When my husband and I first married, we didn’t own a TV. The reason we finally bought one (secondhand from a friend) was that he liked to watch pro football and I got tired of going with him to his old dormitory to watch it. (We were newlyweds so I couldn’t let him go alone.)
By the time our first son was born, TV was a part of our household. I used to watch it while I nursed him. Later, when he was older, I turned on Sesame Street. He loved it.
But aside from Sesame Street and football and the occasional soap opera episode or sitcom, TV didn’t have much of a presence in our household. We were young and busy. As the boys got older, of course, they did want to watch cartoons and certain shows. The Smurfs were definitely part of our Saturday mornings, along with the Get Along Gang and a few others.
Then it started becoming more complicated with Transformers and Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. My kids loved these shows. I wasn’t so sure. I didn’t want them exposed to the element of magic, for one thing, and I also didn’t like the violence. (I felt the same way about football, and let them know it.)
Parents these days have a much harder time. The kids’ shows of the ’80s and ’90s were still more innocent. Now the magic seems to be everywhere, and there also seems to be more boy-girl interaction in even the simplest shows.
I do have a few tips for how to manage TV. First, watch with the kids. Mine never had a TV in their rooms. I saw everything they saw, and often commented on it.
Second, make them pick certain shows rather than keeping the TV on all day. I have been guilty of that at times, having TV on as background to our lives. But it’s not a good idea.
Third, turn off the TV during Ramadan. I did let my kids watch Adam’s World videos, and others that were educational, but no TV programs. Ramadan should be a time of prayer, Qur’an, and quiet thought.
Fourth, watch videos instead. You don’t have to worry about inappropriate commercials (some of those commercials are horrible) and can better manage the whole viewing experience.
Fifth, take the kids to the library. Encourage them to read, read to them when they’re small, and let them see you reading also. Every reader knows that the pictures in the imagination are better than anything TV could ever create.
One advantage I had when raising my kids was that we didn’t have cable. But now it seems to be impossble to get even the local channels without some kind of cable service. I think there are parental controls though. Take full advantage of them. And if you can get by without cable, I do recommend it.
I loosened up a little as my kids got older. For the last couple of weeks my two youngest, ages 15 and 18, have started watching Family Guy and American Dad. I pass through the living room when they’re watching, watch a little with them, and comment on what I think is inappropriate. At their ages they should know, but a little reminder won’t hurt. I would prefer to tell them they couldn’t watch those shows at all, but I’ve learned by now that censorship rarely works. Building awareness is much better.