TV viewing is ubiquitous in our culture. I consider my husband and I enlightened but we still watch an embarassing amount of television each week. Of course, lots of research has been done on children watching too much TV. It seems obvious that using the TV as a babysitter is parenting neglect – but how far is too far?
Growing up we had a neighbor who only allowed her children to watch the first 1/2 of a Scooby Doo episode. Then they talked about how it could end. Although I see the imaginative value of this (and the interaction with the parent) this seems kind of excessive to me. I watched Scooby Doo after school every day. It was winding down time after school. Then the TV went off until later in the evening. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to strike this balance between having a TV free family (admirable but not for us) and throwing our hands up and worshiping the “stupid box.”
One of the things that really bothers me about television is commercials. Particularly those targeted at children. Studies have shown that children under 7 are not capable of distinguishing effectively between advertisements and the programs they are watching. Young children are also not able to understand persuasive intent, meaning they are much more likely to take claims at face value. All of this sets up a conflict between parent and child. Mommy, I want that…turns into a complex “if I don’t get it you don’t love me no one will like me at school I just want to die” spiral. Children are being programmed to be materialists and to learn to be unhappy because they don’t have an item.
I know for me materialism is an uphill battle. It is hard for me to see that a iPhone won’t make me happier. When I see a commercial I feel like I just HAVE TO HAVE IT. My adult reasoning skills and monthly budget help me rationalize. Children don’t have that capacity and perhaps the development of it is stunted by the influx of commercialism.
So, there are other problems with TV I’ll address at some point but DH and I agree that we would rather stock up on Barney (Barney? am I dating myself?) DVDs and limit exposure to corporate greed.