Zer Netmouse - On not having a TV
March 17th, 2014
11:38 am

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On not having a TV
We don't have a TV. We have screens, but they are all computers, and we don't subscribe to any television services. A friend of mine recently asked me, "Can you tell me a little more about why you guys don't have a TV at home? [...] Did you grow up without a TV?"

I didn't grow up without a TV, but my parents were very restrictive about TV watching. We also only had a little black and white TV until I was about ten. But they would watch the news, and Sunday Morning, and we were allowed to watch cartoons on Saturday mornings. When I was in Junior high I remember I would watch more TV but I found it kind of... understimulating and usually folded clothes or did jigsaw puzzles at the same time. Sunday evenings I would frequently do jigsaw puzzles and watch Star Search, 21 jump street, and Star Trek. Most weekdays I didn't watch TV - I did my paper route, read, danced, did sports, chores, or did things with friends-, and we almost never watched it during meals.

I also remember watching Cosmos, Nature, Sesame Street, 3-2-1-contact, many Jacques Cruseau documentaries about diving in the sea, and other educational stuff. The Olympics and other sports. And televised live theater, and miniseries - as a family, we watched North and South, and some British miniseries I only remember now because it made it impossible for me to maintain a southern accent when I was in the play Tom Sawyer - I kept slewing into a British accent.

But most of my young childhood, like I say, there was only this little (8 or 10" screen) portable television, and then later the television was in the basement rec room. We would watch movies there, too. On very rare occasions we might have dinner in front of the TV. But it wasn't an always-on sort of thing I see in some households these days. And we didn't ever have any video game consoles.

After college I moved in with my boyfriend, and he had game players, and at one point we moved into an apartment that had cable. Suddenly we watched tons of TV - reruns of the Simpsons almost every day, lots of movies. And we played video games. Later I really regretted all the wasted time (not to mention weight gained by lack of active lifestyle). When I was working on my Master's thesis, I still had a TV, and found myself retreating to it when I was struggling, and losing whole afternoons on things I didn't even want to watch. Later, when the cable co. became our internet provider, and they kept calling to see if we didn't want cable tv too, our response was "Can you give us back all the time we'd spend watching it?" They stopped calling.

At the same time, we had a big screen movie setup in the basement, but when I was on my own I found I almost never used that, either. I'm much more interested in reading or doing something active, interactive or productive, most of the time. --Which can include screen time, don't get me wrong; long hours on the computer. And for a while working on my thesis I lost time to video games, too. Now I don't play them any more.

I do let Rosie play video games, though - some on my phone, some on pbskids and sesamestreet.org and whatnot. And when she's older we'll likely get whatever gaming equipment is really popular. In high school, my friends and I hung out at the house that had gaming stuff, room to hang out, an open attitude toward feeding lots of people, and relaxed parents. When Rosie's older, I want that to be our house at least some of the time.

Right now, I want her to develop the skills, but not the addiction. So she has her own computer with a one-button mouse, an old laptop in the living rm we play dvds on, and is learning to use my two-button mouse, she has a kindle fire, and sometimes hits the buttons on the phone to call relatives or hang up. But we go days with no screen time for her, sometimes. Some days we also sit at our computers, both of us, for about an hour. I find I'm more comfortable with that right now than limiting it to half an hour a day, or whatever. I'd rather let it be a thing you sometimes do if you want to than an everyday habit.

Rosie's favorite TV shows right now are Doc McStuffins (Amazon/kindle) and Dinosaur Train (pbskids), and that's perfectly fine with me.

As for me, I watch Castle on Hulu.com, and we have DVDs of shows and films. Used to have netflix. Might again sometime. I'm sometimes sad I can't get shows other people are watching on TV at the same time they're watching it. But that's changing - more is coming to the internet, where there's good stuff to watch whenever you want to watch something.

I think video is a valuable teaching and storytelling tool, but I also think it's important for parents to read to kids and to tell them our own stories--and encourage them to tell their own stories, both verbally and with art and movement. And just as important for them to get time to play outside and with their hands and imagination, and with other kids.

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From:cos
Date:March 18th, 2014 01:11 am (UTC)

No TV at home

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I had a weird trajectory with TV.

Growing up, at first we had Israeli TV, 1 channel with programming only at certain times of the week. Black and white. I remember hearing they had color TV in the US when we were planning to move here, and I totally didn't get it. I know because I had a dream about color TV, and it was like black & white TV except that the image in the screen was colored in a variety of colors in various areas of the screen, in a way that had no relationship whatsoever to the image. We had to feed colors into the TV by putting blocks of different colored legos on the back of it :) Anyway, we watched cartoons when they were on (Saturday morning, I think) and that was about it for kids' programming. Maybe we were also able to pick up Lebanese & Syrian TV; I know that was possible from Haifa when I visited as a teenager, but I don't remember if it was possible when I lived there as a child. In any case, I know we saw some cartoons in English, and whether their subtitles were Hebrew or Arabic didn't matter because I was too young to read. Another thing we knew about moving to the US was that we'd learn "the language of the cartoons". We also always watched the political ads together as a family - in Israel, there was a block of time set aside regularly during election season a few times a week (or every day?) and each party got a share of that time proportional to their share of the vote in the last election, for free. It was like a daily drama, followed by the entire country. Everyone watched it.

Age almost-7, we got to the US, and from then on we had a TV in the living room until college, with very little restriction. I'm sure our TV time was occasionally banned if we'd failed to finish homework or did something bad, but in general we could watch what we wanted. Maybe my parents set the tone by watching some things together. I remember PBS shows as being most of my favorites. We had Sesame Street heavily encouraged to us at first as a way of learning English, but I continued watching PBS kids' programming like Electric Company and 3-2-1 Contact eagerly into high school, IIRC. (Well, Electric Company stopped running before I got to high school). Also adult nonfiction programming, especially Nature, Nova, Wild World of Animals, etc. & some British comedies, or at least Yes, Minister, which remains my favorite TV comedy series.

Our TV watching was probably less than average for American kids, but still substantial. We watched TV more days than not.

Then I got hit by a car in the middle of junior year of high school, and spent 5 weeks in the hospital, followed by 3 months immobile at home. Especially during my time in the hospital, even reading books was too much strain. There was nothing to do besides eating or sleeping or watching TV. If I was awake, I was watching TV. I got into all the shows and knew the schedules of all the stations by heart. When I came home I got into some soap operas my mother watched. I started getting a tutor from school a couple of times a week, and homework, but I was still watching TV 12+ hours a day.

When I first started being able to go to school on crutches, I stayed in the TV habit for a while, but when I stopped, it was like something snapped. I'd had too much. Soon I almost couldn't stand TV anymore. It was like listening to only Top 40 pop for years and suddenly being exposed to a wider range of music. TV just seemed like a narrow little thing. More than that, it was probably mentally linked to that part of my life when I was hurt and immobile.

When I went to college my dad gave me a small TV that I set up in my dorm, to my roommate's delight. I only used it to watch the news when something big was happening.

I carried that TV around with me to several apartments in a row after college, but after a few moves I stopped setting it up. The last apartment in which I set it up, my housemate Lauren used to watch the Simpsons and Futurama and King of the Hill, which I joked were all The Simpsons. Regular Simpsons, Robot Simpsons, Redneck Simpsons. Several months after she moved out I wanted to watch something and realized the TV was unplugged, and remembered unplugging it during her move-out - which means it had been unplugged for months and I didn't even notice.
[User Picture]
From:netmouse
Date:March 18th, 2014 01:26 pm (UTC)

Re: No TV at home

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Interesting!

Wild World of Animals... That was such a good show.

Now all the fave shows of my youth are coming back -- The Muppets (we have two seasons on DVD; Rosie watched them when she was 2), M.A.S.H. . The A Team. MacGyver.

We have a copy of Cosmos. Wonder when we should break that out for Rosie.
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From:novapsyche
Date:March 18th, 2014 01:34 am (UTC)
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Like you, I had in my childhood household only a smallish B&W television, but unlike you the viewing time was never restricted. It was pretty much always in the background. I remember growing up watching my grandmother's B&W, maybe 13", with a convex glass screen & free-floating knob, where we'd take in Gilligan's Island & Beverly Hillbillies. At one point, when I was 5, my family moved to Ypsi, where we had access to cable. My favorite station was Nickelodeon, which I watched on a 5"- or 7"-inch B&W screen (I'm pretty sure the cable box was incorporated in this machine).

When we moved back to the country, after my grandmother passed & my dad inherited her land, it was back to the old B&W for some time, although at some point we upgraded to tiny color at some point. I remember watching nighttime soap operas like Dynasty, as well as some (funnily enough) old B&Ws like The Three Stooges late at night. My sister & I, who shared a bunk bed, had a TV in our room at some point. However, by that age I was not indiscriminately watching TV all the time: I'd become an avid reader & listener to books-on-record.

Like cos, I watched a lot of public television until way past the advised age. I won't even divulge the last time I watched Sesame Street regularly.

No matter what, though, my TV time was never restricted (except when it corresponded to bedtime). In college, I still took in a fair amount of TV, but that was of course limited by coursework. Then again, I found & fell in love with the Internet, which continues to be my biggest time suck.

I think you are doing very well by Rosie. When I spend time with you, I don't feel as though she is taking in too much screen time. She's a very well-rounded kid. I think that will continue into the years to come, and I wouldn't be surprised if she thanked you later on in life for being so concerned about her ratio of types of play.
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From:mabfan
Date:March 18th, 2014 02:41 pm (UTC)
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We've had some issues with the kids wanting video, and although we do let them watch, I'm very glad that they accept the one day a week we do not use the TV or any other video.
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From:dionysus1999
Date:March 24th, 2014 07:09 pm (UTC)
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I think about TV and kids a lot, mainly because growing up in rural nowhere you either created your own entertainment, lassoed a sister or brother (one of each) or watched the idiot box.

While I felt I spent too much time watching TV as a kid, I did discover the library and books by age 13. I still watched crap on TV, but the older I got the more discriminating I was. I recall boycotting Love Boat (mindless dreck is a compliment) and Hee Haw (country music, ew!).

Today I might be able to appreciate some of the music of Hee Haw from a technical perspective (play that banjo), I doubt I missed much from Love Boat.

Being a parent today means you have even more media sources to contend with. I think there's more violence (torture, for instance) today then when we were kids, but there's also good programming tucked in the corners. Teaching your daughter to be a discriminating media consumer is what I see as the challenge. Just wait until they are beaming commercials into our heads like the Diamond Age. Oh the fun we'll have!

Will future consumers even have the patience for merely 2D entertainment? How do you turn this book on? ;)
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