Before discussing appropriate television show for children and families, let make this disclaimer. Television should be at the bottom of your ‘to do’ list. For our 21 years of married and family life, we have never had cable TV, widescreen, satellite, dish, or even a second TV until a few years ago. The only network that comes in at all is PBS. We can’t afford it, but most of all aren’t interested in TV. As an educator, I’ve watched first hand the negative effects of television and its ‘dumbing down’ influence.
I don’t say this to remonstrate with those who love their cable, satellite, etc. I don’t hold myself up as paragon of virtue and purity. And just to illustrate the theory of reverse psychology, when our daughter moved out on her own, what did she first do? Install cable in her apartment, naturally! Which may be a red alert to Dad and I that we’ve been too pedantic (aka anal retentive) about TV. But you’ll admit, I’m sure, that a little television goes a long way.
Of all our children, our youngest watches the most television. She is also the first to have a TV in her room at age 10 (a cheap $60 13 inch set with no cable, by the way). This is partly due to her being our youngest; have we relaxed a bit? Sure. But she also watches primarily only PBS (by choice, she loves the shows!). And she is always doing something while the TV is on: crafts, playing, cleaning her room (occasionally), etc.
So for the TV watching families, we know it’s important to choose family shows wisely. It’s also important when children are under 12 to watch more mature TV shows with children. I have a rule of thumb for choosing family television shows. Comedy: think older. Drama: think younger. Family comedy shows should not insult anyone’s intelligence. Opt for more mature adult comedies rather than insipid, foolish comedies.
Naturally, I don’t mean crude or sleazy comedy. That’s not mature or adult. Crude humor is just a lazy copout, a poor excuse for quality comedy. If a comedy show is good overall, but a makes a few questionable references, it’s preferable to demeaning candy-coated TV shows. If you insist that you children, especially older children watch only 100% pure as the driven snow content you do not enable them to cope with everyday situations that arise. Our world is not sterile. If children are prevented from hearing anything questionable, they do not learn to question and discern.
In my next installment on Children and television, I’ll cover drama shows; how to choose family drama and how drama affects children.