In Support of Substantial Screentime


Summer screams for screentime. And maybe you should just let it happen.

The underdog has always been the recipient of my support. Sometimes due to sympathy, and sometimes due to empathy. Most frequently, just because no one else wants to risk the public derision by standing alongside.

Such villainy is associated with television watching; the compulsion to compose a piece in defense of the encyclopedic source of entertainment is simply irresistible.

If TV is the devil requiring an advocate, I’m just her gal.

As is always the way at the forefront of a monologue espousing a largely unpopular P.O.V. (that’s TV speak for point of view), a few clarifying points:

Choose wisely. 

Certain channels and shows should not even be contemplated with wee kids in the room — perhaps even the house. Obvious no-go’s (Comedy Central, E!, MTV, my current adult faves AMC’s “Walking Dead”, and then, of course, HBO’s “Real Sex” come to mind straight away), but some less-obvious viewing options should be avoided during young children’s waking hours. (Have you watched — or listened to — the news lately?) 

However, adding some non-child oriented programming can be a balancing, “grown-up,” non-threatening, culture-building privilege. The Food Network (“Look how the factory inserts the cream-filling in Twinkies!”), HGTV (“Wow, they have a lot of work to do to make that home safe to live in.”) and televised golf (“How do you think Jordan Speith got so good?” A Carnegie Hall joke is echoing in my ears.) are just a few popular in our house.

Be in the room with the little viewers.

At a minimum, be in the room with the little viewers, ready to handle the questions or interject a needed explanation. At a maximum, use it as a vehicle for explaining appropriate (e.g. spinach eating for strength) and inappropriate (e.g. frying pan to the noggin) behaviors.

Don’t deny that even the “silly” can provide some learning! My earliest knowledge of prehistoric man (and woman, and neighbors, and baby with a bone in her coif)? Flintstones. Thank you, Hanna Barbara. 

Don’t just assume because it’s “children’s programming” that it’s OK.

Don’t just assume that if it’s “children’s programming” (or on PBS, Cartoon Network, etc.), that means it’s completely A-OK and coincides with your family behavioral ideals.

For our family, “Caillou” made that abundantly clear. Whenever we watch it (which is infrequently: think bouts of stomach flu or contagious strep throat), not only do we point out that Caillou’s whining and tantrum-y attitude are completely inappropriate (yes, I know he’s four…and defend my perspective that his whining and tantrums are completely inappropriate), but in one memorable instance I remember declaring “If Caillou’s parents really loved him, they’d teach him how to handle his disappointment.”

We’ve even played a game, “Tell me what Caillou’s Mommy should have said/done,” and “Tell me why Caillou made a bad choice.” Seriously, for as much as I detest that show, it has provided great opportunities to define what we feel is more socially appropriate — not to mention emotionally healthy — behavior.

Digression (a.k.a. Caillou rant) concluded.

Television grows us.

It’s television I credit for a pop-cultural conversancy.
And television I credit for spurring curiosity in areas without which introduction I’d be entirely ignorant.
TV bolsters vocabulary.
TV provides avenues for family discussion on making wise — and dodging unwise (remember the afterschool specials?) — choices.
Television shows us…what we want to be, and don’t want to be. The bemoaned by many but beloved by us box fills the role vacated by morality plays of centuries past, and vastly expands the opportunities for – horror of horrors – plain ol’ entertainment.

He-Twin: “What is boomerang?”

 “It’s a toy from Australia that when you throw it away from you like a Frisbee, it comes back.”

 “Like these shows you used to watch when you were little came back on this channel?”

Yes! That’s it exactly, my precociously-intellectual, book-loving and yes, television-watching boy. A demonstrated comprehension of analogical concepts defined through simply the network’s name — Huckleberry Hound’s magnetic appeal will surely contribute to our son’s predictably high SAT scores in the future.

Before you contact your cable provider and tune in to the Boomerang Network 24/7, a caveat: never be afraid — in fact, it’s your adult responsibility – to exercise parentally-imposed censorship.

Yeah, you heard me use the verboten word, censorship. Perhaps there’s the next arguable topic upon which to opine…