Kids and TV: Where Do You Draw the Line?

I am on vacation in the great state of Texas, where it is really hot. I know we've all been complaining back home in Chicago about 95 and 98-degree days. Don't get me wrong, that's hot and miserable! But the high temperatures here have been well above 100 every single day. It's so hot, that we spent every day from noon to 6:0o pm indoors.

Fortunately, the relatives I am staying with have a lovely swimming pool. A pool over which my daughters fight for the right to scoop out the leaves. Never mind that the 2-year-old can't even lift the pool-scooper-net-thingey. She'll fight to the death to get her hands on it!

So here we are stuck inside between the hours of noon and 6:00pm. There's not much to do out here in the sticks besides watch TV. I could be taking my 6-year-old to the Cowgirl Museum and such, but this is my vacation, too, dammit! I just want to lie around and eat Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake and drink Dr. Pepper made with cane sugar.

The kids are in heaven with all the TV-watching. They don't get much TV at home and we don't have cable, so the idea of 24/7 Cartoon Network and Disney Channel makes their eyes pop out of their skulls. I don't monitor what they're watching very much. There are 2 - 4 other adults around at all times, and neither of the children knows how to operate the remote control. I trust that no adult will switch it to the Spice Channel or America's Bloodiest Cage Matches when the children are about.

I did walk in the other day to find my nephew watching Scott Pilgrim vs. The World -- a movie which I've seen and liked. My husband, I think, has seen it several times. But we watch it AFTER beddy-bie hours. My nephew is young and relatively inexperienced with children under the age of six. I suggested that Scott Pilgrim might be a scosh too violent for their tender sensibilities and he changed the channel to Looney Tunes, which isn't violent at all, as you know.

I have gotten so used to saving my adult viewing for nap time or night-time hours that I don't even think about it anymore. I like me some Mad Men and True Blood. I watch them on my laptop since I never get to see them when they are originally broadcast. These are shows that my daughter knows I like, and she knows that they are not appropriate for children. Instead, she likes to quiz me endlessly about the characters and what they do.

What does Vampire Bill look like? Does he suck people's blood? Is he a good guy or a bad guy? Is Sookie a vampire? Is she magic? Are they married? Can they get married? What would happen if Bill turned her into a vampire?

She gets modified, child-friendly answers to these questions.

I know people, however, who are at either end of the TV-and-kids spectrum. Some whose kids have TV's in their rooms and are not at all monitored and some who don't own a TV and wouldn't dream of polluting their minds with television.

In my Parent Coaching work, I never tell parents what to decide about TV watching. Parents have to decide when, what, and how much TV is right for their family. I DO suggest that they think of TV (and the presence of media in children's lives) as a third parent.

Even if you don't own a computer or a TV or a SmartPhone and forbid your children from watching TV or playing computer games, the influence of media is still there. It is a reality in our children's lives and we have to think critically about the part it plays in their culture.

Even though we don't have cable, my daughter knows Hannah Montana by sight. Why? Because her image is all over the place at Target and the grocery store. She's on t-shirts, school folders, pencil boxes, water bottles, and bicycle helmets.

I can't force her to look away every time we see Hannah Montana's smiling face. Instead, we spend a lot of time talking about music, books, ideas, even clothes. As she's gotten older, we're starting to talk about girls and beauty and why it is that "girl things" are all about how you look.

I don't mean to pick on Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus. I've never even seen her show. Maybe she's a great role model -- I have no idea. My point is just that media influence is out there, no matter how hard you try to avoid it.

As a parent, where do you set the limit?

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  • It is a fine line. I don't want to prohibit my kids so that they choose to rebel in the future when they can. My husband grew up watching a lot of TV and is a smart, successful, caring etc. person.

    I think we have to understand that this is the world our children are growing up in. If they never use a computer or other technology they could fall behind as everything is electronic now adays.

    Hopefully keeping an open line of communication will keep me sane.

  • In reply to Yoga Mom:

    Thanks Yoga Mom, you are so right. Media is becoming more and more a part of our lives these days. I see my job as a parent is to help them mediate their own use and be smart about it.

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