You Heard Me. No TV Limits for My Kids.

When I came home from work last night, both kids were home, but I didn’t see them or hear from them for about 90 minutes.   Neither moved during those 90 minutes from the televisions they were watching.  I have no idea what they were watching, but I’m sure it was incredibly inane, like The Suite Life on Disney, to which my daughter has a season pass on our DVR.

Like most parents, my wife and I have struggled and still struggle with the amount of time that 12-year-old daughter and our 15-year-old son spend watching television.  I think we struggle with it not because it’s a problem, but because we’re supposed to struggle.  It is drummed into our heads that watching television should be limited — unless it’s PBS or Discovery Network or something like that and unless it’s only in small amount per day.  As Dana Carvey’s George Bush would say “It’s bad.  It’s bad.”

Was I upset by my kids not moving?  Not really.  In our house, we don’t limit television watching.

Queue the pundits to say we’re bad parents.

I beg to differ, so I decided to look into this problem.  The more I looked at the information, the more comfortable I am with no limit.  Those preaching television limits are, in my opinion, using television data as a way to say we’re bad parents because they can’t find anything else to complain about.  Limiting television isn’t a solution.  Increasing time studying, playing sports or volunteering is.

I did some quick research on television viewing at lunch time today.  I found out that, on average, there are more televisions per household (2.93) than there are people per household (2.54). In the Spidey household, we have an embarrassing seven televisions and three computers on which programs can be watched.  All of our televisions also have DVRs, allowing us to watch what we want, when we want.  The phrase “there’s nothing on” hasn’t been said in our house since the first Tivo came out in 1999.

So – if television watching by children is crime, my wife and I have certainly created the opportunity for our kids.  A motive is needed to complete the supposed crime.

My motive in not limiting television is very simple.  I think kids need downtime.  Instead of limiting television, my wife and I make sure that other activities are done first.  They must keep up grades in school.  They need to get their physical activity.  They have to take a musical instrument.  We make sure they are socializing with friends.  I hope to find a charity for us to support as a family at the end of the summer.  Rather than focus on limiting the negative of television, I prefer to focus on increasing the positive of other things.

To the pundits, I say –

  • Don’t tell me how much television the average child watches per week (1,680 according to Nielsen).  Tell me instead how much time they spend on homework, and let’s work to increase that.
  • While you are looking at those 1,680 hours, tell me more what they’re watching and whether any of it is as a family.  There is a lot of good happening on television.
  • Don’t publish study after study on the TV’s effects on children (4,000 so far).  Study instead the best way to motivate children to be good students or get enough physical exercise.
  • Don’t tell me that unhappy people watch more television as a way to say we shouldn’t watch television.  Study instead why these people are unhappy and how we might help them.

What was really going on last night in the Spidey home?  My son was watching TV after 4 hours of summer school (he has an A in both classes) and then an afternoon outside in the heat with his friends.  My daughter was exhausted after a sleepover the night before followed by cheerleading practice in the afternoon and couldn’t really move of the couch.  I have no problem with them sitting there like lumps periodically.  When our kids have accomplished what they need to each day, it’s their right to veg in front of the television.  If that’s more than 1,680 hours per week, I’m good.

Limit television?  Back to Mr. Carvey’s President Bush — “Not gonna do it.”

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