Why We Tuned Out
November 7, 2002 8:58 PM   Subscribe

Why We Tuned Out "We don't allow our kids to watch TV. Period. Not at home, not at friends’ houses; and they don’t watch videos or movies, either. We want our daughters, Jazzy, now nearly 6, and Gigi, 3, to be as active as possible, physically and mentally." What's the best approach with kids and television?
posted by tippiedog (89 comments total)
What's the best approach with kids and television?

Make the kids watch television all the time.
posted by four panels at 9:00 PM on November 7, 2002

I'm sure that Television is much less harmful than giving your children oddball names that will haunt them throughout the course of their lives..
posted by jazzkat11 at 9:03 PM on November 7, 2002

Television isn't inherently bad, and with supervision it can be a really useful learning tool. There are only so many lessons one can learn playing tag and hide-and-seek that kids will be able to take to their later lives. And before television came along, kids who read too much and didn't act normal were just as worrying to parents as kids who watch too much TV are today. An outright ban on TV is taking too drastic a step. Just as long as television doesn't become part of the daily routine, a little once in a while won't hurt. And who knows, maybe seeing a herd of elephants in the wild on the Discovery Channel will give the kid a perspective that seeing a lone confined elephant in a zoo, or reading about them couldn't give them.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:04 PM on November 7, 2002

I say let the kids watch. They'll eventually realize like everyone else that there's nothing good on, and turn it off, or be inspired to change things and make some of their own.
posted by KnitWit at 9:05 PM on November 7, 2002

Ban TV, but tutor them for 15 minutes a day about current pop culture phenomena so they won't get the behoojies beat out of them on the playground for having both goofy names and lack of coolness.

Certainly don't force them to read books instead of TV. If they want to read, super, but if they don't think books are as fun as TV find something else.

Or maybe I'm just complaining about my childhood. Goddammit if I have to read another Encyclopedia Brown book instead of watching GI Joe I'm gonna....
posted by Stan Chin at 9:10 PM on November 7, 2002

Well, I don't watch much TV anymore, but the fact is I didn't watch it all that much growin up. I think I only really tuned in when I was in 6th grade or something, at which point it became a constant source of contention in my house. My mom did not like me and my sister being hooked on the thing...

Anyway. I'd want to keep my kids off of it growing up (but who knows if it'll even be around in a recognizable form by the time I have kids :P) and get them acustomed to only watching like 4 or 5 hours a week tops.

Much better to get them hooked on web-surfing early on :P
posted by delmoi at 9:20 PM on November 7, 2002

A healthy mix of TV and books, along with more active activities is a better approach according to me. Back in the '90s, I used to love watching shows like "Beyond 2000", "Beyond Tomorrow", etc. Without TV, it would have taken me five more years to learn about hybrid electric cars. Of course I am also someone who believes that you haven't lived until you've at least seen a couple of Tom & Jerry cartoons.
posted by riffola at 9:24 PM on November 7, 2002

Attention Jazzy Springen and Gigi Springen, daughters of Karen and Mark Springen...

Ten or twenty years from now, when the text of this long-forgotten website is available in some archive and you stumble on this page while searching for your own names, track me down and let me know if your folks did the right thing by "depriving" you both of TV for your whole childhood. Are you social butterflies or outcast geeks? Do you resent your parents' decisions? Do you watch TV now, at age 16 or 26 or 36? I'm curious (and patient).
posted by waxpancake at 9:25 PM on November 7, 2002

yea, because parental tutoring about pop-culture will make your kids super-cool!

Why not watch tv with your kids and talk about what's wrong with it? They'll probably remember what you said even if you're not there with them. Then later when they are watching tv at billy's house your kid can bust out with, "CNN is corporate crap!" or "CNN is run by zionist bastards" or however else you indoctrinated your kids.
posted by rhyax at 9:30 PM on November 7, 2002

The result should be similar to the efficacy of alcohol depravation in children: Dry until they're of age to get away from their parents and experiment, then abusive until they mature.
On the other hand, if that time is replaced by some greater stimulation for the first few years of childhood, it might yield fantastic results. But after they're of age to be socially developing, to deprive them of a fundamental chunk of cultural vocabulary is a bit cruel.
I'm not saying, yay, tv, but if their friends are talking about something they find significant, to deprive your child of that is not healthy.
posted by condour75 at 9:40 PM on November 7, 2002

I have second cousins raised in a home without TV. They scare the shit out of me.

I'll start, "Oh, this is like that one episode of the Simpsons where Homer wanted to be that fattest man in the world and so...." (their eyes all bug out in fascinated horror) "oh, right, you guys don't watch TV."

"I watched a little bit of TV at a friend's house once...I didn't like it."

They don't understand half of what I say because they're so sheltered. I curse in front of them just for their social benefit. That and it's funny to watch them break a cold sweat when I use the Lord's name in vain. Heh heh.

But really, TV is fine. I resented my mother for a long time because she'd let me watch nothing but PBS when I was little. Of course, I'd switch to Dougie Howser and mndless, violent cartoons when she wasn't looking. And I turned out just peachy.

I'll doubtlessly let my kids watch TV, with crazy restrictions just like Mom, because at the very least it gives you cultural literacy and that's pretty important for kids. As long as they're not watching Springer 24/7, TV is pretty harmless.
posted by katieinshoes at 9:41 PM on November 7, 2002

When I die I'll wish I had the 5 or 10 years spent in front of a TV to do somthing else. There is enough inspiration for a lifetime of things to do in one evening of Discovery Channel.
posted by stbalbach at 9:44 PM on November 7, 2002

"TV" is not some homogeneous entity: the National Geographic Channel != The Anna Nicole Show (not that there's anything wrong with that). These parents are weird. Depriving their children of popular culture (and thus cultural literacy as katieinshoes said), entertainment and the valuable educational material available on TV or video just seems way too controlling and creepy (and also lazy). By all means watch with the kids, monitor what they watch, don't let them become couch potatoes and teach them how to be critical thinkers, but don't pretend that closing them off from something that the vast majority of their peers have access to is doing them any real favours.
posted by biscotti at 9:48 PM on November 7, 2002

There are countries where sweet foods are not that sought after, and where children are not introduced to sweets in their developmental years. As such, they never develop a taste for sweet foods, and consider our Western sugar cravings to be distasteful.

I can't help thinking that, in a vacuum (which is a purely theoretical situation, and therefore practically irrelevant, but here I go anyway), if a child was deprived of television, both at home and away from home, during his impressionable young years, that he would, upon encountering it later, find it distasteful naturally.

The truth is, though, that passive entertainment is relaxing and potentially engrossing, and we relish escape from the tedium of our daily existence.

I have a friend who grew up reading "too much," so that his parents were concerned that perhaps he should indulge in some fiction every once in a while and get his head out of those science books. I grew up glued to the TV screen, and as a result now possess neither an attention span or memory beyond that of our less-evolved earthmates nor a TV as I'm dumb enough and lazy enough already. As adults, he is not as pop-culture literate or as easily sociable as I am, but I am not as focused on intellectual pursuits or as technically minded as he is.

In short, exercise some control, but discuss it with your kids. They know fairly well what is good for them.
posted by pudders at 9:55 PM on November 7, 2002

Little Jazzy will soon be of age where her lack of experience with television will begin effecting her social life. By the time she's eight she'll be having an unnatural "attraction" to television at friends houses. Mom and dad will start getting reports from other parents about Jazzy's behavior and soon after that Jazzy will begin lying to mom and dad about her "relationship" with television.

This sort of sanctimonious behavior, on the part of the parents, will definitely come back to bite them. It's sad that those who will pay most for it will be Jazzy and her sister.

I think mom and dad are cowards like most stay at home Christians. Better, I guess, to hide from the world than to EDUCATE.
posted by filchyboy at 10:04 PM on November 7, 2002

I've been around kids who aren't allowed to watch TV. Plus, I have a girlfriend, now 31, who wasn't allowed to watch it until her teen years. One thing I have noticed in all of them is that they have no ability to ignore the TV if it's on. They can't carry on a conversation, answer the phone, or share their attention with anything or anyone else if a chattering TV is in the room. Don't know what it means, I'm just sayin'.

Humans have a longstanding oral storytelling tradition and I think television and film are just the current iterations.
posted by whatnot at 10:10 PM on November 7, 2002

They also aren’t haunted by TV images of September 11—because they never saw them.

This part is actually kind of interesting. If they've been shielded completely of all images of Sept 11, I wonder what their perspective will be once they do outside their home in the next few years. Will they go through the same motions we did? Indifferent?
posted by Stan Chin at 10:10 PM on November 7, 2002

I'm going to force my kids to play musical instruments, sing, and dance. Then I'll appear on talk shows like Oprah and late night shows like Jay Leno and people will talk about how wonderful my kids are.

Then they'll hate me ten years later when they realize that they wasted all their care-free, formative years doing what I wanted them to do because, dammit, I wish I was famous!

Maybe it's not cool, but I could care less if my kids watch a lot of tv and movies. I'll also read to them four or five nights a week like my mother did for my younger sister and me. Maybe they'll end up like us and start reading at a relatively young age (kindergarten) and not stop. Or maybe they'll only read when Harry Potter 2014 comes out. Who knows? I'm not all that interested in shaping my kids into little versions of myself unless that's what they decide to be. My parents were pretty hands off and I turned out ok. A little lazy, perhaps, but I think a little laziness helps me take the time to enjoy life ;)
posted by The God Complex at 10:11 PM on November 7, 2002

Be advised that I'm stealing the term "stay-at-home Christians" That's gold. :)
posted by Space Coyote at 10:17 PM on November 7, 2002

I don't see them being teased because they don't watch TV - other kids will never tire of teasing them about their unusual names.

I notice that they don't mention whether they watch TV themselves - do as I say, not as I do?

... they have no ability to ignore the TV if it's on ...

I thought that was everyone - the screen is compelling and it is hard not to be distracted by it.
posted by dg at 10:17 PM on November 7, 2002

My concerns were with the statistics (I paraphrase loosely, mind you)-- so&so says to not watch (for that age group) more than 10 hr/week, thus someone else says to only allow 2 hr/day. Perhaps they learned their math from TV?
And-- the favored shows for children ages 2-10... Isn't their quite an age/intelligence gap there?

My initial response was, "well, at least your children and the 6 yr old in ______ making the Elmo pajamas have something in common... NO TV!"
posted by G_Ask at 10:38 PM on November 7, 2002

I find it somewhat appalling that a person can lump all works of moving pictures together. It's a medium, not a genre or a standard of quality, and most certainly cannot be judged as a group. As has been said before, there's plenty of educational material that's presented in a way that books just can't provide. Nature shows and programs on other cultures are specifically notable for this. Moreover, especially in the realm of movies, there are a number of works of fine art that would help mold them into thoughtful, cultured kids as they grow older. Banning everything within a medium, any medium, shows a lack of understanding on the part of the parents or an unwillingness to judge quality themselves.
posted by Schismatic at 10:49 PM on November 7, 2002

I'm sure nobody cares, but growing up I watched a lot of television but my parents also read to me as a child. Now, at the end of college, I haven't watched tv regularly for several years and I am relatively well read and well informed. That might be because I'm Polish though.

Polish People: Well informed hypochondriacs
posted by crazy finger at 10:56 PM on November 7, 2002

I find it somewhat appalling that filchyboy blames the problem on cowards like most stay at home Christians. The author of this article never mentions the church or God once.

If you've got a problem with Christians oppressing their kids by depriving them of TV, filchyboy, post a link of your own.
posted by TheFarSeid at 11:03 PM on November 7, 2002

The 1 hour or so of extra sleep my wife and I gain by setting our two children in front of the TV set in the morning is worth its weight in gold.
posted by thedailygrowl at 11:10 PM on November 7, 2002

When I was a kid, my family didn't have a TV, and I had to learn about the A-Team from roleplay with my friends. They always made me Hannibal because I didn't know any of the characters.

Later, my parents got an old black-and-white set, but they would only let me watch one pre-selected show a week. I remember choosing Fall Guy. Sometimes I would sneak in part of Fantasy Island right afterward, before they caught on.

I loved watching TV at my grandparents' house, where they would let me watch Knight Rider and cartoons.

Eventually my family gave in and bought a color TV and we would watch stupid sitcoms like Cosby and Family Ties, and occasionally good stuff like Alfred Hitchcock Presents or Amazing Stories. And I would always take full advantage of the Twilight Zone marathons every Thanksgiving. But still, watching TV was discouraged unless we were watching something specific--no flipping channels idly, looking for something worth watching.

Without TV, I read a lot. I didn't think of it as compensation, though--I loved reading books. I still do, and don't have TV. I do rent tons of movies (I have a monitor for that, but no TV hookup). I can't stand sitcoms now. Friends or Seinfeld strike me as so stupid I can't stand to be in the same room when they're on. But I also have a large Simpsons collection.

Thumbs up to my parents' approach. I didn't like being deprived of Starsky & Hutch then, but I'm glad I didn't wind up a TV baby like so many of my friends. It shocks me when I realize many of my friends just don't read books.
posted by hashashin at 11:13 PM on November 7, 2002

Sesame Street. The Electric Company. 3-2-1 Contact.

I watched a ton of TV when I was a kid, the usual sitcoms and crap, but I was also the kind of kid that would watch the educational shows on public television when I stayed home sick, because I thought soap operas and game shows were boring.

I think I turned out fine. Of course, I didn't have a retarded name to deal with, either.
posted by majcher at 11:20 PM on November 7, 2002

I had no TV most of the time I was growing up, and I have no difficulty ignoring the television -- although I'd rather not just "have it on" as some people seem to do. (I can't carry on anything like a conversation when Buffy the Vampire Slayer's on, though, so there you are.)

Keeping your kids from watching movies seems far more detrimental to me than turning off (or throwing out) the TV. 99%+ of TV is crap, my beloved Discovery Channel lemur-and-meercat specials notwithstanding -- but outlawing all movies? That's right up there with banning music.
posted by blissbat at 11:27 PM on November 7, 2002

I still have trouble seeing the relationship between tv viewing habits and book reading. Has this actually been shown in a study somewhere? I mean, instead of reading books or watching TV anyway, shouldn't kids be out getting excercise? Why do we sometimes dismiss the ability of children to be able to enjoy both books and TV and be active? I don't understand why it necessarily has to be one or the other, or how this leads to habits later on.
posted by Stan Chin at 11:27 PM on November 7, 2002

If I have kids, I'm thinking of not letting them read any fiction. Sure there is some good fiction out there but most people are out there reading crappy Stephen King novels, and they'll learn more from reading non-fiction. Harry Potter would just fill there minds with unrealistic nonsense.

This is not a new idea that fiction can be bad for you, it was a main theme of Madame Bovary. Too bad the television age has made people forget that.
posted by bobo123 at 11:30 PM on November 7, 2002

Stan Chin: you can be active during the day, but you gotta do something at night. Reading is one option. Kick-the-can under cover of darkness is also fun, but TV wins out most nights.
posted by hashashin at 11:31 PM on November 7, 2002

TV has always been a distant second to kick-the-can in my life.
posted by Ron at 11:37 PM on November 7, 2002

I find it odd that the children's names are derived from pop culture, as in Gigi the film and Jazzy the music.
posted by emf at 12:21 AM on November 8, 2002

Stan Chin: you can be active during the day, but you gotta do something at night. Reading is one option. Kick-the-can under cover of darkness is also fun, but TV wins out most nights.

Most of the television I watched as a kid wasn't on at night. All I wanted was cartoons and Fraggle Rock.

Why do we sometimes dismiss the ability of children to be able to enjoy both books and TV and be active? I don't understand why it necessarily has to be one or the other, or how this leads to habits later on.

That's kind of what I was getting at in my earlier post, Stan. I think it's ridiculous to think that it's true. I also don't see the value in trying to cultivate your child into some mini-prodigy. Read to them because they'll enjoy it. Let them watch t.v because they enjoy it. They're kids, for God sakes. I'm glad I had a relatively care-free childhood of doing whatever I wanted, because I'm probably not going to get enough of that anymore. I used to love having my mom read my sister and me Hardy Boys stories when I was four or five. It took precedence over anything on t.v because I got to spend some quality time with my Mom, Frank & Joe (they're interwined, thus their lack of singular inclusion), Chet Morton, Biff, etc. I was shocked--nay, outraged!!--when Joe's girlfriend died in Murder, INC; at least I believe that was the title of the first of the new breed of Hardy Boys books that came out when I was in the first or second grade.

I don't think any of that excludes my kid from enjoying television, unless I want him to read for five or six hours a day...
posted by The God Complex at 12:32 AM on November 8, 2002

My parents controlled my TV viewing up until I was about 16 or so (meaning they watched with me and discussed), at which time they got me a small TV for my room. It was mostly tuned to MTV, and I was more or less listening to it rather than watching it (this was back when MTV actually played music). To this day, I still watch the same sorts of programming that I watched with my parents: educational shows, news, some movies, and anything science fiction ... and not really very much of any of it.

My boyfriend, on the other hand, grew up in one of these "no TV anywhere" households, and he is a TV addict. As soon as he walks in the door, the TV is on whether there is actually something good to watch on it or not. Thank goodness his choices in TV viewing are similar to mine or I might have had to kill him years ago. :D

Unlike the way it was in the past when I was a kid, there are so many different channels which provide quality educational programming, that it seems a shame not to watch these programs with your kids ... or even let them watch it alone. The Discovery Channels, The Learning Channels, Animal Planet and on and on. Children can learn from the TV. If I had kids, those would be the types of shows they would get to watch (and some cartoons - a guilty pleasure of mine), and I would probably limit the amount of mind numbing network programming they got to watch. Jerry Springer would definitely be forbidden.

I think these people are stunting their kids' education by not letting them watch any TV at all. Reading is great. I read a lot too, but I can gain more from an hour long program about space travel than I can reading a book about it for an hour, and sometimes the shows I watch give me ideas about other things to study.
posted by Orb at 12:45 AM on November 8, 2002

When I was a kid, my dad wouldn't have a tv in the house. I could obviously watch tv round friends houses, but I rarley did. I had so many hobbies, I spent all my time either being creative, or reading. Did me a world of good!

The only problem is, now that I'm an adult, I am hopelessly addicted to Lego.
posted by chrid at 12:46 AM on November 8, 2002

when i was a child we didnt have television, nobody had television in fact (try relating to that). and look at me. i am the model of mental stability and reason. therefore i can only conclude, when comparing myself with all of you, that television irreparably fucks you up. it's like smoking, the younger you start the more damage is done.
posted by carfilhiot at 12:56 AM on November 8, 2002

My two year old watches probably more TV than his friends do. But I think 'watches' is the wrong word - he interacts with it a lot. Sings the songs, dances around, tells the characters what he thinks, gets worried if someone's in trouble. Hmmm, he's sounding like a weird kid now. But the stuff he watches is 'nice' (terrible word) - Maisy, Kipper, Teletubbies, Old Bear. It gives him a lot of pleasure (and, at times, us some peace and quiet). He rarely just sits there and passively watches - maybe at the end of the day when it's time to wind down. But otherwise, it tends to spur him on and interest him.

It's the type of TV you watch, not the blanket of the medium.
posted by humuhumu at 1:07 AM on November 8, 2002

There is enough inspiration for a lifetime of things to do in one evening of Discovery Channel.

Maybe this is not what you meant, but the Discovery Channel shoots lightning bolts out its wazoo. If there were one channel my children could watch without restriction, it would be that one.

My 87 year-old grandma and I were sitting near a small lake in the evening last summer, watching the egrets fight, the fish jump, and the insects swarm, making patterns on the surface of the water. I mentioned that the evening was particularly beautiful.

Grandma said: "This is almost as good as the Discovery Channel." (!!)
posted by hama7 at 2:03 AM on November 8, 2002

What's the best approach with kids and television?

Direct them to metafilter instead.
posted by walrus at 2:22 AM on November 8, 2002

watching televsion usually brings about a fight or flight mechanism which results in a lowering of the heart-rate. hence watching tv is less 'energetic' than staring at a blank wall. notwithstanding active participation. when you turn a television off, after watching for an hour or so, you may experience a sense of loss, this is due to the confounding of your natural expectation that something was going to happen. switching the set back on will alleviate this feeling, returning you to a condition of stupification. studies have shown that watching television has detrimental effects on children's learning abilities, concentration etc.
where was i?
being able to ignore a switched on television is very difficult, IMHO, as the constantly changing flickering brightness is a real distraction. just look at a crowd in an airport transit lounge (esp. non-english speaking countries), no matter what language the barely audible tv set is broadcasting in, 90% of people stare at the tube, wide eyed and open mouthed.
using the tv as a baby sitter is of debatable value, but i can see the attraction. i am sure that television could be a integral part of child-rearing, but i don't think these children will neccessarily suffer from abstinence.
when one meets peole from other cultures with whom one feels an affinity it is difficult to remember that they will share no cultural hooks with you, most likely. they will not reccognise the authors, music, films, television or food that you reccognise, but you still find things to talk about. it is at times like these that i realise how much of my time can be spent discussing vapid media tittle-tattle with my 'normal' friends. the worst thing is spending time regurgitating *hilarious* lines from the various comedies that i watch.
eddie murphy - 'guys will be stood around the watercooler ruining my jokes; 'then he said goonigoogoo. i'm mr t, i'll rip your dick off''
that brings me back on thread. kids who are used to having everything served them passively, who learn that tv is better funded than your imagination, and the jokes funnier than yours are losing something important IMHO. i can't help feeling that there is something exploitative about merchandising childrens programmes. both for the children wanting the products, and the children making them in sweatshops (ooh political).
posted by asok at 3:58 AM on November 8, 2002

I wonder whether the parents watched television when they were kids. What do they think it did to them?

When I was a kid there was no TV but there was radio -- Captain Midnight, Jack Armstrong the all American Boy. At night there was the Shadow and Inner Sanctum and much more including Jack Benny and Burns and Allan which I listened to with my parents. I loved all of these. But at the same time my reading habits were such that my mother would complain that I ought to put the book down and go out of doors and play. In her early childhood she had no radio nor much to read having grown up in a household of recent immigrants who didn't read much English. I still don't know what she did with her time. She turned out to be pretty neurotic. When I was a teenager -- still addicted to reading books -- she would ask me to choose sexy novels for her. By that time we had TV, but it was never a big deal after the novelty wore off.

Ideologies, it seems to me, don't, a well balanced person make.
posted by donfactor at 4:28 AM on November 8, 2002

I grew up not watching a whole lot of television--mostly educational programs on PBS and cartoons after school once I got a bit older. I watched a lot of TV as a teenager and in my early 20's. But I also read a lot. To this day, if I'm given a choice between reading a book or watching TV, I'll choose reading a book every time.

Now, though, in my late 20's, I watch very little television at all. When I was living on my own the only times I had the TV on was when I felt like I needed some background noise when doing needlework or in the evenings with my boyfriend if there was a program we wanted to watch together (generally Iron Chef). Currently, there are no programs that I schedule my life around (I know people who plan their lives around NBC's lineup), but as my housemates have a toddler, the TV is often turned to Playhouse Disney, which isn't bad in terms of children's programming. No commercials and Bear in the Big Blue House is a really neat show (probably my favorite children's program right now). There are a few shows that they watch in the evenings that I watch with them, but it's more of a social thing than a hypnotized by the idiot box thing.

All that said, I think these parents' decision to not allow any TV at all is a bit draconian. When the girls get a bit older, they're not going to have any sort of discrimination when it comes to TV and they won't necessarily be able to tell the difference between good programming and bad programming. Of course, there are adults who can't tell the difference, either.
posted by eilatan at 4:39 AM on November 8, 2002

The best thing one can do is show kids what the difference is between culture and crap; take them to museums, expose them to good music. But banning something makes it precious.

By the way, did you know that in France, the government is empowered to veto ridiculous surnames?
posted by ParisParamus at 4:40 AM on November 8, 2002

...watching television usually brings about a fight or flight mechanism which results in a lowering of the heart-rate. hence watching tv is less 'energetic' than staring at a blank wall.

asok, the "fight or flight" mechanism triggers an accelerated heart rate, which provides a rapid intake of adrenalin and endorphins. What television provides is catharsis, due to persistence of vision and sensory deprivation; everything we see transpiring on the tube is within a different context to our own frame of perception, in terms of color, movement, dimension, etc., that we compensate by focusing more upon the subject to discern the details better. Hence the trancelike stare.

There's cases where the viewing of scanned images can override the fight or flight mechanism; while suspenseful images can startle us with an emotional jolt, and videogames can sharpen our reaction time in terms of eye/motor coordination, we're also prone to limited peripheral viewpoint while watching. In some instances, sensory overload can result, with the most famous example being the Pokemon vomiting syndrome.
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:47 AM on November 8, 2002

did you know that in France, the government is empowered to veto ridiculous surnames

In Australia as well.

When I was a kid, everyone played outside after school. But it was safe to roam the neighbourhood then too and everyone watched everyone else's kids. What do you do with young kids between school and bedtime when there are meals to cook, chores to do etc? As was mentioned a couple of times already, the content is what should be filtered, not the medium.
posted by dg at 5:10 AM on November 8, 2002

you both mean first / given / christian names, right?
posted by andrew cooke at 6:07 AM on November 8, 2002

Unfortunately, I think many 'busy' households tend to use television as a 'babysitter'. I know my youngest got hooked on the infamous Barney at daycare of all places. As has already been mentioned, denial will eventually lead to rebellion, to what extent who knows...
posted by GT_RULES at 6:15 AM on November 8, 2002

Paul Schrader was not allowed by his parents to watch TV or go to the movies until he went to college.

Then he wrote Taxi Driver and Hardcore
posted by matteo at 6:23 AM on November 8, 2002

What about (TV-less) children raised on the constant chatter of NPR?
posted by troutfishing at 6:48 AM on November 8, 2002

"So far, our daughters don’t seem to feel like misfits. We have no problem with the girls enjoying products based on TV characters. The girls wear Elmo pajamas and battle over who can sit on a big Clifford stuffed animal. "

Clifford was a book LONG before it was a TV show. Now who's out of touch?
posted by agregoli at 6:48 AM on November 8, 2002

We rationed our kids' TV very strictly, up until the point about 2 years ago when we got TiVo. Best tool ever for intermediating kids' TV time. We control what's on the Now Playing list and we require them to fast-forward through ALL commercials. We basically chose a TV diet and TiVo feeds it to them every day.
posted by luser at 7:01 AM on November 8, 2002

I must be horrible. My girls and I watch "The Bachelor" together. But then we always did enjoy a good comedy.
posted by konolia at 7:32 AM on November 8, 2002

I have three children, one from my first marriage and two from my second. My eldest is now 17 years old and was reared as a TV junkie. My two youngest daughters are allowed to watch some videos we have and that's it. During the first few years of this my oldest daughter mutinied and would spend very many nights at my house. Over the years this has changed and now she spends most of her time at my house and complains that the TV is always on at her moms and that she has a hard time concentrating there.

She no longer watches TV or has a favorite show. She is very popular at school and doesn't miss the link to "pop culture" such as it is. She is very much up on the issues and was involved in the last election to the point of wearing a candidates sticker on her backpack.

She get's most of her information on the internet and spends a lot of time Instant messaging. Lack of TV has not hurt her at all.

The youngest kids entertain themselves with music, games, homework and friends. I for one do not miss the mindless drone of the TV set.
posted by MaddCutty at 7:32 AM on November 8, 2002

I tend to agree with ParisParamus- banning something makes it precious. Stolen wine is sweeter and all that. I have a friend who wasn't allowed to watch TV without supervision, and so her mom kept it in the closet. She and her brothers would always sneak it out and watch while mom was away. One day her mom got wise, and she started checking to see if the TV was warm when she got home from work. Smart mom.

So, moderation seems to be the wise thing with kids, as many in this thread have pointed out. I have a one year old, so I have some time to form a philosophy about all of this. I can say at the very least that I can't envision a world without film for her (a world without Bresson is a sad world indeed). TV, on the other hand, I'm not so sure about. We all know TV pretty much sucks, and many of us could admit that we have wasted too much precious time watching some pretty mindless things. We need to look at other folk's faces a lot more than we do.

The most brilliant kids I know are ones that are restricted in their television time. Knowledge of pop culture is probably important, so I'm all for soaking in the culture from time to time. The thing is, though, that pop culture doesn't need three hours of exegesis a day-- that's why its called "pop."
posted by footballrabi at 8:05 AM on November 8, 2002

thedailygrowl: The 1 hour or so of extra sleep my wife and I gain by setting our two children in front of the TV set in the morning is worth its weight in gold.

Honestly, I'm more worried about dailygrowl's kids than I am about Gigi and Jazzie... If only to because it will force more parents to pay attention to their kids instead of parking them in front of an electronic nanny, I'd say, No TV for Kids.
posted by JollyWanker at 8:11 AM on November 8, 2002

"I never watched TV, so I'm obviously far more intelligent and cultured than you mindless drones!"

"I watched TV, and I turned out fine. So I'm obviously as intelligent and cultured as you nerds!"

Substitute "I/My parents/My daughter/My son" as necessary.
posted by Stan Chin at 8:12 AM on November 8, 2002

My parents would stick me in front of the TV for hours, which I enjoyed. They would also read to my every night, which I also enjoyed. Now, I never watch TV, and only occasianly read before bed. The net has replaced both. Draw your own conclusions...

On preview Honestly, I'm more worried about dailygrowl's kids

Why? Worked for my parents....
posted by Orange Goblin at 8:16 AM on November 8, 2002

We don't restrict our kids' (ages 8 and 3) television watching per se; it's that television just doesn't play a large role in our family life. We watch very little television in the evening, and when we do, it's usually Animal Planet or Discovery Channel type stuff, not prime-time stuff. But that's not because we are trying to shape our children. Rather, it's because it just doesn't interest my wife and me. And when we do watch TV in the evenings like that, it's usally as a family. I complain about commercials and mute them; my wife growls at me for doing so, etc. So, we're definitely teaching by example, whether good or bad.

The one thing I haven't seen mentioned is letting kids have a TV in their room. Apparently, some shockingly high percentage of kids do have a TV in their room. That's one thing we've decided not to allow, maybe when the kids are well into their teenage years. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

We became a 2 TV family recently. We got a second TV in our master bedroom, but we almost always watch TV together there. Except for having the local morning show on when we're getting dressed (for weather and traffic), we almost never watch TV in there without the kids.
posted by tippiedog at 8:17 AM on November 8, 2002

Jazzy? Jazzy?! That is by far the worst name for a human being that I have ever heard.

These people are scary. Look at this: Going without TV in America has its difficult moments. When I called my sister, Lucy, to make arrangements for Thanksgiving, she warned that her husband was planning to spend the day watching football. We’re going anyway. We’ll just steer the girls toward the playroom.

It seems that even just seeing a television on will scar their children. It's as if the moving images themselves, regardless of what they depict are corrupting, in these parents' eyes. She talks about shunning The Magic School Bus in favour of Curious George. Why? Is Curious George more inherently good than this show somehow? It's not more educational, that's for sure.

As biscotti and others said above, panning the whole medium of television is foolish and ignorant. I saw a special on PBS a couple weeks back about exploring the depths of the ocean. Seeing a moving, living vampire squid is much more useful and meaningful to me than reading about it, or seeing a static image of it. The hour spent watching that show was not a wasted hour.
posted by picea at 8:20 AM on November 8, 2002

If you want your kids to be obsessed by TV ban it.

TV was banned in my house when I was growing up . Of course all we did was watch it in friends houses and now we're all telly addicts.

Anyway isn't the internet the new TV, ban that instead.
posted by stunned at 9:18 AM on November 8, 2002

We don't have kids yet, so I have absolutely no experience here. I would be tempted to disconnect the "signal in" cable to the television, and just use it as a playback device for videos and DVDs. (I know some parents who do this).

But is this in the child's best interest, or is it colored by my hate for most broadcast TV? (I'm into Simpsons, Futurama, other satire and scifi, etc. but can't stand celebrity gossip, sitcoms with laughtracks, lawyercopdoctor dramas, newsmagazines, or commercials). Also, my wife enjoys TV a lot more than I do, so such disconnections are out of the question.

My niece watches only one channel: PBS Kids, with Barney, Dragon Tales, et al. which is fairly harmless although she has picked up some bad habits from a little boy named Caillou.

TV in the kid's room? I hope not. Let TV be a family activity, even if we're all just staring at the screen.
posted by kurumi at 9:20 AM on November 8, 2002

I note that no one seems to think that the problem with Jazzy and her sibling being made fun of is a problem with the mockers themselves, and their heard-mentality insecurities. How pathetic of a culture are we that our children's social lives are structured around product placement in animated cartoons?

My folks let me watch t.v., but I had to work for it. The work was related to the watching: I was required to summarize the show I watched, its plot and its message(s), in writing. I also had to read one chapter of the Bible for every hour of t.v. I watched.

The result: I learned that ancient religious texts are a hell of a lot more interesting than The A-Team and I know the Bible better than any fundamentalist Christian. Interest in religion has stayed with me: I've read the Holy Qu'ran and the Tao Te Ching and the Buddhist Sutras.

When I was in school, the other kids were assholes for varying reasons, but less t.v. wasn't one of them. I usually got my ass kicked for not being rich enough to wear designer clothes.

These days I limit myself to weekly airings of The Simpsons. No one makes fun of me. I have a whole lot of free time. I'm writing a novel.

Will my kids watch t.v.? I dunno yet. They will at least not watch it unsupervised.
posted by eustacescrubb at 9:31 AM on November 8, 2002

I was allowed 2 hours of TV a week until I moved out of the house at 18. I got to watch my 2 favorite night time shows and occasionally got to watch Saturday morning cartoons. I don't feel deprived that I've never seen CHIPS, Gilligan's Island, Fantasy Island, soap operas, The Brady Bunch, I love lucy, 8 is enough, or any of that other crap that was on during the day after school in the 80's. We didn't get cable or a VCR until, I swear, the day I left for college (I passed the Cable guy on his way in the door as I was leaving for the airport.) I'm glad. I played games, listened to a ton of music, read books, and had a very interesting childhood. I wan't a freak, I wasn't made fun of, I wasn't deprived in any way.

My husband's Aunt and Uncle always have their TV on top volume. Sometimes two of them. Consequently, their kid is a mess and boring as all hell. When he was a baby he would cry if you turned off the TV. He was addicted to it at age 6 months!

When we have kids, we're getting rid of cable and the VCR. No video games, either. Movies are fine, because you don't sit in front of them all day long. We have one small, crappy TV and that won't change. TV is a waste of time. Even the "good children's programming" is crap, compared to what they can get by playing and reading and using their minds. I think it's sad that generations of kids are raised with TV as their main medium of entertainment. No wonder this country is filled with people who don't use their minds.
posted by aacheson at 9:31 AM on November 8, 2002

I grew up watching TV without any restriction, and I guess I watched a little of everything, from Ninja Turtles to MTV. Nowadays I watch football pretty religiously, and I skip meals/events/whatever to watch Smallville (Kristen Kreuk...), but I don't really watch much else. Some occasional MTV2 (they play music here, I've discovered), Simpsons, that kinda stuff. Well, back home I leave the Food Network on a lot, but I don't get it over here... Like others have said, I agree that banning anything based on medium is just plain stupid. TV is a very important part of pop culture, and i have no doubt in my mind these kids will be missing out on a lot socially. Someone will be regretting this.
posted by swank6 at 9:47 AM on November 8, 2002

I gotta go with growl and orange on this one.

I grew up in a household where I was the only kid around and I could watch anything I wanted on tv. My dad was a part-time tv repairman, so they were pretty demystified for me, especially since he always got the latest and greatest tvs, etc., and they were pretty much on all the time, becoming background noise alot of the time. And I read, and I read, and I read. Voraciously. Everything from Nancy Drew to all of my children's encyclopedia's from A to Z to adult books in the 6th grade, surprising my teachers who didn't believe I was reading Alex Haley at that age. Basically, I loved reading and my television, too. Had all of the schedules memorized, well, because I read the TV Guide when it came in each week. TV till bedtime, and then mom having to come in and make me turn of my bedside light to make me stop reading and go to sleep; not such a bad gig.
Fast forward to present day and my household with a 5yo. We are pretty much "The Jones" when it comes to electronics, and the 5 yo can operate every single one of those devices (including the tv and vcr in his room - yes, his room). That's not a bad thing. He was taught to use them and he is able to be self sufficent enough so that Mom and Dad don't have to do everything for him, when he is perfectly able to do some things by, and for, himself. And it does make those Saturday mornings extra sleep very golden.
The tvs are pretty much always on, as they were when I was growing up, and they are still background noise. Noone in the house just stops doing anything else when a tv in on nearby - it just is there. The kiddo isn't suffering and has learned tons of stuff from television - most recently discovering "Discovery Kids" channel, and him and his dad can watch, and discuss, the space shows they both enjoy. He will be reading shortly, colors like a 1st grader and is farther ahead than his K-teacher expects kids to be at this time, so I can't really say that his learning is suffering, nor is he just a couch potato, what with him enjoying playing in sports, using his Leap-Pad and molding the Play-doh, among other things he likes to do, not just watching tv.
Anyway, long road to a little point here, but I really think alot of it has to do with the exposure of the child and the importance placed on the tv, much like most things. If it is treated as not much of a big deal, it won't be one. If it is treated as the "Holy Grail", it will become the most sought after and revered thing - which of course it's not.
*sidenote* As for reading, again, I think it depends on the exposure to it that shapes a person's desire to read. When my SO was a kid, he was punished by being made to sit in the corner and read. Let's just say that he doesn't read so much as an adult. I'm just saying.......
posted by thatothrgirl at 9:59 AM on November 8, 2002

What a revealing topic. I think there's great stuff being done for kids (and inquisitive adults) on television, but I think in all it is bad for kids. Parents who use the TV as babysitter are allowing unfiltered communication between the corporate world and the minds of their children. Television's primary purpose is advertising in the guise of entertainment. The creation of programming and commercials is the science of (1) creating desire for something you can never have with the purpose of getting you to purchase more toward that ideal and (2) making itself watchable so you keep coming back for more. It is the constant tease--you keep watching because there is a promise of a payoff, though it never quite comes.

Television casts the viewer into a sort of hypnotic state--think about the fact that when you are watching television you are not changing your field of vision and thus do not re-focus your eyes: the TV camera lens does that for you. This places you physically into a passive and receptive state, and children are particularly vulnerable because they do not have the level of knowledge and maturity to consider or question this process. (Indeed, many adults do not, which is why even supervised viewing is not guaranteed to diminish this influence, since it usually is not accompanied by a great degree of critical discussion about what is being seen.) Why should the child not trust what is offered or encouraged by the parent?

In the meantime, those things that might be worthwhile--such as social interaction, contact with the real world, and knowledge about something other than media-defined (and thus corporate-defined) popular culture--are displaced.

What I find most interesting is that people here are almost saying it is a form of abuse not to allow children to watch TV. The primary reason given so far is that children would be out of the pop culture loop and thus would be considered unusual. Score a big one for conformity there! What you are saying is that someone is socially dysfunctional if they cannot relate to or repeat back to you the artificially constructed, corporate-defined social reality to which you have become accustomed or, more likely, addicted. There is something wrong with that person, not with you.

And really, is there anyone here who wishes they put more time into watching television, either growing up or today? Is there anyone who, if they could go back, would play less, get involved in fewer sports, read less, or have fewer conversations with friends for the sake of more TV?
posted by troybob at 10:02 AM on November 8, 2002

Shouldn't the underlying principle be "moderation"? There's nothing wrong with some TV, but there's definately something wrong with 24/7 TV. Just like the... internet... oh, wait, that moderation thing doesn't apply to the internet. Does it?
posted by blue_beetle at 10:08 AM on November 8, 2002

I don't watch much TV now but when I do all I see is this reality crap and I wind up turning it off. Or I turn it to the news. Does anyone really watch this reality stuff? Whats so interesting about it? Looks like a bunch of whiners whining about other whiners. Bring back Fraggle Rock :)
posted by Ron at 10:35 AM on November 8, 2002

Had all of the schedules memorized, well, because I read the TV Guide when it came in each week. TV till bedtime, and then mom having to come in and make me turn of my bedside light to make me stop reading and go to sleep

You just described me exactly...I do wish, however, that a still read that much, but due to lack of time (and books) I'll be lucky to read 2 hours a week. On the other hand, the new Terry Pratchett book should arrive from Amazon, and I'll have to limit myself to half an hour a night to make it last :p
posted by Orange Goblin at 10:39 AM on November 8, 2002

Aacheson, I agree with you wholeheartedly that a TV-addicted baby is, indeed a frightening thing. I also agree that for a great many people, television has probably had a negative impact on how individuals minds work and how much they're willing able to use them.

However, I must with equal fervor encourage you to reconsider the question of video games.

Certainly, the medium has just as much potential for (arguably) damaging over-indulgence. But is moderation and balance really so hard? Attention should be paid to the subject matter - from games, television, movies, et al - that children are exposed to and what value it is allowed to have for them.

But the world grows more and more electronically focused, with no indicators that the trend will abate anytime soon. Video games and electronic educational materials are your most powerful tool for preparing a child to think and respond to and effectively make use of these interfaces.

Please, don't throw out the baby with the bathwater.
posted by theRegent at 10:42 AM on November 8, 2002

Jazzy? Jazzy?! That is by far the worst name for a human being that I have ever heard.

Somewhere, DJ Jazzy Jeff weeps silently. Then he returns to handing you your fries.
posted by turaho at 11:17 AM on November 8, 2002

The most brilliant kids I know are ones that are restricted in their television time.

My 6-year-old is very smart and I daresay he has more imagination and better reading skills than the other kids in his first-grade class. He also watches tons of TV, mostly the Cartoon Channel. He watches "Ed, Edd and Eddy" at night before bed and in the morning before school. And you know what? He's gonna be OK. He'll probably be like me: I watched lots of TV when I was a kid, and I was reading on a 12th-grade level in fifth grade, and I make my living as a writer -- and in a typical week spend more time watching TV than reading at home.

Why do so few Mefites confess to enjoying TV shows that aren't on PBS or the History or Discovery channels? Doesn't anyone here like to watch Buffy, Angel, 24, Monday Night Football, Everybody Loves Raymond, CSI, Gilmore Girls? If you turn up your nose at such fare, and haughtily say that reading is so superior to watching good TV shows, you need to get over yourself.
posted by Holden at 11:37 AM on November 8, 2002

I think the lack of TV in my life has been one of the most important factors in my developmen. I wasn't allowed to watch it until I was 13, and I'm 15 now and have watched maybe 7 hours since I've been allowed to. When I was younger I would beg my parents to let me watch, but as I got older I stopped caring, and realized that the things I was already doing were a lot more fun then sitting in a chair and staring at the screen. I've spent my time reading and playing music and hanging out with friends and such, all mentally stimulating and fun things to do... I occationally feel a bit stupid when a friend makes a joke based on a particular show or SNL skit or some such thing and I fail to get the joke, but that's not the end of the world. The things I've done with my time in place of watching TV have been much more valuable.
posted by bubukaba at 11:52 AM on November 8, 2002

I think the real frightening thing about these people is that the lump television and film into the same categories.

Television is mostly crap. Unquestionably. Especially the major networks. Yes, there are exceptions. The Discovery/History Channel thing. I think international media, such as BBC is terrific. Ditto for HBO original programing, a few advertising supported shows (I'm a "24" devotee.) I'm a long way from having kids, but you can bet that if I and my future spouse have enough will power, we will strictly limit our childrens watching of television. My parents limited me, and I glad for it (however, that hasn't stopped me from shelling out each month for digital cable.)

However, lumping film in with television is completely idiotic. First, film is a powerful artistic form of expression. Though I also consider the bulk of Hollywood produced film "crap" to some extent, I think going to a movie on a Saturday afternoon, even if its Men in Black II, has much to be said for it over turning on friends reruns. And that's just lowest common denominator film. There are multiple interesting and compelling films out there that span the range of human interests. These parents are doing their children a diservice by automatically labeling every moving image that is accompanied by sound as forbidden.

Plus, here's a simple fact of life, television and film are mass mediums that play and will continue to play, a large role in our society. You may not like this but its a fact. And yes, I agree that being able to watch television is a skill. In concurrance to what many of you observed above here's an anecdote. My cousins were forbidden television until they were in the late years of high school/early college. Their parents did not own a set. Consequently, my cousins read, played, all that good stuff. And they are not drawn to watching hours and hours of television now to "make up for lost time." But all three of them lack the ability to NOT focus soley on any television that's on. They simply don't have the skill of being able to split there attention from a television and a phone call, or a conversation, or a magazine. They can't do it. And wherever you end up in America, chances are that there will be a television on, either in the room you are currently in, or close near by. Being able to function while the box is on is a learned skill...and if you are never exposed to the television, you lack that skill.
posted by pjgulliver at 11:57 AM on November 8, 2002

Forbidding Television and Video games makes them forbidden fruit. For the love of god don't do it - you'll just exasperate the problem. Your kids will think you're a moron and do whatever the hell they like, because they realize that you're not being rational, and actually spend more time pursuing these things. Video games were held as forbidden fruit for me, but I was allowed to watch television whenever the hell I wanted. I play video games 4 hours a day now and rarely watch TV.

I've met kids who have had television banned, or video games banned, etc. It does not help them, rather, it isolates them from their peers, and causes this incurable naive nature that is so infuriating to witness. Be open to new experiences and you'll become brighter - reading is not inherently better than television, just more work. I've gotten to the point where I can read through and digest a 500 page novel in under an hour, and be able to discuss it on an equal plane with people who have spent weeks reading it, and you know what? There's a lot of similar stuff out on the market - all books start to look the same after a while - I'd hardly call most reading intellectually stimulating, it's just something to do to keep me from getting bored out of my skull - much like TV and video games.
posted by Veritron at 12:06 PM on November 8, 2002

Why do so few Mefites confess to enjoying TV shows that aren't on PBS or the History or Discovery channels?

Quite. My favourite programmes are Changing Rooms (Trading Places to you American-type people), Big Brother, East Enders (soap), The Office (sitcom), League of Gentlemen (ditto), Will and Grace and Celebrity Fit Club. David Attenborough and his tedious fish get nowhere near my screen. Go right ahead and sue me.
posted by Summer at 12:55 PM on November 8, 2002

I don't see what's wrong with these kids not watching tv. When I was young I was woefully out of touch with pop culture, but it never elicited anything more than a look of disbelief.

Maybe it was the tone of the article, but I don't think disallowing children to watch television is necessarily an elitist thing. Something like that is as simple as not having a television in the house. Is that banning it?

On the same note, I grew up without cable and now am addicted to it, watching it for hours whenever I'm with someone who has it. It's all good, I can't distinguish between good and bad.
posted by Toe E Jaleo at 1:00 PM on November 8, 2002

Forbidding Television and Video games makes them forbidden fruit. For the love of god don't do it - you'll just exasperate the problem.

Exasperate you, maybe, but not the problem. What's the danger? That they'll grow up and start watching tons of TV everyday? Oh, you mean like all the people who have watched tons of TV from early childhood? As for your anecdotal evidence of non-TV-watchers, I know some who are exactly the opposite from those you describe.

Could we possibly get beyond the notion that even if American culture is toxic, we must steep ourselves in it so that we don't come off as uncool to everybody else?
posted by soyjoy at 1:04 PM on November 8, 2002

Maybe signing every homework assignment with the rough equivalent of Richard Hell's famous t-shirt made me a little more sensitive to this sort of thing, but if a kid wants to mess with you, he will find a way, no matter how obscure or tenuous, to goof on your name. Given name, surname, it don't matta.

This is made worse of course by their parents denying them the great playground-cultural equalizer, though those Paula Yates-esque names obviously won't help much.
posted by britain at 2:46 PM on November 8, 2002

As some of you have pointed out, this little debate is drawing itself as "My experience is best," with both childhood tv-watchers and non tv-watchers chiming in to advance their version of that thesis. One can survive and be a well-balanced, well-educated, happy, productive person both with and without television. Personally, and I think many tv-watchers can speak to this, I enjoyed quite a bit of television as a child, and I don't regret that at all. I also read quite a bit, played with my friends quite a bit, and had lengthy, daily, loving interactions with my family. Threads like this one show how many of us have wonderfully fond memories of tv growing up. TV, even bad tv, can have its own unique value, just as books and games and movies have theirs.

As many of you have suggested, it's all about moderation, in more ways than one. I can't really argue with this family's decision to completely ban the tv, except for the fact that it smacks of laziness. Keep an eye over your children's development, and work to cultivate them towards being the caliber of people you want them to be. So if you want them to be sanctimonious little snots, don't let them watch television. Kidding!! Kidding! Ohmigosh, I'm so kidding, I promise. If they're watching too much tv, tell them so, make 'em do something else for a while. I don't think they'll resent you forever.

PS: Someone in this thread referred to the Cosby Show as a "stupid sitcom." I think there's only one answer to that. I hate you, I hate you, I hate you. (See The Onion's Point-Counterpoint on Wine from a few weeks ago.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 4:17 PM on November 8, 2002

I just realized these kids had the same name as my neighbor's Yorkies next door. Seriously.
posted by konolia at 5:52 PM on November 8, 2002


all books start to look the same after a while

geez, that's sad. i guess they all have cover and bindings and pages in between, but that's the first time i've ever heard someone say that. i 'd be glad to recommend a few that aren't so similar, if you're interested.

and, yes, reading is inherently better than television, because it forces the user to become an active participant. it engages the imagination, rather than stifling it.

sorry for the blanket statement, but not really, b/c it's true.

btw, if you've got an hour and a half to spare, do you mind reading Gravity's Rainbow and explaining it to me? i could sure use the help.

maybe all books look the same to you b/c you're reading 500 pages/hour(!). slow down a little.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:02 PM on November 8, 2002

pjgulliver said:
They simply don't have the skill of being able to split there attention from a television and a phone call, or a conversation, or a magazine.

That's exactly how my boyfriend is! He walks in the door, grabs the remotes, turns on the TV and he is glued to it. He won't hear anyone speaking to him. Sometimes he doesn't even hear his cell phone ring, and he gets annoyed when something breaks his concentration on the TV. He actually once told me to never talk to him when he's watching a TV show, and only speak during the commercials! You can imagine the WWIII type "discussion" following that statement. And he isn't only watching one show at a time either ... he's usually flipping between 3 or more shows, all of which he's afraid to miss one moment of. When it's about time for a show to come on that I want to see, I reclaim the remotes and force him to sit and watch one whole show without flipping channels. You can just look at him and see that it stresses him out. :D Even when the TV is on, I go about my business of doing the cooking and cleaning, talking on the phone or reading books and newspapers. I am fully capable of totally ignoring a TV, and in fact, often get bored during shows I want to watch and wander off to do something else. If there's a TV near him, it's got to be on, and he can't ignore it. Wierd.

Someone above asked about confessions of watching shows that aren't on an educational channel, and yes ... I have a few small guilty pleasures. Currently, I refuse to miss both Enterprise, as I've been a Star Trek geek since birth, and John Doe, because the main character is not only cute ... he's brilliant, and intelligence is such a turn on. LOL!
posted by Orb at 9:32 PM on November 8, 2002

No one regulated my TV viewing when I was growing up, and as a result, I basically stopped watching when I was 17 or 18. I chose a little college in the middle of nowhere; no one there watched TV either.

When I was 24, I found out that I have ADD, which explained, somewhat, why I couldn't have the stereo on during a phone conversation, and why I don't like TV. It's just sensory overload.

Not watching TV has made me somewhat socially inept; I'm the one with the blank look when someone else says, "Remember that episode of Seinfeld/Friends/the Simpsons?" But being around an always-on television is my version of hell, so I was probably not destined to be friends with TV watchers.

Movies, though... movies are vital.
posted by swerve at 10:12 PM on November 8, 2002

There's a lot of similar stuff out on the market - all books start to look the same after a while - I'd hardly call most reading intellectually stimulating, it's just something to do to keep me from getting bored out of my skull - much like TV and video games.
posted by Veritron

I suspect you need to improve your selection. I read 5 or 6 books a week (take a wild guess as to how much TV I watch) and if you read genre stuff, then, yes, it probably does tend to blur after awhile. But try mixing it up. Challenge yourself to read one classic for every three books (challenging for you might be Dickens or it might be Herodotus or it might be a Nobel Prize winner.) Also mix in some non-fiction. As a child, I rarely read anything but novels, but as an adult I have come to appreciate short stories and non-fiction as well. In fact some of the best books I have ever read are non-fiction, such as The Coming Plague by Laurie Garrett; The American Way of Death by Jessica Mitford; and Toyland, The High Stakes Game of the Toy Industry by Stern and Schoenhaus.

So after reading everyone's contribution to this thread we can conclude that:
a) People raised with no TV become TV addicts OR they never develop a taste for it.
b) People raised with lots of TV stay TV addicts OR gradually wean themselves off.
c) People who cannot concentrate on anything else when a TV is on were raised with no TV OR they were raised with TV viewing allowed.

So anecdotal evidence gets us nowhere.

In the end it is the advertisements that condemn TV for me. I really don't see the need for children (or anyone for that matter) to suck on the great commercial tit that is intent on turning us all into good little consumers.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 11:45 AM on November 9, 2002

Secret Life of Gravy said:
"People raised with no TV become TV addicts OR they never develop a taste for it."

My younger sister and I live with my parents in a house where there is no television. We would probably have to move out if we wanted our own television sets. As we were growing up, we had a tv in the house on a couple of occasions. When there was a tv available it was usually in my parents bedroom and very seldomly watched (mostly restricted to renting movies). My sister and I would get in big trouble when we would try to sneak in to watch shows. Our attitudes to tv now are polar opposites. It can turn out either way.

My sister is now a tv nut. She has begged my parents numerous times to buy a tv. At my grandparents house (where there are two tv's) she watches as much as she can. She loves going to the movies, and spending time at friends' houses watching tv. Pop culture is her scene.

I don't miss watching television. Admittedly, when I was younger I used to resent my parents for being so restrictive. I go over to a friends house to spend time with them, not to watch tv. I enjoy a good film, and go to the movies every so often or sometimes rent a film with my friends. It would probably be fair to say that my substitute for tv is computers/internet. It is where I go for entertainment and education. It is a less passive medium and is infinitely more interesting with the millions of things that one can do.

As far as reading is concerned, we both enjoy it. But this probably has less to do with lack of tv and more to do with the fact that our mother read to us every night for years until we did it on our own.

It's sad that there are people who can't have a conversation without relating it back to something that never happened to people they don't know. When I move out, a television certainly won't be a priority purchase. I couldn't care less about "The Bachelor" or know which music Carson Daly is being paid to like.
posted by twos at 12:50 PM on November 9, 2002

Doesn't anyone here like to watch Buffy, Angel, 24, Monday Night Football, Everybody Loves Raymond, CSI, Gilmore Girls? If you turn up your nose at such fare, and haughtily say that reading is so superior to watching good TV shows, you need to get over yourself.

everybody loves raymond? please tell me you're kidding. CSI looks pretty bad too but I've never actually seen it. I'll give you gilmore girls/buffy / angel

I do watch ER & Law & Order though, but I'm pretty aware that it's an escape mechanism more than an engaging experience.

I'm one of those people who can't do two things at once - if a TV's on I find it very difficult to engage with someone. Same is true of radio actually, so much so that I usually have to turn it off after getting the weather in the morning in order to get dressed! I just get caught standing there listening and forget to keep moving. But i don't think this has anything to do with whether or not I was allowed television as a child (my parents weren't specifically restrictive but we just didn't watch that much - we had to do other things most of the time, though we got up early for saturday morning cartoons, and I remember watching the family ties and mash sometimes, because I had crushes on alan alda and michael j fox. And I liked the shows.

I did feel embarassed for much of high school & even college not catching all the pop culture references, but once I got more initiated to them during college, I realized how pointless and stupid they were after all and now I really don't care if I do or don't know the name of someone who does something I don't find interesting. Who cares? Once it was demystified it became completely insignificant.
posted by mdn at 4:35 PM on November 9, 2002

CSI looks pretty bad too but I've never actually seen it.

It's one of the only non-educational shows I watch regularly. While it's tainted by Bruckheimer, and seems ridiculously inaccurate in some respects, it shows you neat tech stuff and some of the stories are riveting. They at least put some effort into most of the episodes.
posted by biscotti at 3:57 PM on November 10, 2002

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