TV is a very big part of may of our student’s lives as they are growing up. It is part of the environment my own kids live it. It is our responsibility as parents to monitor and regulate their consumption. We have three TVs in our house. Our main one is in our media room, not our main living room. This was a design decision when we built our house and I love it! When no one is watching the TV it is off. We never watch TV while doing homework, eating dinner or other tasks. In my opinion this makes it much easier to monitor usage. Our winter routine is all on a schedule. My children have a number of extracurricular activities so for practicality we made a TV schedule. They each get one night a week that they get to pick a 30 minute show. Friday nights are family movie nights. For 10 months of the year that is pretty much it (with the exception of sick days and the odd rainy Saturday afternoon). Because they know the schedule, and can see it (we post it in the media room) they rarely argue. We have two other TVs in the house. One is an old one in the basement hooked up to the Wii and one is in our room. I don’t usually consider Wii time TV time as the girls are usually doing very active dancing games on it and not that often (if it ever becomes an issue we will deal with it then). I resisted getting a TV in our room but my husband really wanted to (especially for hockey playoffs) and I regret it. Too often I fall asleep watching TV instead of reading, like I did before. I am a firm believer that children should NEVER have TVs in their room.
I enjoy reading Trelease’s chapter 8 on Television and Audio: Hurting or Helping Literacy? Often I hear in the news people saying children watch too much TV and some parents take that to mean they shouldn’t watch any TV. I strongly feel this is unrealistic for us to expect of some parents. With a bit of leeway, letting them know that a small amount of watching is OK – I think they would be able to manage it much better.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a limit of ten hours a week, and no TV for children under two. (page 148)
That is a fair amount of TV. When you add up the hours my own children watch it is approximately 3 to 4 hours a week. What do my children do – they play. Today my youngest is a daycare but my girls are home (as it is summer). They are 5 and 7. They watched one 1/2 hour program this morning. What else have they done today. They played ponies, barbies, dolls, they planned a birthday party for a teddy bear, they read, they danced, they made their beds and tidied up a bit, they were kids!!! I didn’t have to even suggest a single thing for them to do – and I accomplished a lot today! A TV is not a babysitter – it is an excuse. I love it when Trelease writes:
If there were a babysitter who interrupted your child’s natural growth that much, you’d never hire him or her again, right?
After reading this chapter I think I need to re-examine my own TV watching. I am fine watching a show in the evening after the kids go to bed but the one thing I notice is that I often have the bedroom TV on throughout the day. It is usually on CBC News or CNN but I forget that the kids are often walking around. I think that I need to make my tea in the morning, sit and watch the headlines and then TURN IT OFF! I often forget that they might see something that they shouldn’t – even on the news. I like to have background noise when we are moving around the house – so maybe I will just start putting on music in the morning.
The final thing I wanted to highlight was the study Trelease mentions on page 148. The vocabulary used on the CBS Evening News was studied between 1963 and 1993. It went from the level of a high school graduate level in 1963 to a junior school level in 1993. To me this is very concerning. Is the vocabulary decreasing because the viewing population has a lower vocabulary – or is the programming a cause of our lower vocabulary??? Food for thought! Maybe even more of a reason to keep reading thought provoking and challenging material as adult!