As far as limiting TV goes, I’m not one for limiting activities for children, as it was not done to me growing up. One good thing about my parents is that they always let me regulate what I wanted to do and be a free spirit, finding contentment in the things I enjoyed. I was not one to watch TV much, as I could go months without watching. I was more of a book worm. Rather than trying to get me to do other things because my parents felt I was doing too much reading and nothing else, they would just engage in it with me and buy whatever books I wanted. To this day, I’m still a book worm, and I seldom watch TV, accept if there is going to be something on that is worth watching. I'm a fan of allowing the children to do what they feel is fun to them and allowing them to spend as much time as they'd like doing it, as that is what my parents did to me.
I won’t have to worry about children spending too much time in front of the TV, as I will plan activities that will provide some form of education to them, yet will be a whole lot of fun. For instance, we will go to the library at toddler age so they can pick out picture books of their choosing to help cultivate the love of reading in them. We will also read together at bedtime. I believe in doing this from infancy, as young as a newborn, as it will make the children smarter. I will also engage them in interesting conversation about different things, and we will go on fun outings to expose them to new things. Such as if I were to teach them about Native American culture, I’d take them to a place they can experience it physically to make everything real to them. So, too much TV will not be a problem because we will always be doing other things together, and I can rest assured that they are getting exposure to many new and different things, as well as learning to use their imaginations and growing in knowledge.
Wholesome Content vs. Unwholesome Content
When I watch children, and when I have my own, I have very strict guidelines as to what will be viewed in my home. This is largely due to my wanting to live my life in line with the Scriptures as best as possible, as they dictate how I handle myself and how I deal with children. Because I myself do not want to watch profane and violent material—just because I’m an adult does not mean that I will watch adult content, as I feel it is degrading and useless—any child in my home will not watch it also. If they are allowed to do it at home, then that is fair; but in my home, it will not happen. Of course, I have discussions with the parents what I will and will not allow to go on in my home, and then the parents can make an informed decision as to whether or not they want their children to stay with me. However, my friends pretty much all believe the same thing with some differences, and we find some sort of compromise if the differences are not too huge. Here is one example.
There are some cartoons that I will not allow my children to watch, but one of my friends sees no problem letting her child watch them. These are the cartoons that have magic in them. I would not allow my own children to watch them because they are not in line with the Bible—the way I want to raise my children. However, I respect that my friend is doing things slightly differently. We came to an agreement that if her child feels the need to watch those cartoons, she can go into my room and shut the door and watch them and bring along whomever else is allowed by their parents to watch; however, my children would have something different to do or watch, so they’d not feel left out. I felt that this was a reasonable compromise.
In order to know if a show is objectionable or not, I will watch it by myself first before allowing the children to watch it. I can also look up things on the net to see if other parents view the material to be problematic. Watching it first is always best, as I can see if it is against my standards.
Also, when it comes to profane content, I could block it on my TV, so the children will not feel the need to sneak and watch them and scratch their curious itch, so to speak. I will admit that when I was a child, I did sneak and watch porn because we could get HBO and Show Time. My friends, my brother, and I would do it late at night after my parents went to bed. To prevent that from going on in my house, I will block anything that I feel is not in line with the Scriptures—even talk show trash on regular TV. I even block things now, though, I have no children because I do not want to even ACCIDENTLY see that filth myself.
If a child has a question about something objectionable, I have no qualms about sitting down and talking to them openly about it. I personally do not feel that it is right to deny them an explanation if they want to know. Sure, the topic may be uncomfortable at best, but they asked the questions and have a right to know. If they want to know about babies and where they came from, I’ll tell the truth. If they want to know why they cannot watch a certain program, I tell them the truth, even if it is touchy. Of course, when it comes to other’s children, I’m going to ask the parents how open I could be with them before having a discussion, as some parents want to teach certain values. In cases that parents are not cool with me being open, I’ll just give a concrete explanation and tell them to talk to their parents for the rest. But with my own children, I’m going to be open all the way. My feeling is that if you hide everything from them, they will want to explore it all the more and find other ways to do it, too.
As far as internet goes, I have had many a children on my accounts with screen names. AOL has parental controls, as well as age appropriate screen name settings. For instance, there is Kids only, for children under twelve, which is very restrictive, and you could opt to have a daily report of your child’s activity mailed to you. Then, there is the young teen, where you can still keep tabs on your children via reporting and restrict access to content you do not want them to see; and then, there is the mature teen, which gives them access to pretty much everything with a few exceptions. Of course, that will be up to you what you determine to do with your child’s internet access.
Windows Vista, and even Windows 7, has features that will allow you to set up individual accounts for your children that can be set to allow or deny access to whatever is set, as Windows operating systems, Vista and forward, have built in parental controls. When I have children, I see no problem in allowing them each to have their own laptops, since I’m a self taught computer technician and see the value in technology, but until they can show that they will exercise restraint in visiting objectionable sites, I will have an account created that only they can access, and the administrator account will be blocked, so they cannot access it and change the settings. But, if they turn out anything like me and can figure out how to crack through things, then that is another issue for another day. Of course, they could always lose privileges to the laptop if they do not use it correctly. And the same would go for the TV as well. If I catch them watching an objectionable program, because they figured out how to get around the block, then they lose privileges to the TV for a week or two. These are natural and logical consequences that I’d enforce during these times.
This is how I’d handle matters.