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The other day I caught up with the mom of one of my son’s besties from school. While waiting for our kids to be dismissed from kindergarten we talked about their recent after-school playdate at my house. I recapped of how much fun they had and mentioned how worn my son was afterward and that he went right to bed that night, no arguments, no books, not even an extra glass of water. Bestie son’s mom said her son did the same – he was so tired that she didn’t even have to put the timer on his TV that night.
Then the bell rang our kids came out and we went our separate ways. Later that night I told the hubs about the TV comment. Now, TV is a BIG subject in our home since both the hubs and I have careers in mass media.
A million questions came to our minds: Do you think he falls asleep to the TV every night? Is there a TV in his room? What is he watching? Is it educational or a cartoon? How do his parents monitor what he watches? Does he know how to use a remote? Are certain channels blocked?
I wasn’t judging by any means and I’m in no way an “anti-TV” mom. To say that I love television is an understatement. When I was a kid, I used to wait impatiently for Tuesdays when the next week’s TV Guide arrived in our mail. I studied it like a college textbook… all anyone in my household had to do was ask, “What’s on tonight?” – I could give them a full prime-time line-up (fortunately there were only 3 major networks at the time, plus a handful of cable channels).
What sparked my interest was the impact of television as a medium – how it connects people, conveys messages to the masses and its overall impact on society. I am still fascinated by these things today. In fact, my entire career is based on my love for the medium. Of course, I know there is a lot of junk clogging the airwaves, so I am a picky watcher – shows have to earn my favor and attention. Once I’m turned off by a program, network or star, I switch the channel for good.
But when it comes to children, how much TV is too much?
This is an ongoing debate the hubs and I have. Right now our policy is no TV during the week. Mornings in our house are so hectic — getting up, eating breakfast and going off to school – TV watching is not an issue. After school, the hubs and I want to spend some time with our kids, playing, going to after-school activities, having dinner together, cuddling and reading stories. However, on the weekends, it can sometimes turn into a cartoon marathon in our house.
My boy loves cartoons, old ones such as Looney Toons and Tom & Jerry and newer ones like Fairly Oddparents, Chima or Ninjago. He will sit like a zombie for two hours or more if you let him, taking in all the hilarity only a child can find in some of those cartoons. So far our daughter can take it or leave it when it comes to TV, but she does enjoy a good episode of The Pink Panther or SpongeBob Squarepants.
Certainly, we’ve bended the rules…such as when mommy has an emergency work call, or daddy has a similar crisis. A half-hour in front of the boob tube might bail us out until the crisis passes and then it’s back to our regularly scheduled program…NO TV!
We want our kids to enjoy being kids-playing with toys, coloring, looking at books, using their imagination and minds to have fun. Growing up, I had a fraction of the entertainment choices my kids have today. Today there are 600+ channels to choose from, DVDs, DVRs plus video game systems and iPads – the choices are exhausting.
I’m realistic to know that our policy will have to evolve. But right now I want my kids to know the pleasure of running around, playing outside, riding bikes and just having fun. I want them to be worn out at the end of the day from actually doing something, not tired from a day of looking at a screen.
So now I’ll get off my soap box, and good timing too, since I have a new episode of The Young & The Restless to catch up on!
How much television do you let your children watch? How well do you know what they are watching?
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