Television? Really? Won’t that ruin kids’ brains?

I want to reassure you about something so I’m going to write a lot here – to get my point across. My kids are 19, 22, and 25. They are not slackers by anybody’s standards. They are straight-A college students, one in graduate school. They are people of good character – they are responsible and honest and hard-working and kind. AND – they watch TV – they have unabashed love for movies and tv shows. They didn’t grow up with the idea that TV is bad for you, they are untainted by guilty feelings when watching, and so they can simply enjoy it. They have wide-ranging tastes – from PBS documentaries to Family Guy. They can be watching a Great Performances opera broadcast and move on to South Park. They all read – a lot. Really a lot. They’ve all three written novels (NaNoWriMo novels) and lots of short stories and other stuff. They are engaged in life – they do a ton of volunteer work and have super active social lives. They really are just fine – more than fine – and they all watched a lot of tv, all their lives.

In our household, we have a big-screen, high-def tv in the living room. It has an x-box 360 and a wii hooked up to it – both of those can also stream Netflix directly to the tv. We have several laptops that sometimes someone watches on, even while somebody else might be watching something on the big tv. We have a couple of little-bitty netbooks, too, and sometimes a couple of us might cuddle up together and watch something on one of those (close to book-size). We have another tv in our bedroom – which sometimes my husband uses to watch international soccer when the rest of us might be watching a more girlie movie that he loses interest in <g>. My 19 yo frequently watches tv shows on her iPod. She also has a desktop computer in her room with a big screen and she sometimes watches tv episodes on that. I also have downloaded some tv shows onto my  little iPod nano – and occasionally watch on that. I watched most of Mad Men on it.

With all this tv-watching, you must think we’re slugs. But, no. Roxana does musical theater and plays and has rehearsals many many nights and long weekends of multiple performances. She is a double-major at a university (drama and history). She is in a sorority and is an officer in her sorority and they do all kinds of philanthropic activities, plus a lot of social stuff. Rosie is a more than full time college student and has a job teaching karate classes. She also plays soccer three days a week and does musical theater. She has a boyfriend and a lot of friends – one group that gets together for a long day of playing board games about once a week.  Roya has a full-time job as director of “Access to Adventure” – she plans and carries out exciting excursions for adults with developmental disabilities – just got back from a week in Mexico. She’s now in graduate school – starts today – planning to become a licensed marriage and family therapist. She will be spending a week on an uninhabited island in June – part of the staff for a challenge course for college students. She’s got a degree in Recreation and Leisure Studies and has also worked in the Alaskan back country as an assistant forest ranger. She’s getting married in August. She’s a ceramicist, a spinner and knitter, and she writes poetry.  She works out at a gym almost every day and she has a big dog that she works on training almost every day.  Oh – and she has a huge veggie garden and recently made about 30 jars of lemon and orange marmalade.

I tell you all these things – and I could list more – not to brag. I want you to know that unlimited, unrestricted television truly did not harm my kids. It contributed and still contributes to their enjoyment of life and it has been a significant contributor to their knowledge of the world and to their critical thinking abilities. We all watch a few shows together and have a blast doing it. We watch Project Runway – and talk and talk about the designs and what we like and don’t like and so on. We watch LOST and we talk and talk about the clues and we try to figure it all out and predict what’s going to happen. We watch The Office and we laugh together (and sometimes cringe) and we analyze what makes people act the way they do. We also go to a LOT of live theater. Weekend before last we saw The Beaux Stratagem (a 300-year old play by Farquhar). This past weekend we saw, live, “Grease” and “Working” AND a live musical theater review show (12 minute versions of 10 different musicals)that Roxana was in (she played Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors). This weekend we will probably see two different dance shows. Coming up we already have tickets to see Weird Al Yankovic.

In a couple of weeks three of us are getting on a train to travel for 30 hours up to the Life is Good unschooling conference. Two summers ago we took the train from California to New York City and back.

Are you tired yet? (Yeah, writing some of this out makes me realize why I am so tired at the end of every day.)

My point is that all that tv watching isn’t creating sluggards or dullards. We’re busy and active – more busy and active than most families, including those who don’t allow more than one hour of tv per night, etc.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. melanie
    May 12, 2010 @ 21:39:39

    This is very similar to my own family’s experience! Thanks for sharing!

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  2. Ronnie
    May 13, 2010 @ 07:39:20

    I’m exhausted now. lol. Fun post, though, thanks!

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  3. lisa
    May 13, 2010 @ 09:05:05

    Love it. I have a 7 year old, and on the one day a week that we aren’t running around doing all sorts of fun stuff, he may watch 8 or 9 hours of tv … but not all at once, never while sitting still, and the joy he gets from it is palpable (and he learns so much too – it’s totally obvious.

    Right now we are on an RV trip, so although he has unlimited access to his ipod and laptop and whatever he wants on it, everything else we are doing is **much** more fun to him.

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  4. Cathy
    May 13, 2010 @ 09:14:37

    I think TV and video/computer games get a bum rap for turning people into hermits or slackers because people who (for whatever reason) are hiding from the world or loathe to move their bods tend to watch a lot of TV or play a lot of video or computer games. In these cases, the TV/game doesn’t cause the problem; it’s a symptom of the problem.

    I also think that some of us are more susceptible to certain faults than others are…and probably a few moms who worry about the effect that TV or games has on their kids are right to worry. These moms are responding, not to some generalized no-no, not some cultural myth, but to the cues that their specific kids are giving them…

    That said, we love TV over here. Castle, Psych, The Mentalist, Community, Chuck…I also love The Daily Show and The Colbert Report…and of course Project Runway!

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  5. Lisa Galloway
    Oct 02, 2010 @ 15:07:22

    WHEW! Thank you SO much for this! I JUST posted a comment on another site about what to do with my son who sometimes does nothing BUT play games and watch TV all day.
    Last yr. he finished 3rd grade in the public (gak) school. We are about 2 mths. into ‘officially’ homeschooling/deschooling and I have been a basket case worrying about doing ‘nothing’! We DO read, and are starting to require some reading from him, but right now, ANYTHING that wreaks of ‘learning’ makes him want to run screaming. (literally)
    So thank you again, and again, I think I will take yet another deep breath and try to RELAX as things unfold, and now, I am confident that they will!
    Bless you!

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  6. Carpet Tiles
    Jan 25, 2011 @ 03:35:20

    “-* I am very thankful to this topic because it really gives great information ,.”

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