TV is full of junk. There’s violence, language, sex, anti-Christian values, subtle and not-so-subtle nods to the popular take on “open mindedness,” and the list goes on. You’re hard pressed to find a sitcom whose episodes don’t somehow center around deception, and parents are notoriously portrayed as idiots, worthy of truly disrespectful children.
And yet I don’t think television is the devil, out to claim the soul of my preschoolers.
If left to their own devices, children would probably watch whatever pops up on the screen. Adults do it; there’s no reason to think that creatures with less discernment are likely to turn the channel to something more…edifying.
This is where a neutral force like a TV morphs into a toxic influence. If given unmitigated reign over the living room, the effects of the television on your children will probably not go unnoticed. You might find your kids become lazy, backtalk-ish, rude, self-centered and even violent.
And yet…I still don’t think TV is the devil. I’ll tell you why.
During the first trimester of this pregnancy, my kids and I watched a ton of TV. There was no way around it. I felt awful and turning on the TV meant that at least one of my two kids was content to sit on the couch, requiring very little parenting from me.
That’s what I needed then. And the TV helped. It didn’t harm, it helped! Imagine it: a modern electronic device with the potential to truly serve the humans it was invented for. It saved me.
Our TV wasn’t—and isn’t—connected to cable of any kind; it was used for DVDs, Netflix and downloaded shows and movies. During the long weeks steeped with nausea, we tried out Netflix’s free trial and sampled a variety of shows my kids had never watched before (some of them were new to me, too).
Here’s a brief rundown…
Audience: Preschoolers or early elementary students
Purpose: Teaching alphabet, phonics, and reading basics
Overall Ranking: 9
This was one of two truly awesome shows we watched. My 3 year old enjoyed it and I was blown away by the amount of focused teaching it contained. The learning element was front and center, not hidden in contrived dialogue or songs that are difficult to understand (I’m not knocking educational songs in general, so long as the lyrics are understandable).
Audience: Preschoolers, Elementary students, and beyond!
Purpose: Teaching animal facts
Overall Ranking: 10
This show…I love it. My husband and I have learned things from watching it, and our oldest son thoroughly enjoys it! Our favorite thing about the show is the fact that there is no overt agenda being pushed. No character or morals teaching (from a secular source, it wouldn’t be trustworthy), no questionable behavior from the main characters, just a team working together and helping animals. Lighthearted and educational, it’s a keeper!
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood
Purpose: Teaching about life, behavior, emotions, etc., with other subtle academics
Overall Ranking: 5
I don’t care for this show, but both my boys like it. On the surface it seems innocent, trying to teach values and such, but as a secular program, these value lessons aren’t coupled with scripture and at times miss the mark. Ditties repeated throughout each episode reinforce the main point being taught, and while some of them like “You gotta try new food cause it might taste good” are innocuous, some others like “when you feel so mad that you wanna roar, take a deep breath and count to four” leave a lot unsaid. We let our kids watch this show in moderation, but like to know what is being taught in an episode so we can supplement or correct it if necessary.
Audience: Preschool to early elementary
Purpose: Introducing loose geography and history references (I think?)
Overall Ranking: 3
This is another flop in my book. My three year old likes it but I can’t find anything about the show that makes it worthwhile. Some behaviors, even if not condoned by the characters in the show, go beyond what I want to expose my young children to, but so far I haven’t seen an episode that made me want to turn it off altogether. I suppose it’s cute and fun for kids, but I can’t honestly put it in an educational category.
It’s only for a season
I needed help. I needed a way to keep me alive and my kids happy. The TV did this for me, and I am grateful. Did my kids watch too much TV? Yes, by all standards. Are they going to be ok? Yes, for sure.
The months of television overload taught me that we can handle less than perfect circumstances for a season. It taught me that sometimes I am just not strong enough to be great for my kids. I can’t always pull it together and mom all day long. That’s life sometimes.
My kids’ television time wasn’t unsupervised. They weren’t allowed to watch just anything and I ended up watching most shows with them (since I was pretty much couch-ridden). The real problems occur when we don’t know what our kids are watching and let the influence go unchecked.
So no, I don’t think TV is the devil, not at my house, anyway. I think It’s pretty great to have such a tool at my disposal, ready to serve me in my time of need 🙂