Television and your family: is it a problem?
Did you know that this week is National Turnoff Week? Neither did I. And did you know that it’s not a week to describe your turnoffs to your partner? (“Ear nibbling. The word ‘creamy.’ And, oh, that shirt that you think looks good on you.”) The things you learn!
No, National Turnoff Week is a campaign to get people everywhere, kids and adults alike, to reduce their time in front of the television and related screens (yes, watching videos on Youtube counts). The idea is, you renounce your television-watching ways for one week, and then at the end of the week you realize how much quality time you’ve spent with your kids, and presto–fewer mind-numbing television hours for your family in the future.
I like this idea, but sadly (or fortunately, depending on what time of day you catch me) Henry is at his grandparents’ house this week, so we couldn’t put it into effect (at least not with Henry around, which I believe is sort of the point) and also, I didn’t find out about National Turnoff Week until, um, today.
Anyway, I don’t view our television watching as any kind of problem that needs fixing. Mostly, barring illness or snow day (or if he wake up insanely early on a Saturday morning), we’ve got it under control. The rule is one show after school, and we (mostly) stick to that. Hey, sometimes he finds out THE BEST SHOW EVER is on next, and I’m still making dinner, and am in fact a human and not an android. But nine times out of ten, he will cheerfully turn the television off after his allotted time is up, and join me in the kitchen to criticize my dinner choices. Ah, quality time.
I will say that what he wants to watch these days gives me pause. Currently my son is besotted with a show called Ben10. In case you’re unfamiliar (and thank your lucky stars if you are), Ben 10 is the story of a young boy who comes across an alien watch-like device that will allow him to turn into different aliens. The aliens, natch, all have superhero-like abilities. Most of them sport ripped abs. That’s just how it is in galaxies far, far away.
Like most entertainment options of which I have disapproved, this show was discovered early one Saturday morning while Henry watched television with Scott, who is much more willing to stray from educational programming than I (especially on Saturday mornings, when I am luxuriating in sleeping late and really can’t criticize his choices). (Except I still do. Hi, Scott!) So what do I dislike about Ben-10? Hmm, let’s see. It’s chock full of cartoony violence, for one: freakish mesomorphs pummeling each other without any apparent lasting ill effect. Number two, Ben is a whiny jerk and if Henry ever imitated his behavior even a little I would sell him. Three, Ben and his cousin Gwen (see how everything rhymes!) are jerks to each other. Four, that theme song will NEVER LEAVE MY HEAD.
But then, I can definitely see why Henry loves the show. I mean, come on. A little boy has the power to turn into multiple superheroes, and destroy the bad guys. What, exactly, is not to love? And I like the way Henry watches the show—he immediately has to reenact the episode, as soon as it’s over. With embellishments, of course. Since discovering Ben 10, Henry draws alien after alien, both ones from the show and his own creations, and they’re truly impressive. He’s also written and illustrated his own Ben 10 stories, and he has plans for us to write a script and send it to the show.
Would he have expressed his creativity in other, probably more original ways, without Ben 10? Probably. (He does, by the way. Sometimes.) I’m not saying that television has helped him become a better person, but that it hasn’t wreaked the damage the doomsayers all say it does. He’s not violent. He doesn’t model the behavior I dislike seeing on the show. Not once has he called us any of the names that Ben and Gwen like to toss at one another. Nor has he blown us away with a reverse ion beam or scrambled our DNA. I wonder what I would do if I did see negative behavior that I felt was related to his watching this one particular show. It’s hard to say, because of course it would depend on what that behavior was, and how pervasive it had become. Is it him calling me an idiot, or knocking out a kid on the playground? Could I be sure it was closely related to Ben 10? It’s hard to say. Small children, as we know, are not necessarily known for their impulse control, television shows or no.
What’s your take on your kids and television? Did you turn off your TV for the week? If you didn’t, do you think you should?