There are two extremes when it comes to children and television. Those who see it as an evil force that seeks to destroy youth, and those who see it as a wide open playing field that needs little oversight. The truth, of course, is somewhere in the middle. It can be a good tool, and good entertainment. But it needs to be part of a mixed bag that includes outside play, reading, expression, and just plain old fashioned fun. Sometimes I am alarmed by how few kids I see playing outside, even when the weather is nice. It is just too easy to turn on the telly and not do anything else. And we have seen one result, the alarming rise in childhood obesity rates.
But let’s not swing the pendulum too far the other direction either. There is no need to through it out, or to ban children from viewing altogether. To isolate children from the medium completely isn’t a good idea. There are still good educational shows, like Sesame Street. And for the older kids, the Discovery Channel, Science Channel, and History Channel offer good shows that they can learn from. How do you get them to watch these shows? By example. If you are genuinely interested in them, as I am, your children will, at least some of the time, want to see what you are watching too. And don’t be afraid to let them watch the news, as long as you are willing to talk about the news with them. Be prepared to answer questions about the stories you see.
What about sex and violence? I feel that there is too much fear about sex on TV and not enough concern about violence. Many parents are far more concerned that their kids might see a breast than they are about them seeing a gruesome murder played out. Sexuality should be approached in the same way as the news, don’t view it unless you are willing to talk about it with your kids, and at an age when you are comfortable doing that. You will find that they are much more able to take on good values than might be assumed. Again, lead by example. Show them a loving home environment. And don’t be outraged when a “wardrobe malfunction” might lead to a breast sighting. Be outraged when violence is thrown out only for itself, when it isn’t a part of a story that needs to be told. On the other hand, sometimes it is needed for a story to be real. When that is the case, once again, be prepared to talk about it. A war movie should be graphic. A drama doesn’t need to be.
Like most things in life, it is important to find a balance. I favor keeping some time sacred, for family only. When there are outside events planned that include everyone. And it doesn’t matter what age the kids are, this is attainable for all age groups, all it takes it the desire to actually do it. On this past New Year’s Eve, many of my family members went ice skating. and for my little great niece, it was her first time. The memory of that event will last always. And three generations of us found common ground. Later, we all watched television while we played board games. Balance.