Limit the TV

Limit the TV

by Craig Smith
When talking about this subject
of limiting TV viewing,
feedback from parents suggests
that frequently it’s the
parent who wants the TV on, not necessarily the children.
Children are trained to watch TV so that parents
can get some work done. TV appears to be a great tool
for controlling children or keeping them occupied for
a while. But hopefully most of us are learning that TV
is not without its side effects.
The more difficult job as parents is probably not the
weaning of our children off too much TV – it is weaning
ourselves off the tube. If we have trained our children
to watch TV so that they leave us alone, it means
they haven’t learned how to play independently. If
they have become dependent on us to provide entertainment,
we have not done them any favours. They
do need to learn how to find their own activities if we
really cannot have them helping us out just now.
Or perhaps we need to re-examine why we want them
to leave us alone so much. Are we trying to do too
much, things outside of our calling as home educators
and as parents? Is the “good” represented by these
other projects of ours robbing us of the ability properly
to perform our calling, our “best”? Do we too often
put the children on the back-burner “just until I get
through this busy patch”? Perhaps, especially as home
educators, we can far more profitably use that time
building into our children’s lives ourselves, rather than
letting whatever happens to be on the tube (or the
VCR) get built into them.
Will our children get bored if they don’t watch TV? If
they have access to a variety of activities, art and craft
supplies, playthings, etc. (as appropriate for their ages)
they will prefer to engage their minds in activity rather
than staring at a blank wall or grizzling to us. Unlike
watching TV, children engaged in activities are thinking.
They may think up activities we wouldn’t desire
(like emptying all the shampoo bottles down the sink)
which means they need a bit more monitoring than the
genuine TV-induced couch potato does.
Some say children need to blob out in front of the TV
to relax. Test out the thesis: objectively observe their
behaviour after an hour of racy TV viewing and then
after an hour of reading a good book (or having one
read to them). Most of us already know instinctively
the outcome of such observations. Boys especially like
to watch action-packed adventure and will come away
revved up. They may also be really discontented,
somewhat confused and frustrated by the way evil and
vanity are glorified, the way righteousness is scoffed
at, the “adult” themes contained in many “children’s”
shows today and the degree of violence portrayed.
What about limiting TV in our homes? As with most

parenting issues, it’s amazing how compliant children

become when they know you mean it! They seem to

thrive on clear, bold boundaries consistently and rigorously


Our children really enjoy the “Friday night only” rule

we have. (This is for videos: we almost never allow

the TV to go on). Their anticipation of those evenings

is half the fun.

Surely the argument that our children need to be totally

clued-up on the latest TV offerings in order to

maintain friendships or be culturally relevant in order

to witness to them is nearly antithetical to what Christian

home education is all about. Our Christian home

training, where they are more socialized by us parents

than by their peers, makes them really different already.

They’ll learn about the TV shows if they hang

around many TV-watching friends. (Actually that is a

pretty good argument for being a lot more vigilant

about them hanging around such friends! So much

pollution is to be had from that source and often so

very little of value to gain.)

I know for a fact that my brain was definitely hurt by

all the TV watching I did my first 27 years. It molded

by attitudes from an early age in ways that are totally

contrary to Scripture. Those attitudes I am still trying

to weed out, even though I cut TV viewing back to a

point approaching absolute zero nearly 25 years ago.

Just think what I could have learned if I’d invested

that earlier TV-time more profitably! It pretty well

goes without saying that the best lessons learned in

life, the most valuable experiences, were acquired

through living in the real world, not by a vicarious TV


Even today with videos only once a week, I feel the

tension creep in almost immediately, feel unsettled for

hours afterwards and sometimes regret the waste of

time and/or the way it cut into sleep or reading time.

One needn’t be a rocket scientist to realise that almost

any activity will stimulate greater intellectual development,

nurture the imagination, reduce cynicism and

foster a closer child-parent relationship than watching

the box. Since many of us were raised with the tube as

our mentor, it is not always immediately easy for us to

provide alternatives now.

A few starting points are a must: Do not put a TV in

your child’s room. Do not allow unsupervised access

to TV. Set a maximum amount of TV allowed per

week: consider making this limitation binding on the

entire family, parents included, to be really effective

and to gain extra benefits for us parents as well. Insist

our children ring us before watching a TV show or

video at a friend or even a relative’s place. If we say,

“No,” our children are not likely to suffer the social

penalty and be thought of as weird: we parents will! It

protects our children from ugly TV/video shows as

well as from most of the social fallout and forces us to

come up with a sound viewing policy

(Adapted and edited from material by Christine Della


From Keystone Magazine

January 2004 , Vol. X No. 1
P O Box 9064
Palmerston North
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Fax: (06) 357-4389

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