Welcome to my life. It's a whirlwind of kids, chaos, pets, people, family, art, and being home (most of the time; I like to get out here and there). We unschool, so the unexpected is, well, expected...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Is TV addictive?... and other thoughts on media control

This little quote was taken from a message board then I answered it:

> I believe that TV is addictive and as such it should be treated with
> care. Most parents would not allow their children unending access to
> other addictive substances. I was addicted as a child.

A lot of studies say TV is addictive. Frankly I just don't see that being true. My kids have free access to the TV and free access to the remote control to turn it off. Currently my 13 year old doesn't watch much TV and my 6 year old does. It isn't or hasn't always been that way. My older daughter used to watch a lot of tv and my younger daughter used to hate watching tv.

They watch it when they want to watch it, just like I do, just like my husband does. TV, just like everything else in the world has good things and bad things in it. If you want to see it as an art form, it is a reflection of reality and vice versa.

A lot of people homeschool to shelter their kids, protect them from the world and the views of others. That is not why we homeschool. I don't want my kids to be isolated from the culture that we live in. Wether I like it or not isn't the issue in regards to tv, the issue is that it IS a part if our culture and a reflection of it and vice versa, just like books and art and science and math and everything else in the world.

Why would I want to limit access to such a powerful tool? If I were to choose a curriculum to teach my kids, it would be equally limiting and yet somehow not cover nearly the expanse of topics and ideas that are presented in tv and other media. My kids might actually get a better more rounded education if I forced them to watch movies and tv to learn about the world. There is not a single aspect of life that isn't in a movie or tv show or video game somewhere.

It really helps to unschool, to see the value in ALL things! But back to addiction and what it is and isn't. While I do believe things can be addictive without chemical dependency, I think behavioral addiction is a phenomenon that is caused by other factors that involve a feeling of lack of control. Which isn't anything like chemical dependency. People can be addicted to books in the same manner. Perhaps people do this to escape the reality that they live in. Again that is about control, to escape a reality that they have no apparent control over.

Control is what we are talking about right? As parents we try to or try not to control what our kids are exposed to or not. A kid that is NOT controlled is going to behave very differently in regards to how they handle media. Just like someone else posted earlier about the time limits/control over her son's video game playing, and how her son counts down the minutes and hours until that time arrives. You can gaurantee that he will NOT miss that time alottment. You can gaurantee that he will pass on just about everything else to make sure that he gets in his video gaming. You gaurantee that he will play video games. Wouldn't it be better to just let someone play video games and watch tv until they are done and then freely move on to other things?

While your kids are freely watching tv, movies, and playing games or chatting on the internet, try to see what they are seeing in it, what they are learning from it, what the value is of it. Look at it in an ubiased way. Then, if you still see that they aren't doing these things because they enjoy it, find something that they do enjoy and offer that up instead. It's about choices and the availability of them and access to them. If someone would rather watch tv, movies, and playing games or chatting on the internet than whatever else you are proposing, then either it wasn't very interesting, or what they are doing is clearly very valuable.

Why do parents, generally, like to minimize what kids find valuable? I remember when my older daughter was young, she loved Pokemon, really loved it. I remember sooooo many parents trashing Pokemon, calling it a phase, it will pass, commending the teachers for banning it from school, etc, etc. I couldn't even imagine doing that to something that my daughter clearly loved and was interested in, it would be like a good friend trashing my hobbies and personal interests. I don't think I'd stay friends with a friend like that.

We can do that to our kids too. We can see the value in things they love and foster a relationship that draws on that, or we can minimize the things they love and find value in and we set ourselves up for and adversarial relationship. Personally I want the first option, and if finding the value in tv, movies, video games and internet usage and whatever else is what it takes, then that is what I do.


Beverly said...

I agree, especially about the Pokemon. My son loves it, and I don't understand why. But I don't expect him to like only the things that I understand.

Kat said...

When my husband & I first met, Jackie was just turning 9. She had cable TV & a remote in her bedroom. She was rarely in front of it unless it was night, she was sick, or laying around on a rainy weekend. Nothing was blocked & I monitored nothing about her TV watching. This was an area of disagreement. My husband would profess that HIS parents NEVER allowed them to watch TV or "Movies like that" (I am talking Freddy Krueger, Halloween, teen flicks, etc)He was always concerned that she was being exposed to something. I disagreed. I said she was free to watch whatever she wanted & that our job was to simply stand by & use what was watched as a lesson or example, good or bad. Of course we all know I ended up with a responsible, hard working, graduated person who never did drugs, got in the wrong crowd, comitted crimes or anything else. Hubby & his siblings? Didn't fair so well! Proof is in the pudding, I say, hand them the remote! (Just be sure to remind them that everything they see or hear is just opinion & perceptions not necessarily reality)