Teenagers and TV

Archived Q&A and Reviews

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To the parent who thinks TV is evil.. In our house there is no TV/Nintendo on school nights unless it's something special like the World Series. Our 6th grade son doesn't like it, but he abides by it. He also has Martial Arts twice a week and an after school program once a week. He does, however, have TV/Nintendo time on the weekend, but we make sure we throw him outside to balance it out. We're in the process of renegotiating our deal with him. Personally, I'd like to throw the Nintendo out the window. Jamie
I must have missed the parent seeking other parents that support the notion that TV is harmful to teens. I very much agree and we have been TV free for the last year and a half. We do have a TV to use with a VCR and movies can only be watched on the weekends and approved by parents. My three daughters (13, 11, 7) do complain about their deprived childhood, but do not seem to suffer excesively. We do make it a point to visit with friends and watch the presidential debates on TV or some other really important stuff. They are free to go to the neighbors and watch TV there with friends on the weekends, but I am glad to report that they do so on the rarest of occasions. While they liked books before, I see a lot of reading going on now, they probably read on average 3-5 books a week. Instead of turning on the TV in the evenings we many times turn on the fire in the fireplace and all curl up with a good book. With no commercials to entice them into wanting things we had a much shorter Santa List.

I believe that while there are some excelent educational programs on TV, but they are far outnumbered by stupid or blatanly sexsist, violent or consumeristic programming, made very skillfully to attract the young minds. It was much easier to control little kids with turning off the TV when Sesame Street was finished. Soon TV was one more thing to fight over, so we got rid of it. Now on to do battle over Internet excesses and partying with friends. Good luck to all of you who are thinking about taking away the drug of our times -TV! And keep in touch. Ksenija

There's been a lot written on list recently about the evils of TV, and how teens must be protected from it, or they'd do nothing else. I'd like to weigh in with a counteropinion.

When my teen was in traditional school (both public and private), TV indeed was an identified problem. Both her father and I work outside of the home, and thus would often not be there to monitor her TV-watching until the evening. But I knew that she was watching a lot of TV (or videos), because I'd find the TV tuned to a different station, or I'd see her leap up and run to her room as I drove up outside, or any of a number of other indicators. Needless to say, other than changing my work schedule (something I did indeed consider, but never was able to effect, due to both work and childcare restraints) or put some sort of restraint device on the TV (also considered and rejected as unworkable), there was little we could do about it. She had to learn self-restraint for herself.

When we chose to unschool her (homeschool--where she drives the entire process, and we are only advisors), I worried that TV would be a great problem. But I took the advice I heard, and I left her alone. As soon as she was freed from the pressures of regular school, and allowed to make her own choices more, TV ceased to be an issue. I know this by several indicators. I work half time, so I am home during the day two days a week. I have not seen her turn on the TV in the daytime ONCE in the past 3 months. NOT ONCE. I know what she's been up to, and frankly she wouldn't have TIME to be watching a lot of TV at this point! She does still have a couple of favorite evening shows (Friends, and West Wing), but she watches these in moderation, spending maybe a 3 to 5 hours a week watching TV. And frankly, I'd rather she were watching The West Wing than reading Harlequin romances!

TV can be a big problem in our society, no doubt about that. But I take issue with those who assert that it is solely evil, and should be banned from our homes. We've had some really interesting discussions the last couple of days resulting from our watching of the election returns on Tuesday night, and the whole family has ended up doing research into the electoral college process. My younger daughter has started to learn Spanish from the Muzzy Videos, and chooses to watch Plaza Sesamo (Sesame Street in Spanish) on the weekends. I've learned innumerable things from Nova programs and other shows over the years, things I never would have even known about were it not for the TV. I've also gotten some needed downtime and pure pleasure from watching fluff like the British Comedy Are You Being Served. This is not to say I've never wasted time on TV (I have), nor that I haven't fallen into the trap of trying to use it as a babysitter for my younger child (I've done that too). But I try to learn from my mistakes, and I choose not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

TV is a tool, like many other tools in our lives. It's one that is particularly difficult to use well, since it requires a bit of self-discipline to avoid its over-use, and such restraint is not often taught in our culture. But used well, it can contribute hugely to our quality of life, to our knowledge of ourselves, our society, other cultures, and our world. We don't need to ban TV from our world, any more than we should ban food because some people overeat. We need to teach discernment and discipline, to help ourselves and our children to make good choices in this and every other aspect of our lives.