Saturday, February 02, 2008

My Television History

Participation in the Unplugged Project has got me thinking a lot about television and the lack of television in our lives. It also prompted me to do a little reading, at sites like Instead of TV. This has been a great encouragement to me, as I don't know anyone (besides my sisters) who impose many if any limits on their children's television viewing. Seeing that there are others who agree with me on television helps to boost my confidence that I am doing the right thing by my kids.

When I was a child, my mother limited our television viewing to 1 hour per day. It is funny to me now that that seemed like such a difficult and harsh restriction when now 1 hour seems more than generous. I have vivid members of how confining that was and how much my sisters and I hated the limits.

When I was in high school, I had an assignment to write a research paper and the topic I chose was the negative effects of television viewing on children. (If I sound like a nerd, that's because I am a nerd.) Anyway, it was pretty clear to me from that research I did that television viweing was not a good thing.

In college and for a year or so after college, I did not have a TV. This was mostly because I was too cheap to buy one and too busy to watch one. But there were several short periods during those years where I had a television (while interning in the summer and on business trips) and I found that I watched tons of TV. That box is totally addicting to me. Once I turn it on, I have such a struggle to ever turn it off, even watching things I barely liked. I would not get the things done that I needed (or wanted) to and I would always stay up way too late and have to drag myself out of bed in the morning.

Now, we have a television but we do not have cable and for some odd reason live in a little bubble that gets no broadcast television reception. So that actually makes it pretty easy. We have some videos and dvds that my children watch, although I limit them to 1 per day. (These are mostly 30 minutes long.) I don't miss watching at all. The only issue I have is how isolated I feel when I get together with others and they are talking about all the latest shows. And this issue bothers me for my children. My kids are still young but I worry about them feeling left out and ignorant at school because they don't know about all the characters and shows.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on watching television....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post! I have had all the same thoughts about life without TV as you.

For me it has been 6 years so I am REALLY out of touch with what shows are on. At first I felt a bit odd when someone would make a TV show reference that I didn't get. But now I just find it entertaining. I am a nerd also, so I am used to being a bit out of the mainstream and it kind of amuses me.

But one unanticipated thing that I STILL find strange, is not having images in my mind of certain news events. I get my news from NPR, the newspaper and occasionally online. But if I go away to a hotel with TV and SEE the news, it is so strange! I have hardly ever seen actual footage of the war in Iraq for example, except for a few times when I have been away. It's kind of like reading a book before seeing the movie. The image in your mind never matches what's on the screen. ( post?)

Like you, I was far more concerned about the effect on my children of the ignorance of popular culture that not having TV would cause. As you say, no parent wants their child to feel left out and ignorant.

I have heard some people say that this is a problem, but surprisingly it has not been an issue for us (yet). I am truly AMAZED at how much pop culture they pick up from the school playground. Both my kids started attending a small Montessori school at age 3. They are now 5 and 7.

Right from the start they came home talking Sponge Bob, never having seen the show. They know about Spider Man, Hannah Montana, the Disney Princesses and High School Musical all without ever having seen those shows or movies.
I am sure they are not as well versed as most children, but they seem to know enough to "blend in." It is kind of scary in a way!

So far, not once have my children ever asked me why we don't have TV. Honestly I expected to get that question shortly after they started school, but no.

Obviously you have to do what is right for you and your kids. But if it's any help to you, I can report that I am relieved to have not yet encountered any of those problems that I too was so concerned about.

Sorry to have rambled on and on, but your post is a very interesting one to me and I just wanted to pass along my own experiences!