Screen Time: How much television do you/should you let your kids watch?

Courtesy of pinterest

Courtesy of pinterest

First published in The Portsmouth News, Tuesday 28th October, 2014.

I wrote a column a fortnight ago about the X-factor and it had me thinking about TV in general.

Different families have different rules about television and ‘screen time’. It’s always been that way. When I was young, some of my friends weren’t allowed to watch Grange Hill. It was seen to be a bad influence on school children because it featured some rascals in a state school. Shock! Horror! Just potter about on the pavement outside a state or private school: teenagers are teenagers wherever they are, and so they should be.

Nowadays, we have become to numb to what is shocking. Families sit in front of the goggle box watching all manner of programmes, some of which – whilst seemingly harmless today – would have had previous generations in uproar. It’s so hard to judge what is and isn’t appropriate sometimes.

Other families allow their very young children to play all manner of video games. If a ‘game’ (definition: an activity that one engages in for amusement), involves graphic theft, violence and/or rape, then how is it suitable for humanity, let alone children?

Children’s brains and moral compasses are only just forming. As adults, we model the behaviours that we expect to see: kindness, empathy, love, care, and so on. Children cannot always draw a distinctive line between what is real and what is not, and they deserve protection from all that is bad in the world for as long as we can manage it.

I am not saying that we should moddle-coddle our children, but we should always allow them the innocence of childhood days: the great outdoors, the wind in their hair, guileless fun, and appropriate screen time.

Televisions and tablets, laptops and iPads: all have taken on a near God-like status in our 21st century culture. Many homes have TVs like cinemas, mounted on the wall like art, above head height, with families gazing transfixed upon them, as if to some electric icon.

I don’t limit my children’s screen time at the moment because, for now, it tends to be self-limiting. They’ll happily watch programmes, but will inevitably then scoot off, distracted by more make-believe and the ever-popular refrain, “Let’s play schools.”

As for me, the TV, combined with a good drama and my PJs, is a marvelous thing in the evening once the toddlers are in bed. Unfortunately the ‘good drama’ stipulation has become a rarity, which leads me to my new hobby: crochet. I am officially past it.

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2 thoughts on “Screen Time: How much television do you/should you let your kids watch?

  1. My parents used to put on the TV once a week on Saturdays. Although there were some drawbacks (I splurged on TV when I got out of the house), I think overall it was a good thing. TV wasn’t a big part of our lives. We were really big readers, which helped me in SO many areas, and it gave us time for other things. We were creative and spent a lot of time playing outside. It’s good for a child’s imagination to develop without numbing TV, or the habit of turning to TV. 🙂

    • I completely agree – I’m a total bookworm and, much as I enjoy watching something decent in the evening if I’m exhausted after work and the kids are in bed! – I still prefer a good book. That’s had an impact just as you say, because it’s facilitated me in becoming a teacher & a columnist. Long live books, fresh air, and imagination 🙂

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