Anne (netmouse) wrote,

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 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, 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.
Tags: parenting, tv

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