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Children, Learning, Imagination and TV

Updated on August 29, 2012

Welcome to my Hub that answers the question, "How long should school age children be allowed to watch TV daily?" asked by jenbeach21 .

Do Kids Even Need TV At All?

I don't think so. I was raised completely without TV. My father refused to own one, on the grounds that, "The commercials insult your intelligence." (Turns out, he was right!) We were a family of readers, and I grew up as a reader. To that early experience with the printed word, I credit my writing abilities and facility with language.

I was not harmed by being 'deprived' of TV. Of all the childhood things I remember "begging" to have, TV was not one of them. I had a great childhood; I played outdoors with my friends; we invented games of our own; we played indoors when the weather was not nice. I went camping with my parents and learned much about nature. We went places and saw things. I learned photography; I learned about history in a painless way; I learned so much.So, in my opinion, TV is not something a child needs at all.

When my own kids came along, we did have a TV, but I restricted their viewing to Sesame Street and Mr. Roger's Neighborhood when they were young. I think they should be strongly encouraged to get outside and play, or make use of their imaginations indoors, and the TV should be kept OFF as much as possible.

TV As A Distraction

Many families allow their children to do their homework while parked in front of the TV. The kids may claim they are not distracted, and are paying attention to their work. It's not true. Kids are not that good at being multi-taskers, and even adults can have trouble trying to focus on two things at once.

In trying to do homework while watching TV, guess which is going to suffer? Right. The TV, with its flashing, quick-change images and raucous sounds are going to claim the child's attention far better than the schoolbooks. (Mind you, I'm no big fan of homework, but that's a whole other issue!)

There are those who claim to want "background noise" to be able to concentrate. I don't buy it, (it doesn't work for me--I want it quiet when I need to concentrate), but if that's the case, turn on a radio, low, not loud, to a talk station, not music that they'll end up wanting to sing along with or dance to.

Garbage In, Garbage Out

Garbage In; Garbage Out--used to be a computer programming term, shortened to "GIGO." The same, however, applies to the human brain. Much of what is shown on TV these days is garbage, and a waste of time.

I am particularly annoyed with the recent spate of TV ads urging kids to, "Get up and play; an hour a day!" Seriously? Only an hour? Get up, get off your rear ends, and go outside and play until dinnertime, or all day on the weekends! When I was young, having to stay inside was tantamount to punishment! Yes, I realize that was probably the dark ages.

Kids nowadays are so 'wired' with all the latest technological gadgetry, that I wonder if there is anything inside their brains at all besides replays of assorted video games! If it's not games, it's the internet, and 'tweeting,' texting, FaceBook, etc. All of it accomplished from a cell phone and while loafing in a chair. None of it truly important, and certainly not educational.

Obesity Epidemic

Look around. There are vast numbers of children these days who are morbidly obese. This is not healthy for them, and it is, for the most part, a direct result of sitting on their collective butts eating the most heavily advertised snacks and playing on their assorted electronic devices.

Learning Deficits

No only are today's kids getting fatter at earlier ages from parking on their rears and munching unhealthy snacks, but they are becoming mentally lazy as well. (TV is not 100% to blame, there--but that's a subject for a different article),

Learning deficiencies and trouble in school can be traced directly to too much TV watching. Because they are watching a visual medium, and accustomed to hearing words spoken, they do not read unless made to do so in school. (I assure you, that is not enough reading to make words 'stick.') Because they do not read, they don't see how words are spelled and used. As a result, their spelling skills are atrocious at best; nonexistent at worst.

Hence, the proliferation of what is now two generations (starting with the generation of my own kids, and now into the era of my grand-kids), who do not seem to know (or worse, care) about the differing meanings of sound-alike words such as, "they're," "their," and "there."

The Death of Imagination

Sitting passively watching TV, or playing with some electronic device is a death knell for the imagination. All the action and reaction is done for them, by the actors or characters in the show or game. The kids don't even have to think!

OK, so some may argue that directing a virtual race car down a raceway, or a little guy through a maze of hazards qualify as eye-hand coordination exercises. Perhaps, up to a point, but that point doesn't go far. It's all repetitive motion. Are we raising the next generation of carpal-tunnel syndrome sufferers?

Take away their electronics, and shoo today's kids outdoors to go play, and how many of them can think of anything to do? Younger kids may still be convinced to ride their bikes or skateboards, and get some exercise, but what of older kids, who seem to think those are for "babies?"

No--when they get bored, and have inadequate parental supervision and involvement in their lives, they are more likely to get into trouble on the wrong side of the law--whether it be graffitti or other forms of vandalism, or something more serious, such as stealing cars and going for joy rides.Why? Because they are acting out what they have watched all their favorite characters doing in the movies, and in those video games, that's why! They are emulating their "heroes," without having any real concept of what a hero is supposed to be.

Be a family! Be involved with your kids. The TV is not a surrogate babysitter. It's the brain-eating zombie!

So, How Much TV Is Too Much?

Even if I were raising my kids today, I would still stick with my earlier standards. You can pick one or two shows to watch after school. Any more than that deadens the mind...then you must find other things to do. Learn to cook. Draw pictures--art is great for the imagination. Older kids can learn to help with routine car maintenance. Do family activities such as camping and hiking.

So, turn off the TV, go outside and play for real! You might like it!


Submit a Comment
  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    6 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, nextstopjupiter, More education, and less manipulation by politicians is, indeed is the key! Thanks for stopping by and adding your support to this (radical? new?) concept! ;-)

  • nextstopjupiter profile image


    6 years ago from here, there and everywhere

    More education, less manipulation, you only can achieve this with less or without tv for your children. Thanks for this hub!

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    7 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi there, prairieprincess,

    Thank you very much! It is, indeed, nice to meet another of our rare and endangered species. ;-)

    I doubt you'd get anyone to 'throw away' their TV, but maybe unplug it for a week or so as an experiment....

    Rant on, there, my friend...rant on! Thanks very much for adding your perspective.

  • prairieprincess profile image

    Sharilee Swaity 

    7 years ago from Canada

    Bravo, Izzy!!! Like you, I grew up without a television, too, and am very grateful. When I was five years old, my Mom and Dad threw out the t.v. because they wanted a home where we would use our imagination, and not just watch the "boob tube." What an act of love that was.

    In university, I did a speech in public speaking class urging people to throw away their television. I do watch it now, but lived many years even as an adult without one.

    It's nice to meet a fellow "grew up with a t.v.-er!" We are a rare breed. I loved your hub. Shared and voted up and more!!! Have a wonderful day!

    p.s. One more thing: I completely agree with you on the "one hour a day" thing on television. That drives me mad! One hour a day??? Kids should be playing all day on a Saturday, and after school! This may be a bit of a rant, but I am ranting right along with you!!! :)

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    7 years ago from Oakley, CA

    You're right--boredom is not all bad. But as far as the 'increased need for supervision' goes... parents past, present and future should always watch their kids. But you can still go out and play safely.

    The thing is (and I know this from having 'inside information' about the broadcast business), the slogan for the news media is, "If it bleeds, it leads!" So, you HEAR all about the predators...becuase it sells ads. There are not actually more of them than in the past. It is only a matter of perception, because of our current ability to instantaneously flash every bit of news worldwide. That makes it SEEM like it is happening more and more, but it was actually a far worse problem back in distant history, before there were laws protecting kids.

    The truth of the matter is, the majority of "abductions" are family disputes of one sort or another, and the "stranger abductions" are actually few and far between. We just hear about them now, and in the past, we did not...back then, we lived in a world of, "ignorance is bliss." But, all of that is a whole other new hub....

    Thank you for joining the conversation.

  • izettl profile image

    Laura Izett-Irwin 

    7 years ago from The Great Northwest

    Every child is different. I used to really be anti-TV and said my kids would never watch it. I have a 5 yr old who probably watches about 2 hours a day- she is not at all obese, extremely creative and shuts the TV on her own after about an hour of cartoons in the morning.

    today is different than days before and generations before...unfortunately we can't just send our kids out to play anymore without eagle eye supervision- more predators, closer proximity to predators, higher population, etc. More moms are working outside the home...exhausted parents don't exercise with their kids after work. Also even in my generation (30-40) our cartoons were silly and irrelevant nonsense, but nowadays they have many kids shows with learning themes tied into it. It's like everything else...balance. I don't think Tv is harmful- I can think of a myriad of things my daughter has learned from tv (shows I approve of).

    Having said that, I think more kids need to be bored- so many have access to stimuli 24/7. Let me tell you my daughter gets bored and that's usually when she gets most creative- I believe in boredom. I was an only child and had many boring times- that's when I would write and do other creative endeavors.

    Great article still, voted up

    I noticed Glimmertwinfan's comment above- there is a lot of junk on tV, but now more than ever there is a lot of great programs as well- chekc your local PBS tv channel, Nick Jr, Disney Jr. Many of these have learning aspects and quality shows.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    7 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hi there, Glimmer Twin Fan,

    Thanks so much for your contribution. I'm pleased you liked the article. Playing outdoors is so much healthier, and contributes to socialization skills. These kids "hanging with their friends" in the virtual world of cyberspace don't have any real people skills, for a good many of their so-called friends are not local, so they cannot truly get to know them as people. I firmly believe that an addiction to such things as FaceBook and Twitter starts much earlier with an addiction to watching too much TV.

  • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

    Claudia Mitchell 

    7 years ago

    On the spot hub! We limit our daughter's tv time and are pretty strict about enforcing the rules. It's also the first thing she loses when she gets in trouble. There really is so much junk out there on tv. Luckily we live in a neighborhood where she can go out and play with other kids.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    7 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello girishpuri,

    I'm glad you found the article useful. Thank you for commenting.

  • girishpuri profile image

    Girish puri 

    7 years ago from NCR , INDIA

    very much useful share for children, voted useful.

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    7 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, Mhatter99,

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your perspective. I'm not sure if your final remark means you succumbed to TV, or limited it.... But, I appreciate your comment. Cheers.

  • Mhatter99 profile image

    Martin Kloess 

    7 years ago from San Francisco

    It was Nov. 1. my son, Peter,was 1. I was bouncing him on my knee. I realized this wasn't going to last forever. My family did "everything together". Time was very valuable. TV was the final frontier...

  • DzyMsLizzy profile imageAUTHOR

    Liz Elias 

    7 years ago from Oakley, CA

    Hello, TToombs08,

    Glad you liked the article, (or was it just a rant?).. I'd so much rather go out and play--to this very day--even though my current physical condition and that of my husband's limits us a great deal. Thanks very much for your input and the votes!

  • TToombs08 profile image

    Terrye Toombs 

    7 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

    Great advice, DZ! Growing up, the TV shows available in Alaska were very limited, so we did spend a lot of time either outside or doing other stuff. I have noticed a lot of the decline you've mentioned, it's a sad state, isn't it? Really enjoyed this. Voted up and more! :)


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