I have had a very mixed relationship with TV throughout the years.
As young kids my brothers and I pretty much had the romanticised Aussie’s childhood. Hanging out with neighbour’s kids, backyard cricket, playing in the backyard generally – pretty much bronzed Aussies. We were real outdoor kids. That is, until 5pm came around.
When the clock ticked over 5 someone would suddenly realise that it was time for Inspector Gadget or Monkey and we’d be racing for the door, jostling for spots on the lounge. Yelling ‘bags Penny’ or ‘bags being Brain’ or ‘bags Claw’. Each of us would claim a character in the show for that episode. It was like whatever cool things happened to that character, or whatever glory fell on their heads were, by way of virtue through association, yours for the afternoon.
There were some golden TV shows in those days when James Valentine was not a 702 Radio Host but host of the Afternoon Show. The Goodies, Cities of Gold, the superb if not a bit radical for its day Degrassi Junior High…. But I’m getting side tracked here reminiscing.
When high school came around my TV habits were not so healthy. At about 3:30 I’d walk in the door, plonk in front of the TV and settle in for about 2 or so hours straight of TV watching whilst completing my homework in front of the ‘idiot box’. The backyard playing days had gone as I ticked over the years into teenagedom and dear old ‘Aunty’ (the ABC) was also betrayed for channel 7. I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched re-runs were staples. Mash and Wheel of Fortune often featured. The TV would also usually come back on again later in the evening for my new found addiction that commenced in 1988: Home and Away – or as my father called it ‘Moaning Away’.
Thankfully for my health this practice only continued for the first two years of high school. In year 9 I joined ‘runfit’ – the school running group. From then on most days after school I could be running around the streets and playing run across at the oval and discovering the joys of running.
So now how do I relate to TV as an adult and what are my practices with my kids?
Today I rarely watch TV. We occassionally get a hold of a good series like The West Wing or Battlestar Gallactica and enjoy a weekly dose of House when it’s on, but apart from the odd 7:30 Report (who will replace Kerry??) or Insiders or Q and A that’s about it for adult TV.
As an adult I’ve learnt to appreciate my time. I value doing things like exercising and the odd bit of sewing and writing above watching TV and so choose to just be quite focussed in what I watch rather than just having the box on continually with poor quality programming.
Now to the kids….
I have a conflicted relationship with TV and my kids.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that kids over 2 years old have no more than 1-2 hours of screen time (including TV and computers etc.) per day and discouarges any viewing for kids under 2.
I’ve been trying hard to stick to this recommendation. Mostly we do. Until recently our kids only watched ABC kids. In the past couple of months though they’ve started watching Dora and Diego (bright and early on a Saturday morning) and have thus been exposed to the interesting world of TV advertising for the first time. The oldest (6) also usually has a short session or two on the computer each day playing games.
A couple of my friends have no TV in their house. Their kids have been brought up on healthy doses of books and play (with the odd DVD played on the laptop). Sometimes I have wished I was a strong enough parent to do this. Other times I really appreciate the quality of some of the shows my kids watch and the pleasure it brings them. When my oldest son was about 2, life would have been very difficult without TV. He used to wake up for the day a touch before 5am. After a night of broken sleep (the same son was the cause of this) lying down on the couch with him and switching on Thomas the Tank Engine gave me enough time to gather the energy to face the day.
So at the moment I’m still aiming each day for the ideal 2 hours or less. There are days when they’re home sick from school or preschool which certainly feature more than 2 hours of TV. There are also the occassional times when the ‘TV babysitter’ goes on when mum just has to get something done and the kids aren’t occupying themselves well enough to let me, or when I’m sick. But I do tend to feel I’ve let myself (and my kids) down when I do this.
Interestingly, I also think that watching too much TV gets my kids a bit grouchy. Sometimes I have used TV as a distraction from sharing arguments and the like for the kids. Reflecting on this though I reckon that it didn’t really solve the problem, just delayed dealing with it. As soon as they see the toy they were fighting over again the problem usually resurfaces and still has to be dealt with. So I think when I can it is probably better to avoid the TV ‘distractor’ and work on resolving the problem then and there.
What is your relationship with TV? How did you view it as a kid and if you have kids how do they use it now?
Image taken from http://www.flickr.com/photos/robotbastard/72234656/sizes/o/in/photostream/ with thanks to Mid-Century Press.