How Much TV? Again

Visit this site for list of questions that parents can use to help children evaluate television advertisements.

Right now, around Superbowl weekend, lots of people write and debate about how much television is okay for young children to watch, and many parents wring their hands about manipulative advertising. This brings back memories.

I don’t talk about this often, but 29 years ago when our television broke, we had a new baby and not enough money, so we decided to put off the purchase of a new TV. The delay went on for six years until our daughter was seven years old. Originally we did not make a decision out of any deep philosophical principles — and back then there was a lot less research about the effect of TV-watching on young children — we simply did not have money that we wanted to spend on a new set just then (or we had other things we wanted to purchase , I really don’t remember). However, gradually we forgot our plans to purchase a new television because we liked what happened in our family.

We read more, we listened to music more, we ate less junk food, and during the times we were at home, we played lots of games and read. We also read aloud, all the time, to our daughter. In fact, we read so much that sometimes we needed to go to the public library two times a week. Listening to the radio, sometimes NPR and at other times classical or oldies was a regular activity, and we went to movies. Until she was over five years old, our daughter never asked why we did not have a television. After she was five when she did ask, we shook our heads sadly and said that it broke down and cost too much to purchase a new one just then. Oh, and we never told her that she could not watch if she was some place where others were sitting in front of a set.

Eventually we did purchase a new TV around the time our daughter was in first, or maybe it was second, grade. A Summer Olympics was coming up, and we all wanted to watch the gymnastics, soccer, and track. On an exciting shopping trip we purchased a small television, and we really enjoyed those Olympics. But our patterns were set, and we had way too many things to do to make much time for television. We did not need to limit our daughter’s TV watching — she enjoyed a few programs, but she too had lots to do. She especially enjoyed Sesame Street, and she got all of the inside jokes, word plays, and clever comments, mostly because she was so well read.

Best of all, she missed out on five years of advertising that was targeted toward children.

Note: the above graphic links to the Media Literacy Clearinghouse where, where Frank Baker, a media literacy leader, provides information and wide-ranging resources for parents and educators. Share this resource with the teachers, religious leaders, and other important adults in your child’s life.

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