Tuesday, July 12, 2005

We don’t watch TV. We do own one—a single 19 year old set.

When The Girl was born, and we lived in The City, D and I would come home every night from our power jobs, pick her up from day care, and eat supper on the couch while watching “The Simpsons.” This went on till she was 2 ½, right about the time I realized that she really ought NOT be modeling the antics of Bart and Lisa. (We didn’t even have a table in our kitchen then, so we HAD to eat in front of the TV.)

We moved, I became a SAHM, we had The Boy, and the TV moved to its new home, the focal point of the living room. We didn’t watch during meals anymore, and there were no TVs in our bedrooms. But every weekday, The Girl, The Boy, and I would watch “Arthur,” followed by “The Magic School Bus” on PBS. I knew that no matter what the day was like, at 3:00 I could sit on the couch for an hour. We planned outings around being home by 3:00.

And as in most American families, it was all too easy every night to turn it on, sit, and absorb whatever cr*p it threw out. Network only (plus PBS and a couple independent stations)—we never had satellite or cable.

About three years ago (I know it was in the living room on 9/11), D understood that for everyone’s own good, we were going to move it upstairs to a back bedroom. I was uncertain about this decision. The Boy, not yet in school, could easily be entertained with a movie, and I thought I’d miss the convenience of having it (and him) so close when I was working in the kitchen. At three, he wasn’t the type to go watch a movie by himself, far away from everyone else.

It’s been great. One of the best things we’ve ever done.

We have a VCR, and a DVD player, and a complication of remotes to make it all work. No TIVO; the only thing we’ve recorded lately is Nova. (We have computer games that play when plugged into a TV—guess what, the TV is so ancient it doesn’t have the necessary port. They have to be used with a computer monitor. An Amiga monitor, in fact, because it’s the only one with built-in speakers.)

We do watch movies, mostly obtained free from the library, and D & I will very, very rarely watch TV—usually after our movie’s ended! The kids see no commercials, or stupid sitcom portrayals of families, or sexy images marketing something, or horrible local “news” feeds featuring the latest sad shooting, house fire, car wreck, or missing child. I can do all the worrying about such things quite enough for all of us, thank you very much. Nobody ever turns it on just to “see what’s on.”

Now when I do see kid TV (hotels, the grandparents’ houses), I’m struck not so much by the toy promotion as the food pushing. Fast food restaurants, goofy snacks, sugar water beverages. No wonder kids are fat.

So I don’t keep up with Survivor, 24, or Desperate Housewives. D doesn’t spend weekends watching sports (not that he every did). (The Boy is oddly fascinated by televised sports when he gets a glimpse, which is a little . . . unsettling.) I can’t make small talk about TV shows.

Are the kids socially isolated from their TV-watching peers? Yes. Good.
Are the kids super readers because of no TV? Yes. Great.
Am I surprised about what other parents let their kids watch? Constantly.
Am I well informed? Plenty, thanks to newspapers and the internet.

I’m not in the camp that says there should be a lot more censoring (either by government or the producers) of TV content. I’m firmly with those who say turn it off, just don’t watch if it offends you.


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