I spent my formative years in front of the television. Most of my childhood memories involve watching All in the Family, Taxi, Rhoda, Eight Is Enough, and The Brady Bunch with a bowl of nutritionally rich Cocoa Krispies perched on my lap. Somehow I survived–and actually still like to read and go outside to play. Oh, and I’m also non-violent and know the difference between appropriate and inappropriate language.
I don’t see television as the enemy. I feel it offers myriad opportunities for teachable moments, not to mention the cultural references young people need to communicate with their fellow television-watching peers.
But when it became clear that my children LOVE television, I have to admit to feeling a wee bit of guilt as I watched their eyeballs glaze over, their postures become slouchy, and their demeanors transform to essentially unresponsive as they engaged with (oh, let’s be honest, became hypnotized by) their favorite shows.
For a number of years, television for the kids was limited to PBS–educational TV, the best of the best. But then something happened. I guess Oscar and Edgar got a little older and a whole lot savvier and realized there actually were other stations. We expanded their repertoire with some selective viewing from the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. Still all good.
But then came Star Wars: The Clone Wars and “Mom, can I watch Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Cartoon Network?” Cartoon Network . . . the place where good brain cells go to die. But it was Star Wars and a love affair like no other. So, we relented. And surprise, surprise, Star Wars: The Clone Wars is not the only show offered on this station. And soon we had little budding fans of Johnny Test, The Kids Next Door, and (good grief) Chowder on our hands.
And every 15 minutes or so, Oscar and Edgar would come out of their television-induced stupor and utter statements such as “Mom, do you feel you’re paying too much for your car insurance?” and “Did you know that toy is only sold at Wal-Mart?” Ah, commercial television. It was a new experience for us.
About two weeks ago, though, the television in the boys’ play room stopped working–well, not entirely, it’s just stuck on Channel 6 and no one can figure out how to change it. (This is true–not just a parental trick, I promise.) And Channel 6 is not Cartoon Network.
Suddenly the television is on a lot less. The boys are playing together a lot more. And with screen time significantly reduced, I can see that the brain cells hadn’t died–they just went away for a bit, eager to return to the rich world of a young child’s imagination.
Television is not the enemy, but ours breaking reminded me that it’s one of those friends we should visit sparingly–one that doesn’t always bring out our best qualities but can be a whole lot of fun in moderation–not to mention a fabulous source of information about good deals on car insurance.