Five years ago, I believed that TV was killing my kids' brain cells. Perhaps it had to do with what they were watching: irksome, mindless sitcoms. I'd grimace each time I passed the TV, and whenever my chatty young son cornered me to recap an episode, I'd plaster on a smile as my eyes glazed over.
Recently, however, I've realized that I don't have to run and hide when my kids turn on the TV. I kind of like what they tune in to these days. At our house, the educational options are cool, and the annoying laugh tracks are out - thank goodness!
TV isn't rotting my kids' brains, and here are some reasons why.
TV programs teach kids about the world
Via TV, my kids travel to far-flung locales around the globe, learning some geography in the process. They view cool science experiments. They learn about orangutans, alligators, raccoons, and whales. My kids gain a better understanding of the plight of threatened and endangered species and admiration for the people devoted to them.
Many TV shows inspire creativity
Our family marvels at the chefs who create intricately designed cakes. We admire the construction of crazy, giant fish tanks. We gather landscaping ideas, choose our favorite home designs, learn off-the-wall survival skills, and pick up cooking tips.
Most importantly, my kids don't just say, "cool," and click off the TV. My daughter wants to design a cake and apply chalkboard paint to her bedroom walls. Such TV programs inspire and motivate watchers to learn a new skill or take up a new hobby.
With a parent's input, TV can influence our kids' beliefs
This is a minor example, but my daughter used to adore a show about a pretty teenage singing sensation. She noticed everything about her and tried to emulate the star's looks and talents. One day, my daughter made a comment about the girl's clothes: on the show she never wore the same thing twice. This gave me the opportunity to jump in and say, "I know, isn't that silly and unrealistic? I don't know anyone who always wears a brand-new outfit." My daughter was too young to understand that the variety of outfits is just typical TV. We were able to apply this concept to real life - her life - and talk about the importance of avoiding excess and materialism.
TV watching can help parents set guidelines
. Last year, my tween daughter began learning sign language. When a new show about a deaf teenage girl debuted our family tuned in. Unfortunately for us, the series soon developed some not so family-friendly story lines, and we decided to stop watching.
This experience isn't unusual; many TV series often debut with innocent content before delving into more questionable "adult" topics. Even then, such shows can provide families with a positive opportunity. Parents can teach kids that a line should be drawn. Some content (sex, excessive violence, vulgar language) is simply inappropriate. A family's "break up" with a favorite show can be tough, but it also provides parents with a great opportunity to set some standards.
TV can enhance children's creativity, learning and growth. Just make sure you're tuned in to what your kids are watching, even when it includes those silly sitcoms.