stores.

Code Yellow Mom said...

Great topic and great tips! We've gone back and forth from having cable and not having it...I really have noticed that watching lots of TV, even though I think I'm a pretty savvy consumer, makes me want more, which leads to little dissatisfactions with what I already have. It kinda sneaks in on me and suddenly I "need" so much more to be happy, which is so contrary to the gratitude God expects from me...and that's not even from watching "smut!"

One very firm rule that we have in our house, even though our boys are still small, is that a TV or computer will never be in a bedroom - always in a public part of the house. That way we always know what is on the screen, and we can make sure it's as much cake as possible.

(I love your dad's quote! It's similar to an analogy I once heard about watching "R" rated movies - If you have a chocolate chip cookies and there's only one little piece of dog stuff in it, is it still a good cookie?)

And wow, I've written a novel. I get wordy when I really like a post. :)

Jennifer said...

Wow! Food for thought! I think I may be printing this post for my husband. I would LOVE to do the things you just described by my hubby won't hear of it. It's so hard to do this submissive thing when you think that you are right! Argh! (Would love to hear your thoughts on that!) But maybe this will give him something to think about.