"The Television Is Destroying our Children… What Can We Do?"
Man, do I hear this all of the time! This summer, especially, I have received hundreds of e-mails and letters from distraught parents who are totally frustrated by the amount of television that heir children watch. They bemoan the fact that the programming is so violent and so morally corrupt. It seems that there is an article published daily extolling the evil influence of television on our children.
Just yesterday a mother contacted me saying that her son had learned to hit others from watching cartoons on TV! She wanted to know what to do about the hitting. “It’s all because of the TV!” she said. She was wondering what we could do about the terrible messages being delivered to us by the networks!
Get an "Off Button" and a "Channel-Changer"!
Well, I wanted to call the store that sold that lady that television and let them know that I feel it is immoral to sell television sets without channel changers or off buttons! This mother amazed me with her inability to see that the television set was hers and that it had controls on it that she could use to limit the amount and type of programming that her children watched!
The Critical Issue
There is an issue in this mother’s question that I believe to be even more important than this mom using the off-button and the channel-changer to limit viewing… and that is teaching the children to make intelligent choices of viewing for themselves.
What is the goal? Does this mother want to follow her children around for the rest of their lives making their viewing choices for them? Or… does she wish to teach her children how to make good choices of programs to watch? Does she want to be the one always placing limits on the time spent in front of a television when her children are forty, or does she wish to teach her children to place their own limits on how much time they devote to the television.
Children Can Learn To Make Great Choices
Children can be taught to make wonderful choices for themselves at a very early age. However, parents must make this a priority in their teaching!
I would suggest hat parents start out with this process of teaching at a very early age. I would suggest that children be allowed a certain number of hours per week that can be devoted to watching television. Then before any television is watched; and definitely before any television is turned on, the parents ought to engage in a discussion of what kind of programs are worthwhile. Now with two year-olds this discussion might center on which cartoons the child likes and why.
Select the Time
Next, parents ought to spend some time with their children selecting the most reasonable time to watch television.
Children Learn More from Doing than from Saying!
After selecting some programs that both parents and kids agree upon and selecting some times to watch some television, the parents should let the children know that the television will be off for the rest of the time. Very early children can learn that a television is not just a constant in the home. It is a machine that is controlled by the family and it is only on at times when the family makes a conscious choice to watch specific programming of their choice.
A Bold Recommendation:
"Do NOT have a Television Without a DVR!"
Now, I am going to go out on a limb here and make a recommendation to any parent that is quite unlike most of my recommendations. I rarely champion the purchase of any product, but here, I am going to suggest to parents that they not have a television in their home without a DVR (Digital Video Recorder). Now I am not pushing someone’s product. There are lots of brands and types of DVR’s. I am just saying that if you are going to have a television, you ought to have a DVR that allows your family to control the broadcasting that they watch!
A DVR is simply a new technology that has come into being in the past few years. They have been on the market for some time but only recently have become common. They used to only work with satellite television broadcasting but now are available for use with just about any form of television broadcasting.
For people who are not familiar with DVRs, they are simply very user friendly digital video recorders that allow you to record broadcasting so that you get to choose what you will watch and when you will watch it! A DVR allows a family to select certain programs that they would like to choose to watch. Then by selecting that programming from the schedule, the DVR will automatically record those programs and store them for watching at a time that the family chooses as a reasonable time to devote to television.
Take Control of Your TV!
By using a DVR, a family can take complete control of what programs are watched and when the programs are watched. The real danger of television to children is not the television itself. Watching some television is inherently bad for kids. There are lots of programs available that are very educational and worthwhile. The problem arises when the television is always on. The problem arises when nobody in the family is modeling selectivity in choosing the programming that the family watches.
Kids Learn by Doing!
Kids learn more from our backside than they do from our frontside. In other words children learn more from what we do than what we say. If children are raised in homes where the television is always on, they learn that television viewing really does not involve choice.
On the other hand, children raised in homes where the TV is only turned on at selected times and only selected programs are watched, they will learn to be very selective TV watchers!”
Children raised in homes with DVRs learn even more clearly that television is very selective in nature. They learn by participating in the process, that they are not victims of the television broadcast industry. Children raised in families where programming is selected very carefully, learn to to be very selective in their watching habits.
I would recommend that families make the process of choosing programming each week a family activity where the whole family sits down and selects the programming that they all agree to watch each week. Now, I do not mean that all members of the family must agree to watch the same stuff, nor do I suggest that all family members watch everything together. I would recommend that a family establish that each child gets to choose an hour or two of programming each week that is their exclusive right to pick.
Then I would suggest that the family together select one or two hours of television that all agree to watch together.
In families that I have seen do this, some very healthy behaviors emerge. Children begin to discuss the reasons why they select certain programs. In these discussions, values and morals always come into play. Religious and spiritual discussions always come up very naturally as the families discuss their choices of broadcasting. Parents can offer their own thoughts on program selection as they too select programs that they choose to watch.
Once the week’s selections have been made, the DVR can be programmed to record the chosen programs. Once this is done, another advantage of the DVR arises. When the programming is recorded, the viewers can fast forward through advertising and promotions for upcoming broadcasts, etc. and the actual chosen program takes much less time to watch.
By having the programming recorded and waiting for your family, the time given to watching becomes completely in your control. Television no longer competes with mealtime or bedtime. Television is watched at a time that the family chooses to watch it!
Take control of the television in your family. Teach your children to watch as a choice. Teach children to select carefully the ideas that they allow into their heads!