It’s a reoccurring topic in our house: watching TV. The question from my kids comes so often I’ve lost count: can we watch TV?
And at the same us parents discuss: How much TV is okay for the kids and us?
I still don’t have a good answer but I thought it’s time to share some ideas around watching TV, especially when kids are involved.
The problem with watching TV
I don’t think watching TV is inherently bad but it has some very bad aspects to it which I’ve noticed in myself and my kids.
- It makes us stationary. When watching TV you tend not to move very much. I’m not talking about the movement to the bathroom or the fridge but I’m talking moving outdoors, jumping, running, being active. Watching TV enhances a stationary lifestyle by forcing us to sit still, be quiet and stare straight ahead.
- TV is passive consumption without any form to ask questions or think yourself. I noticed with myself and my kids that we don’t talk back to the TV. Even if the program we are watching asks questions, we tend to be quiet and not answer. It seems strange to talk to a box. And yet, that is a problem with watching TV. There is no interaction with the material being consumed, maybe other than the power button if it’s not good. I always animate my kids to ask questions and raise their voice against something they don’t agree with. While watching TV this raising of their voices is pretty pointless. And it turns us into passive consumers, the recipients of messages we might not agree with. In a face-to-face environment, we would behave differently.
- Watching TV can make us lonely. I try to always be in the same room when my kids watch TV, preferably even watch with them. By doing that I try to turn watching TV into a family event. We started to select movies or shows together and then to watch them together. As a next step, I’m planning to discuss the programmes with my kids, once they are a bit older. These steps are all to ensure that watching TV becomes part of our family life and not something to isolate my kids from us parents. I don’t want watching TV to become an individual activity but something we can do together.
The opportunities watching TV holds
As I said, I don’t think watching TV is necessarily all evil. There are good programs out there, which are entertaining and fun to watch. And I try to follow these ideas to get the benefits of watching TV.
- We choose well-made and preferably educational programs to watch together. We try to find programs which teach the kids (and sometimes us adults) a little something about the world. There are great shows, from crafts to our programs about our bodies. I try to avoid anything senseless. On top of that, I try to choose programs with strong female leads. I have noticed that many (too many) TV shows for kids are male-dominated. Although the show in itself might be good, I take issue with only male-leads in TV shows. So I try to watch more programs with my kids where gender stereotypes are broken up.
- As a multi-lingual family, it’s a great way to keep the minority language present and to learn a new language. I try to watch as much German TV with my kids as possible. There are some great shows for kids and we have made it a habit for us as a family to watch them regularly together. This way, the kids hear German not just from me but also from another source.
- Watching TV can become a shared experience. I haven’t taken my kids to the movie theatre so watching a movie on TV is their way of entertainment. As mentioned above, I usually try to watch with my kids and this way we can turn watching TV into a family event.
- And because watching TV is a family event, I use it to teach my kids about compromise. They often want to watch different programs but since we’re watching together I encourage them to find something in common (Okay, it’s usually: “Either you find something you can watch together or there is no watching TV at all”). This is probably the hardest part of our family time but I know that it’s worth it in the end.
I will continue to limit my kids’ TV consumption nevertheless because I want them to play with their toys, with each other, run around, use their imagination, and be a little wild (yes, that’s okay).
We spend a lot of time outdoors or the kids help me do chores around the house. In essence, I try to keep my kids away from passive, stationary consumption and involve them in real life.