Childhood obesity. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Violence and bullying in schools. Besides being headline grabbing issues, they share something else in common as well. Television has been listed as the blame for each of these…to one degree or another.
But the reality is that in the world in which we live, few people remember a time without the Boob Tube as it is sometimes called. In fact, for many of my generation or older the television has strong memories and connections with family time.
I remember clearly gathering in the living room each night as a family to watch our favorites…the Waltons, Little House on the Prairie, Gun Smoke and Lucy (whichever one of her shows it was by then). We did not have two televisions and could not imagine having one in every bedroom (room of the house). There were three channels to choice from and sometimes it was hard to decide which show to watch. And there was no remote…thus me and my brother got exercise even while watching because we had to get up to change the channel. Oh those were the days, my friend (anyone remember where that line came from?).
So how did we get from a family unifying positive experience to something that is blamed for half of the world’s ills, especially when it comes to our children? And how can parents, especially homeschool parents, make the best use of this resource with their special needs children?
First of all, I think the number of sets that we now own may be part of the issue. Increasingly children, younger and younger, are having their own televisions in their rooms. They are isolated from their parents and other family; left alone with their shows while the adults fight over football and operas…or buy more sets so that there is no argument.
In our house, we have one television in the living room. There is another small one in my adult son’s/guest room, but it is set up to a gaming system only. The set that we do have is used primarily by Emily. I always know what is on…and watch way too much kiddie television (when a grown woman has a crush on Mr. Tumble you know something is wrong). But this one set rule means that I have utter and complete control of what my child sees…no sneaking into her room to watch things that I do not approve of. It also means that like my own experience…television is a family oriented activity. I ask questions and make comments about the shows we watch.
The other difference that I see between my childhood and television today is the issue of choice. We had three channels and still found it difficult sometimes to choose between our favorite shows. Today, we have over 200 channels and still have trouble finding something decent to watch? We even resort to streaming services such as Netflix?
I admit it…the choices for adults and even older children are less than what I would like. But for preschoolers and young children…the selection is amazing: Dora, Diego, Kai Lan, Handy Manny…and dozens and dozens more. Honestly, there is hardly a bad show on Nick Jr, Disney Jr, Tiny Pop and the like. My daughter learns Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, math and morals. Heck, parents could even learn a thing or two about how to do their jobs from Humf or Little Bill.
How much television does my daughter watch anyway? More than most people would consider healthy. Basically, once her work is done, she has free reign of the selected shows. It is one tool I use to keep her from being bored. I should say that when the weather is good she watches less television because we go out to parks and the like. But on a cold, rainy day, she could watch hours of it.
Is she fat? Except of a recent weight gain that was connected to a medication change, her weight is steady. Is she lacking in exercise? My ADHD child cannot sit still for long with anything…television and computer included. She has a trampoline in the living room as well as the television. She will sometimes even sit/bounce on her space hopper as she watches. Oh, and she has toys that she plays with while she watches. I guess multi-tasking starts early with my family.
Is her ADHD worse because of television? It is hard to say. Racing round and round in a park for hours is certainly preferable. On the days that we do that she collapses into bed. But this is London, England. Even in summer there are very few of those amazing days. I think a better question might be…how could you survive with a hyperactive child in the middle of a city if you did not have television as a diversion?
And violence? Well, I have to admit…I shelter her. Like I said I am fairly careful about the shows she watches…not even Phineas and Ferb or the big Disney shows like i-Carly. But recently, her dad has introduced more entertainment options with Avengers (the cartoon version) and Johnny Test. Have I noticed a difference? No, but then again these are the types of shows that I make certain we talk about. Battles between the good guys and villains are a wonderful opportunity that I simply cannot pass up.
So my thoughts on television…it is a tool. One more tool in your teaching arsenal as a homeschool parent. One I might add that appeals to children, especially special needs one that may respond to the multi-media approach. But like Handy Manny would say…you have to use the right tool for the right job. And as parents we need to ask ourselves…is television the right tool for this job? We also have to learn to use our tools and maintain them properly. But those are individual choices that we all have to make…just as the choice to homeschool.
Join me on Tuesday as I review Raising a Sensory Smart Child by Lindsey Biel and Nancy Peske.