How do you feel about letting your children watch television?
I have to admit, my feelings have changed over the years. When I was a young parent, I only let my kids watch “Sesame Street” and “Mr. Rogers.” The rest of the time they played: in their rooms, in the living room, in the yard and at the park. VCRs were still new and expensive; we rented one once in a while so that we could watch a movie, and we often rented an old Disney movie for the kids. But that was the limit of our children’s television viewing. We didn’t even buy a color television until 1989; even then we bought a tiny one, hoping its size would keep the kids from becoming addicted.
Then we had more kids. I found that homeschooling the older kids was a lot easier if the little ones had a video to watch. Yes, it was on the tiny television, but it kept them glued in one spot for a while so that I didn’t have to worry too much about someone climbing up the kitchen blinds while we worked on long division in the living room. The rest of the time, however, I limited how much television the kids could watch.
By the time we got a bigger television, the kids had become used to entertaining themselves most of the time. Sure, they had a couple of favorite cartoons that they enjoyed (I think the theme song to “Pinky and the Brain” is still lodged inside my brain!), but if the weather was nice, they always preferred playing outside.
I do have some fond memories of my children watching television. I clearly recall my eldest daughter at age eight or nine yelling “Stop!” when, while channel-surfing, we flew past a play being shown on PBS. We went back to it and she became completely absorbed in a performance of “Into the Woods.” It was the start of a love of live performances that continues on; today she enjoys working behind the scenes of plays in the city where she lives.
And how could I forget my young son and my husband gluing themselves to the television for Chicago Bulls games during those glory years of the early 1990s? How they loved watching that team together.
Over the years, even after we bought a VCR, we found that limiting but not eliminating television worked for our family. It probably helped that we never had cable television, so our family was limited to a handful of local channels. Today I’m not aware of my adult kids being channel-surfers, although they do like watching movies and television series on DVD.
However, I must confess that our youngest is television-addicted. Josh is typical of many people with developmental disabilities in that he loves certain movies. He will not only watch his favorite Disney movies over and over, but he’ll also sing along, belting out the lyrics by memory. Since he has speech delays, it’s good for him to sing, and to reenact his favorite scenes. It also gives him great joy.
So, I don’t think the television is a bad thing, if you control its use. Unlike this mom, I don’t believe your child will become a genius if you withhold television viewing from her. But I do think unregulated amounts of it will make dummies out of children. I think we see the proof of that decades-long trend all around us these days, don’t you?