Monday, October 6, 2008

The TV choice

Television is one of those things that causes a great debate among unschoolers. While some don't even own a television, others believe that there is no such thing as too much television. They completely trust that their children will watch whatever they need and that restricting television causes children to binge-watch whenever they get a chance. I've sometimes found myself to be the only moderate in the midst of such a debate, but today I found this blog, and the author sounds a lot like myself. He grew up a total addict but now tries to foster a more moderate viewing philosophy.

I've heard some parents say that they tried unschooling, but it didn't work for them because all their children did was watch cartoons all day. While some unschoolers would give an unqualified thumbs up to that practice, I would ask a few questions and suggest that they not throw out the baby (unschooling) with the bathwater (TV).

First, exactly how many hours are we talking about? Some parents might mean all afternoon when they say "all the time," while others might mean every waking hour. All afternoon is less troubling than every waking hour.

Second, what type of activities does the child have available other than television? Many kids today do not have a lot of options if they live in the city if their parents believe that unschooling means a total hands-off approach. They need parents to take them places, such as the library, museums, and parks. One woman asked if it was okay that her four-year-old son watched the same violent video game over and over again. After a bit of discussion, I learned that the family only owned that one video game. The child had no other options for video games. Still, I would not want a child that age to play any video game for an extended period of time, because they should be outside running around, getting exercise, and breathing fresh air.

There is all kinds of research available on the problems with watching too much television, such as obesity and lower academic performance. Television, like many things, is okay in moderation, but a steady diet of TV, like a steady diet of potato chips and candy, is not good for you. On the blog mentioned earlier, the author talks about his family's viewing habits. I personally don't watch any television, but I do watch a movie on DVD once a week. We don't have cable or a dish, but we subscribe to Netflix, which means the family doesn't watch more than three or four movies a week. Some members of my family do watch a couple of TV shows every week through the Internet.

I don't think that television is inherently bad. Indeed, I think there are great ways it can be used. Three years ago, my youngest child and I spent autumn watching all of the PBS House shows -- Frontier House, 1900 House, Colonial House, Manor House, etc. They're reality shows where people go back in time to live like people in a particular era, and it was the most fun history lesson imaginable. We learned so much and were very entertained in the process. It caused us to talk about how we would respond to living in such conditions, and ultimately we decided that although the clothing was pretty cool, we really like having toilet paper and indoor plumbing!


Lori said...

i've read many arguments that children in tv households won't read; i find that ridiculous. if you are a reading family, your children love books. if they love storytelling, they are going to love movies and tv.

true for us, anyway! ;^)

Cathy said...

I think everything in life is a balance. If I sit and read the entire day, I don't know that it is any better than watching TV all day because I have missed out on spending time with my family or taking a walk or learning how to knit. With balance, I feel our family can experience everything life has provided for us - even technology.

Deborah said...

That is SO true, Cathy! My oldest has always been such a bookworm that there have been times when I yell, "Put the book down! No more reading until ____ is done!"