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Why You Should Let Your Children Watch TV

Updated on August 9, 2011

I am so incredibly sick and tired of hearing everybody and their mother condemn the television. I'm also tired of hearing people insist that 4 hours of television on a daily basis is a bad, bad thing -- only to turn around and spend 6+ hours on the internet. 6+ hours which, I think we can all be sure, is unlikely to have been spent purely on intellectual pursuits.

I'm also sick of people equating television violence with real crime in society, when the stats clearly indicate a steady decline in real crime over the last decade or so. Frankly, the 5 o'clock news is far more depressing and far, far more disturbing than anything else shown on television. Then again, real life can be scary and dangerous, and you're not doing your kid any favors by pretending otherwise until he goes off to college.

Learn To Trust Your Own Instincts

I'm not saying your kid ought to be watching TV all day, nor am I saying they should be allowed to watch anything and everything. No, I'm saying you should act like the parent you were meant to be, logically and intuitively determining what is acceptable and what isn't. You will never achieve this via some one-dimensional manual you found at Waldenbooks. Your child is not a carbon copy of the kid next door, give him some credit. Stop putting your faith in the latest child expert and put more of it into your child -- he's young, not stupid.

Place Blame Where It Really Belongs

There are a number of issues I could focus on for this, but I'm going to choose teen pregnancy. Should we blame this phenomenom on the sex Junior happened to see on TV last night? No. We can blame that on the ridiculous way so many parents freak out when it comes to anything related to sex. Parents who make it so taboo a subject, and so "wrong, nasty, dirty or bad" that sex becomes incredibly tempting by the time a kid reaches puberty. It's a lot like drugs and alcohol -- but with the added side-effect of pregnancy. How many parents threw a fit when Janet Jackson's nipple flashed across the television screen? Um, guess what? If you'd ignored it, or just shrugged it off, your kid would have forgotten it before bedtime. But so many parents pitched such a laughable fit, that Junior probably went and googled as many nipples as he could find. A bit counterproductive, methinks.

TV Can Inspire Your Child's Creativity and Imagination

Nearly every kid I went to school with was obsessive about certain television programming. I grew up in the 80s, and the schoolyard was always full of kids running around pretending to be the A-Team, Knight Rider, The Incredible Hulk, or Wonder Woman. The games would continue after school whenever possible. This was normal, it was fun, and our parents didn't spaz out about our obsessions, because that was back when parenting was still intuitive, as opposed to the zombie cult it seems to be turning into. Playing make-believe, it was called. And if you think it didn't require a fair amount of imagination and intelligence to create new villains, new crises, new heroes, new costumes, etc, you're sorely mistaken. That, or you've forgotten what it's like to be a child, and that's even scarier, really!

This Creativity Comes In Handy As An Adult.

I am a professional singer, writer and graphic designer, in that order. If television was the evil it's now portrayed as being, I might not be any of these things. I don't have a lot of time for TV today (though it still inspires me when I do have time) but, as a child, I'd guess that I watched 4 or 5 hours a day during the week (after-school cartoons through prime time; I wasn't allowed to watch anything after 9 until I was in my teens) and probably 8 hours each day on the weekend (4 for morning cartoons and 4 for evening TV). I did not have ADD in school, I was a Straight-A student and my IQ is high enough that mentioning it here would only seem arrogant. I may have looked like I was spacing out as I sat there in front of the TV, but I was enthralled. I was captivated. More importantly, I was inspired.

I hear people say kids turn into vegetables when they watch TV, that they stare and start to look funny. Hello? That's called being engrossed. Take a look at a theater full of people watching the latest James Bond film. Funnily enough, they look pretty much the same. Are you going to start calling for the closure of movie theaters? Are you going to stop going there yourself? Not. Stop treating your child like his brain is totally useless unless exposed to things the latest "expert" thinks he ought to be exposed to. His brain works just fine, and his imagination is important -- stop trying to kill it off just because some parenting guru says TV is bad.

True, Not All TV Is Good TV.

Yeah, ok, not all TV is good TV. Much of it sucks, even if you're an adult. Programs that star leads with major apathy issues should not be shown to children, this much I will agree with. Programs that show death in as bizarre a manner as Dexter does, should be avoided, and some others as well. I'm with you, in these cases.

But Network TV Isn't All That Bad.

I don't watch a lot of US Television these days, but Network TV like ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox are generally pretty good. I can't imagine having to ban your child from seeing any of these programs (apart from Jerry Springer and other absurdities). In some cases, fantastic shows like House show things that could make one squeamish, but come on, did you never see anything like that on TV when were a kid? Did it ruin you? I thought not.

Science Fiction is Fabulous

I am not into Sci-Fi; I've only ever watched a handful of it in my life. The reason I champion it (and your kids watching it) is how creative it is. And how much REAL science has developed because of it. Many inventors will tell you they saw a concept on Star Trek and made it a reality. If that hour of television wasn't productive -- for the scientist and society both -- I dunno what is.

Cartoons Are Great, Too.

They spark imagination and creativity just as much as good telly does. In my day it was He-Man, She-Ra, Spiderman, and more -- and kids acted these shows out the same as they did The Hulk and others. It was fun, it was creative and it was mentally stimulating. Doesn't matter if your grown-up brain doesn't get it; let your kid be a kid, for God's sake! Fantasy is a majorly important part of a child's development, especially if they grow up to become singers, writers, graphic designers, painters, artists, actors or anything else that requires imagination!

Don't Fall For The Fad

I've seen some pretty silly arguments made in favor of preventing kids from watching TV. One of them claims that kids are more likely to be fat if they watch a lot of TV. Guess what? Americans nowadays are more likely to be fat, in general, because many of you spend most of your time sitting down, whether it be at the office, in a car or at your kitchen table. 4 hours of sitting in front of the TV did not make me fat, and I ate a lot as a kid. I also played softball, rode horses and swam on a regular basis. And I walked a lot. Kids who get fat from watching a few hours of TV are either being overfed, or they are not getting enough exercise. I've also seen the claim that kids are less likely to listen to their parents when watching television. Hello??? Who is the rocket scientist who came up with this gem? Captain Obvious? I'm 32, and I'm unlikely to pay you much mind during House, either. In fact, I will probably give you a good telling off if you try to talk to me during it!

So How Do You Stop Kids From Watching Truly Adult Themes?

And let's be clear.. we're using my definition here, not some puritanical definition. Anything which promotes drug use, sex for the sake of sex, or killing for the sake of killing, is not something you want your kid to see. It's not even something many adults want to see, so I don't blame you for wanting to keep Junior from setting his eyes on it.

The Solution is Pretty Simple -- Get Rid of Your Pay TV Channels.

Oh my.... did most of the parents just go silent? I think I even heard a gulp or two. The fact is, most of the crap you don't want your kids to see is on Showtime and other pay channels. Yeah, the same ones you like to watch when Junior goes to bed. If you get rid of your cable, that pretty much solves the problem, as network TV is overly censored and your kid isn't going to be exposed to anything worth having a hissy over.

What amuses me about this ridiculously simple solution, is how so many of those parents who are "willing to do anything for the sake of their child's development" suddenly draw a line at getting rid of cable; which means TV is pretty damned important to them. Somewhat hypocritical, if not slightly ironic, parents being overly concerned about what their child is going to learn from television -- but not being the slightest bit concerned about what the child is learning from the parent in the process.


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