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American TV: The Good, the Bad, and the Really, Really Ugly

The other day I was sitting with one of the baseball moms and the topic of TV watching came up. I asked her: Do you let your children watch TV, and if so, what programs do you think are okay to watch. The friend I was talking to has 3 children ages 13, 11, and 7.  It was interesting to see that we both were on the same page here. We basically agreed that, except for cooking shows, there isn’t much we want our kids to see on TV these days.

Now, I have to say that our family doesn’t even own a real TV. The dusty black monstrosity we call our TV is from 1984. It was a gift  to my husband from his mom when he got married the first time around. Looks like that stupid TV outlasted the first marriage and is making it through the second one.  The complaints by the children have been constant over the years. They visit other friends houses and tell tales of giant flatscreen TVs in other kids’ bedrooms. They feel terribly deprived and they are convinced that we must be the poorest family in town.

But owning an old TV keeps temptation in check. For a while my husband managed to convince our son that there is no use asking Santa for a WI or x-box since our TV has no place to plug in such machines. Hahaha – evil laughter…

But seriously now. How much screentime is okay? And what programs do you think are okay to watch.

Most TV shows on American TV these days seem to revolve around reality themes. On those shows people are constantly being judged for their singing, dancing, success at weightloss, and other skills. Then there are the supernannies of the world teaching basic parenting skills, or the wife swappers teaching other families how to reconect and love their kids. Wow! How real is this reality TV? Whenever I come across such programming it makes me wonder in what universe these people exist. Homeschooling parents who don’t teach their children how to read and write? I am sure any homeschooling parent who reads this blog agrees that this is not how they roll.

It's really big and ugly, and it still works!

Is there any good TV? My friend at the ballpark stated that besides sports events, the only programs her family watches is cooking shows: Iron Chef, Worst Chef in America, and Restaurant Impossible. I pretty much agree. Maybe I would add some programs on the History Channel, the occasional animal/nature show, and the science dudes on Myth Busters who like to blow up stuff.

If you know of anything else worth watching, please let me know. And do come back next week. I would like to discuss some other kid TV programs I have decided are bad if not downright ugly…

12 thoughts on “American TV: The Good, the Bad, and the Really, Really Ugly

  1. I don’t know of anything worth watching and I feel my own children are better off not watching it at all. We do keep one very old and very tiny (that makes yours looks new and huge and shiny!) tv that we’ll all hop into my bed and watch a video on together every once in a while. But for us, tv just has no place in our daily lives. Now, that said, I do enjoy watching a couple of programs on Hulu in the evenings while I knit after the children have gone to bed, a few nights a week. Old habits die hard…. but it’s really not a habit I’d like to get them started on.

  2. I agree. We’ve been back & forth w/ the tv issue in our home. First antenna, then nothing, then cable, now nothing again. I find home life so much easier w/ out channels to surf. All the inappropriate shows that I had to explain over and over why we don’t watch. yikes, so glad to be rid of it. but we do have our selection of movies and watch maybe a little too much at times. I’m glad at least to be showing progress in this area and to be able to choose the movies we watch. We love classic movies. I also love not having all the advertisements we saw before. And again, I’m with Julie. I can’t help but keep up with a couple of shows online. One of my favs is Parenthood. Looking forward to your next post.

  3. I allow my son to watch up to an hour of educational cartoons a day, such as those on PBS. I watch along with him and, so far, I haven’t had to sensor anything. It has had unexpected benefits as well. He has learned things from the shows that I haven’t thought to teach him yet and many of the shows end with activities to do at home. I think television is fine as long as you monitor what your kids are watching and how long they watch it. The only downside for me is that companies market cartoon characters like crazy and I don’t enjoy seeing them on every isle of the grocery store promoting processed foods (though to be honest, my son will ask for anything with catchy cartoon packaging whether he recognizes the characters or not).

  4. My six year old was “watching” the original Miracle on 34th street at my sister’s house on Thanksgiving (older cousins, TV or Wii constantly on). He came to me really upset because someone “turned off the movie!”. Turns out it was a commercial break. He didn’t get it. (I was all worried it would make him start questioning the existence of Santa and ruin the whole magic thing so we turned it off after that).

    We don’t watch at home and pretty much everything on TV for children (including PBS) makes me cringe. My two kids have maybe an 8 movie repertoire that they have seen on DVD when they have been too sick (or I have been too sick) to do anything. They go months without seeing anything. Movies that I have been somewhat ok with include: Tales of Beatrix Potter – English version with animation and a live person intro; Mary Poppins; Lady & the Tramp (so-so); Totoro (a Japanese flick); The Red Balloon; March of the Penguins; maybe a couple others….

    Our TV looks like yours and we can’t get reception since they changed to the whole HD thing. Just as well.

    1. Wow, that is so interesting. I detest commercial breaks. When I was growing up in Germany they didn’t have that on TV. Not sure if it’s still that way. I can see how that would be hard to understand for a really young child! Thanks for sharing your story!

  5. The other day our 6.5 year old asked if she could come inside in just a few more minutes. She needed to sing goodnight to the birds. I am almost sure that if she were given the option to watch TV, the birds would have missed out on their lullaby.

  6. TV is a big issue at our house. We have decided to send our daughter to a Waldorf School that advocates no tv/screen time until she is older. Prior to this we let her watch some PBS shows for toddlers. She still tries to get to watch them and my mother-in-law tends to let her. The programs she likes (Sesame Street, Caillou, Curious George and Bob the Builder are her favorites) don’t bother me, but I do like watching her play creatively or be outside instead.

    1. I think it’s really hard for my kids when they go to other people’s houses and see that all types of programmes that we don’t let them watch. I know a lot of folks use TV as a babysitter…Very sad. A little girl who came to our house for a sleepover got really upset because I said we never turn the TV on in the early morning hours – EVER! She got mad because she has her own TV and pretty much watches all day during the summer when her parents are at work…Sigh!

  7. We do have a TV and I believe noting in itself is evil, everything is good in moderation. We use a appleTV and get netflex and hulu. We are able to prescreen what we want our children to watch. Some things like history just come to life by watching it! We are a homeschooling family so their is lots of reading, arts & crafts, outside play going on every day with a little TV!

  8. My children are all over 30 now, but I raised them with no TV and in an isolated rural area, and for as many years as possible, a small Montessori school. I have had time for a lot of retrospection and also feedback from my 2 daughters and son. I am often glad that their youth was pretty much before the electronic media frenzy and game world modern children have around. The choice to isolate children from the world at large, for obvious reason, and try to maintain control over what influences them and shapes their minds is an obvious choice by parents that care. I do feel now, in retrospect, that you have to find balance. Find a way to teach them of what is going on “out there” and why, as a family , you have made different choices. I think you decide on the age you feel alright about them watching a chosen movie. I don’t think babies, toddlers or 3 yr olds need to watch anything on TV at all, even movies you choose. I think as they get older, there is a place for chosen movies that have merit to them.
    While I did not have “TV”, I did let them watch movies that I bought because I thought they had a wholesome message or were a good learning experience. Now days, Netflix , at 8.99 subscription allows you to pick and choose a movie or tv show, with NO ADS and what they watch is totally in your control. I think there are worth while programs on Discovery, Animal Planet, etc, but the whole thing is for us to make the choice and have control of it, and taking the time of find out what would be a positive experience. PBS has some excellent programs. For older children, this allows them to be apart of the modern world in you can still control. They can show and teach things that expand the child,s experiences in a way that we cannot. And the other thing is the limit of time spent watching anything, like between one to two hrs. My kids, once they were older and ended up in public school, were fairly “traumatized” and had a lot of adjustment to make. They reflect that they wished they were not so clueless about the modern world, of popular TV sitcoms or music, because it made them look like backwards kids, and kids do need friends no matter where they are. All this comes to a head when they reach adolescence, where it is much harder to keep the protected or “alternative ” life style. This depends greatly on where you live and the amount of similarly raised children. Where we lived , there were none, so it harder. I think if given the option of a Waldorf type life style versus the other, the younger children would choose the Waldorf. And that we have to have faith in their inner integrity and knowing. In the end it seems that we have to walk the middel road, and not be extreme, but be aware of balance and the bigger picture as well as the smaller picture of the present.
    Just some thoughts on a difficult topic 🙂

  9. My kid is only 3, so we like Peep and the Big Wide World and Between the Lions.

    I think what wil constitute “good TV” will vary greatly with the watcher’s experience. I can’t bear most of the cooking shows you mention, because I have worked in a few terrible restaurants. I can’t think of any less relaxing way to spend my time than re-living the trauma.

  10. We have a flat screen TV (v-games are my hubby’s vice) but no cable, just a streaming Netflix account that runs on our internet hook up. Really the only shows we let my daughter watch are Curious George and Shaun the Sheep. Then we’ll watch movies together as a family.
    We are so much happier living not only without the stupid reality TV shows but all those commercials! Why on earth would you pay to watch a commercial??? It annoys the heck out of me when they put them before movies that I’ve paid for only to have them try to sell me more and have the nerve to not let me fast forward through them! Aarg!

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