Television Unfit?

Children love television they spend hours watching programming specifically targeting them. As parents we have an obligation to protect our children but are we doing enough? One parent has a few words of caution for parents everywhere.

After recently watching a good amount of television programming, I question whether a TV has a place in a home with children — unless it is heavily supervised, monitored, and controlled. That assumes parents are paying attention. If they’re not — then the TV needs to go, and so does the computer.

This may seem a little off-topic to a homeschool discussion. However, I believe that as homeschooling parents we must create an environment in our homes that supports the development of the human beings we are trying to raise. Think about that for a minute before you read on. What qualities and characteristics do you hope to encourage as your children grow? Make a list — and then use it as a guideline when trying to figure out what in your home supports the development of those qualities and traits — and what doesn’t.

Family programming

My husband and I were watching American Idol recently. (I admit it, I’m a complete sucker for that show). It’s billed as a “family” show. However, most of the contestants filmed during the “audition weeks” provide a glaring example of the detrimental influence of pop culture on young Americans. Most are clueless numbskulls with potty mouths.

If your children are watching this show, be very careful. Kids don’t have the same filters as adults. They may not understand that when a contestant says, “F#@%, Simon, he can kiss my a#@,” — even if the “bad” words are bleeped — it is not an appropriate response in a civilized society. (If you think it is, then God help us all.)

Take a break from commercials

But it’s not just the programming. On this particular night, I was paying attention to the commercials and was surprised by how graphic some of them are in sexual content, violence, and grisly murder scenes.

I’m no prude, but I don’t want my 6-year-old watching close-up, slobbery tongue-action and body-groping as a teaser for a television show. (And if your young children have watched girls-gone-wild video commercials – shame on you for allowing it.)

I’ve watched CSI and Criminal Minds — but I don’t think children should watch those shows. Parents are supposed to protect their children. What possible argument could you use to justify exposing kids to images of mutilated corpses and abhorrent, deviant criminal behavior? And don’t tell me it’s part of your child’s forensic science curriculum.

The degradation of women

I also question why the women scientists and FBI agents portrayed in these shows always go to work in blouses and t-shirts that expose their cleavage (to put it mildly). Isn’t this a direct contradiction to the national obsession with sexual harassment in the workplace? Does anyone remember the women’s rights movement? You think burka-wearing women in the Middle East have it bad? I think seeing women portrayed as breast-baring teases is worse. (And don’t get me started on the current fad of pole-dancing for exercise portrayed on TV. Maypole? Yes. Stripper’s pole? No.) Anyone have any idea what message this sends to our little girls and little boys?

A pill for everything

As if those trends in television weren’t bad enough, big pharma commercials plug every kind of drug imaginable for every weird malady on the planet — can there really be that many people suffering from “Restless Leg Syndrome”?

Not only that, the way people are depicted in commercials is troubling. We’re all-consuming dimwits who only care about feeling and looking good, getting stuff, and partying.

Middle-aged women have no dignity — they only care about botoxing their wrinkles away (and their facial expressions along with them), or trying to attract the attention of the “pool boy” via a slimmer bod — if we are to believe Kirstie Alley’s (age 55) Jenny Craig pitch!

The obsession with cars as a statement of success or even more unbelievably as a way to show your smug environmental awareness is just wrong on so many levels.

The idea that diamonds are the singular expression of love is particularly annoying. Your relationship is worthless unless you can flaunt it encased in gold and set with three full-carats. Do you really buy into that crap? Do you want your kids to think it’s true?

If I have to watch that cruise commercial one more time that suggests the whole reason the family went on the cruise was to get their bratty tween daughter to quit acting out and smile occasionally, I’m going to throw my shoe through the TV!

Commercials make universal assumptions about people based on research. If this is what our culture accepts and condones — why would thinking homeschool parents ever expose their kids to it? I’m serious.

All of these things were aired during prime time — when I know families with young children are watching. Kids are sponges and absorb everything in their environment — they are even sensitive to your reaction to what you see on TV. You may have desensitized yourself to commercials and television programming, but your children haven’t. If you don’t flinch or comment at the images and messages projected — what are they to think?

Taking control back

I know some of you are very careful about exposing your kids to television content. Some of you don’t even own a television. Some only watch pre-screened videos or PBS programs. Some of you have “TIVO” technology so you can fast-forward through the commercials. Some “mute” the TV during commercials. The technology is available to protect our children, but it still requires parental vigilance. If you’re not paying attention when the TV is on, then your kids are at risk.

My family never watched much TV. (Yeah, yeah, I know that’s what everyone says — but in our case it was true). Now that my sons are away at college, I have watched more television — and I’m sorry to say the messages haven’t improved. They have gotten much worse. I just hope for the children’ sake, you are monitoring very closely what they see on TV. The success of your parenting and homeschooling depends on it.

Diane Flynn Keith
Homefires Editor

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