Do our kids really need TV?

The media have become the mainstream culture in children’s lives. Parents have become the alternative. Americans once expected parents to raise their children in accordance with the dominant cultural messages. Today they are expected to raise their children in opposition to it

– Ellen Goodman

Before becoming a mum, I was certain my children would not watch TV.  It wasn’t long before I realised that the TV filled the all important role of babysitter when I needed to have a shower, get dressed or cook dinner. Before long, I was completely dependent on it for moments of sanity and truly believed I couldn’t get through a day without it.

Some of my friends don’t have TV’s or use them sparingly. I am in awe of their resolve and conviction.In our media-driven culture this is a massive anti-conformist step and one that seems to stir up some defensive responses.

So, I began to look into the potential benefits and potential problems of kids and TV.

So, What’s wrong with kids and TV?

1. It stops kids getting bored which is essential to them developing creativity, imagination and the ability to think deeply.

2. TV is addictive (just try giving it up!) and children come to ‘need’ the hyped stimulation it offers in order to function (DeGaetano, 2004)

3. Kids programming may seem fairly innocuous but what’s on commercial TV is full of mindless entertainment, vicarious violence and exploitive sexuality. We may be somewhat de-sensitised to this but our children are still young enough to be highly sensitive to the influence of this content.

4. The advertising influence contradicts many of the values we are trying to instill in our children encouraging them to be self-centered, greedy & grooming them to be little consumers.

If  TV was a person and walked into our house and told our girls they needed to be beautiful for people to like them or told our boys that violence is acceptable, we would find that ‘person’ completely despicable. There would be no doubt that this negative person had no place in our family.

And yet, we welcome TV into our homes along with its dark, deceptive messages because we wrongly believe that it doesn’t influence us.

As a parent, I want to be the one who teaches my kids values and develops their character. I’m not prepared to hand over that responsibility to our industry-generated popular culture.

I want to reclaim my right to be the primary influence in their lives.  In order to do so, I need to get proactive (and less lazy!) about limiting the influence of the media – which means less, or no TV. This is a constant battle and one that I admit to struggling with.  I’m always trying to achieve a balance I’m comfortable with.

I think we need to ask ourselves, what messages do we want to be the most influential in shaping the emerging identity of our children? The media or us?

To say no to TV altogether is a huge step. This is something we need to research to make an informed choice about whether this is right for us.   It is a step that requires confidence and conviction as we take a stand against the negative influence of our popular culture and it’s main counterpart – Television.

To give up TV or not to give up TV? That is the question for today!

A great resource: Parenting well in a media age


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