It's nice to see the difference in opinions everyone has.
I just thought I'd add this nice ans short article to the mix.
"Interested now, which of my beliefs do you consider inappropriate in a kids show? Would you consider promoting tolerance and normalising people often misunderstood by society, and/or providing a mirror for children from minority groups/working out their own identities, to be inappropriate? Or do you feel that promoting co-operation and people-before-profit ideologies are not appropriate? I'm not trying to be snarky, its a genuine question"
That's good:-) I don't think any kids show should be teaching anything unless it is making it clear what it's target is. And generally, I think the complexity of the topics you are talking about should not be introduced to 2 year olds. If the kids show promotes itself as one that teaches kids to see things differently or introduce ideas like gender issues, that is different.
"Am I correct in saying that you would prefer your children to develop their own beliefs independently before being exposed to the belief system of others?"
I am not "others", my family and community is not "others", and while you might have limited ability to expose your children to people who are different or have different ideas, I don't. We are already a multicultural, multi-religious family living in a very diverse area. I prefer my kids to learn values that we reflect in our lifestyles and how we treat each other well before they a programmed..
" My experience is that kids are a lot smarter about this stuff than we realise. They absolutely don't swallow tv hook line and sinker."
I see things vastly differently then, particularly in regards to violence and sexism. I don't think the vast majority of what is on TV has anything nearly as valuable to offer as face-to-face friendships, physical activity, schoolwork, reading, and talking. I haven't seen any of the shows you mentioned and don't like TV aside from the break it gives me on Monday when I'm too tired to do the aforementioned and even then I only put on netflix.
I agree that media tends to have a lot of bad messages, but does limiting TV really help to curb any indoctrination? These views are reflected in media because a good chunk of society believes them and/or wants kids to believe them, so you'd pretty much have to lock them in a closet their whole lives to keep them from being exposed.
I don't think it's wrong to try to limit and shelter kids from the media, and I don't think it's wrong to keep them sheltered until they are ready to understand these things. I don't think most young children need that confusion. I am all for exploration once certain understandings and values are established.
MIne only watches baby shows cause that is all that really interests him. But then he has shown more interest in building things and creating things from stuff we have around the house. Which is awesome. I hate tv for my kids and struggle with the same issues you mentioned. However, I think that the reason they don't watch more complicated shows is because they aren't fun. They don't have as much singing, creating, etc. If they want something complicated they get up and get involved in life. Make sense? We are currently trying the unlimited Netflix also, and he watches alot of it, but then he also does more when he gets up from it too. Stuff he never used to do. Good stuff.
I haven't read the responses so please excuse me if this has been said or is not how the conversation has gone. I just don't have time to read the responses.
Unschooling is a spectrum. Some unschoolers feel no limits should be applied to anything. We are on the side that feels that, as adults, we can see things our kids don't understand yet and we need to make decisions for them based on their age, maturity, and personality.
I grew up in a house where the TV was on all the time and all we did was watch TV. I was proud that I knew every show on every channel every day of the week. I was proud of the constant drone of TV noise in the house.
When I moved out at 18 I turned off the TV and can tell you how many TV shows I have watched since then. (I'll be 51 next month.)
Constant television ruined my childhood. We played so much less than we should have. We rarely went outside. All we did was watch TV.
So, you can imagine my response to my kids watching TV. Which is why we bought our son a dvd, Microsomos, for his 3rd birthday. I realized if we totally restricted TV that our kids could go all reactionary on us and become total vidiots when they grew up. So, 4.5 years later the kids get to watch 45 minutes to an hour of documentary-type dvds in the afternoon. They also can do some educational internet time each day. I think our 7 year old is aware broadcast TV exists, but it's just not part of his life so he doesn't ask for it.
Perhaps part of my negative childhood experience with TV is that is all my mom did--sit in front of a TV eating junk food. (Don't get me started on my attitudes about junk food. So much longer damage done by that than TV.) Maybe if she had actually gone outside with us or played with us (she did do crafts with us which, oddly, I have no desire to do with my kids) or if my mom had taken us places or whatever then TV would not have ruined my childhood. However, it did so I just see no reason to give kids non-stop access to TV. Especially not a 2 year old. At three we let our son watch some dvd's, but certainly not at 2.
So, just because you are unschooling doesn't mean you turn off your brain on what is best for your kid. Some kids do better making their own choices from a young age, some do better gaining more freedom as they get older after having watched consistent modeling from their parents. Plus, then there's the effect on YOU. If having the TV on that often makes you batty, then turn the thing off. It is your house and you need to be comfortable living there. If you have ants crawling in you head from the sound of TV, tell that to your child and limit how often the thing is on. Kids who get to do whatever they want with total disregard for the effects on others grow up with very ineffective priorities (i.e. they prioritize themselves over everyone else. Not nice and not a nice way to live.)
Wow, so many issues. I'll just say 2 quick things.
When dd1 was a baby, I couldn't have even a talk show on tv because she would cry when people raised their voices. Another time I was flipping channels in the evening and a scene came on in which there was a car on a jack and another person pushed it so it rolled onto the person changing a tire. She burst out crying! I didn't even know she could focus on a screen across the room. So I started limiting anything violent, and now both dds (6 and 8) have no desire to watch violent media, and they self-regulate actively. They are very different from the other kids they know in that regard.
I also believe that violence in media is like junk food for the brain, and letting them learn to make good choices doesn't necessarily mean you keep junk food in the house, or put it on a plate in front of them.
Second, I really notice dd2's behavior is different when she has regular exposure to tv. Her attention span dissolves to nothing. Her ability to complete a task without constant reminders goes to zero. I could not schedule enough interesting activities to keep her away from it. Without limits she would watch tv for several hours every day, and never turn it off. Doesn't seem to affect dd1 this way. But I am much stricter with dd2 because I think it is detrimental to her brain.
I understand the point of the study, but I would not condemn TV on account of Spongebob!
In addition to the study you mentioned, others have shown that just having the TV on in the house can be bad (decreased focus on their play) for kids, even if they are not watching it. I suppose I could drum up that study for you, but honestly I picked that nugget up in passing from somewhere (I trust).
Can I just say one thing, not a criticism, but my own experiences of the idea that if kids don't watch tv they will react, or it will be forbidden fruit or what have you?
I grew up in a family without TV. Back in the day that was NO TV. DVDs and videos did not, really, exist and my parents certainly weren't going to be buying an expensive multimedia set up. We had a computer (a sinclair spectrum, so rather less complex than the computers that power todays washing machines) but the only time we saw tv was when we were at a friend's house. It wasn't presented as an issue at all really, just as something we didn't do.
Me and my brother are now in our thirties and neither one of us watches tv to any significant extent. Neither of us ever went through a phase of watching huge amounts of tv. Actually I don't think my brother watches any.
I think there is often an argument presented that kids need to have access to tv, sometimes unlimited tv, to prevent them rebelling and turning into tv nuts later and I'd just say that that isn't my family's experience.
Not a response to any one poster, just a general response to an argument I often see advanced. My own feeling is that kids benefit from good tv, but they benefit from many other things. If I am honest the reason my kids watch tv and I watch tv is that its fun.
I don't believe its about brain wiring or whatever. I've met plenty of people who have had a childhood of tv and are fine. And, this might be just me, but the kids I know who are heavy tv watchers are actually often lovely kids. Actually my son, in particular, is probably a lot nicer and a lot more chilled when he's watched a lot of tv.
That's interesting. I do think that depending on how parental control is applied to something, a "forbidden fruit" effect can take place. But I'd never thought about it in the context of TV and my experience. It's very similar to what you describe in your own observation.
I did not grow up in a big TV family; we got a TV when I was 11 or 12, but it was kept in a remote cold corner of the house and my parents had very conservative standards about what was appropriate content for children and what was an appropriate amount of viewing. We were allowed no cartoons, almost nothing with ads (i.e. public television only) and a limit of 2 hours a week for many years. These limits were not applied in an atmosphere of authoritarianism and fear, though. We kids felt that our parents had values still stuck in the pre-TV era and were doing their best to raise us with a healthy balance of activities in accordance with their beliefs. We saw their limits as quaint and somewhat annoying, but not controlling.
My dh grew up in a family that was otherwise far more conservative, but where TV-watching was a central family activity. They were busy with a dairy farm and didn't have much leisure time, but when they did grab an hour or two in the evening, they watched TV.
As an adult I watch almost no TV: maybe an hour a month. And he watches TV the better part of most evenings he's home. So I don't seem to have suffered from a forbidden fruit effect, and he certainly internalized his family's use of TV as a default leisure activity. Hmmmm.
Here are some research findings about young children's TV viewing not related to school:
I also grew up without any tv (or videos, etc) in the pre-internet era. Like the computer, I watch/use it when I can't sink my teeth into a project (because I know I will get frustrated by frequent interruptions) or because I'm feeling run down (I seem to have a chronic fatigue thing.) I'm happy to read books during those times, instead, but it's harder to keep a stock of interesting books on hand. I can take tv or leave it. I think it's more of a personality or temperament thing. My ds likes the tv on but he doesn't get sucked into it. He does other things while it's on, carries on conversations, etc. Not my cup of tea, having the tv on as background but it works for him as a substitute for having more people around.
Here are some research findings about young children's TV viewing not related to school:
It's not clear whether those results are from tv watching, itself, or because the kids aren't doing other things. Of course kids watching tv aren't doing other things but the studies don't have a control comparing the kids who sit and watch tv to ones who sit and do something else passive. So it's hard to say what problems are from tv watching and what ones are from being passive and inactive...
We're a cross of waldorf and unschooling, which basically means we have natural toys, we all help with chores, we have bedtimes and mealtimes, and while we do have school curriculum, it's not forced, rather it's something that they can go to in the day if they choose, otherwise they keep themselves busy exploring/playing etc. My children are ages 9, 7 and almost 3. As for screens- t.v, computer, etc. we completely limit it. They get a movie 3-4x a year, which I know compared to the other responses here, is extremely restrictive. However, my kids do know how to go outside and play, and because they aren't given ideas from a screen, they use their imaginations to come up with their creative play, rather than simply acting out what they've seen on a t.v. I can always spot the kids that are addicted to screens, they'll come over to play, and do so quite happily, then when they're done with their activity, they seem to hit this brick wall of being unable to think of what to do next. They'll often go home for a while to get a screen fix, then return to play later. Something about that, and how zoned out people look in front of a screen just seems off. I figure that my kids can always learn how to be addicted as an adult, there's plenty of examples everywhere we go, with people who just can't seem to put their phones, ipads, etc, away. It's my job, as their parent, to teach them healthy interactions. Just my 2 cents, from a completely different perspective.
One other wrench in the TV thing, IMO (and most other studies relating to kids) is that most kids go to school and even daycare can be very much spoon-fed, "canned" activities. If most kids were homeschooled in a child-led way (not necessarily unschooled) and with *ample* free play, I'm wondering whether the results would be quite different. Hopefully someday we will know, but most studies with kids do not control for the effects of modern education methods and whether they exacerbate the effects. I credit the fact that my girls are great at keeping themselves busy (more or less) in part to limiting TV when young, but most importantly to giving priority to their interests and giving them time and free rein to their games (and my not gushing more over "academic" achievements than other kinds.)
The TV thing is interesting. I grew up with only one channel available and only starting at 7 pm; so I didn't watch much TV as a child. Now, we have no TV. The kids watch DVDs after dinner on the laptop. They seem to have inherited my own notions of when to watch TV/shows/videos because they never ask to watch something in the daytime, only in the evening. It has never even occurred to them to do so at any other time. They do use the iPad in the day time to listen to stories or whatever. Mostly though, they play. They are really good at keeping themselves busy with sometimes ridiculous but always wonderful ideas. I am not sure what will happen in the future ... but I tend to think their heavily ingrained habits and routines will triumph as adults. I personally can not have the TV on in the background. I am pretty sensitive to noise and even music has its time and place. I love and crave utter, complete silence. So my own personality as a mother, I am sure, influences my children in many ways.
All this said, I don't think TV is bad or anything like that. I am far from anti-TV; there are awesome shows on it and it can be a source of knowledge, inspiration and great entertainment. I just personally can't stand it.
"because they aren't given ideas from a screen, they use their imaginations to come up with their creative play, rather than simply acting out what they've seen on a t.v."
I'm picking up this quote, sparkle, just because I hear this a lot in Waldorf circles (my older kids went through Waldorf kindergarten to age 7) and its something I'd really question. I'l explain why.
First off, I feel all kids play-not just mine, but really from all kids is mainly about processing and understanding their world. To some extent its also about working out how to interact with other kids, sometimes a bridge for that. I don't think any play is purely imitative. I also think that the play impulse is coming from the child, its more that the form that it takes can change depending on what the kid is trying to assimilate. My kids, for example, play out books quite a lot, but they also play out Doctor Who and films. I truly don't see that there is inferior and superior kids play. I have never seen a kid just act out what they see on a screen, they are always in some way being creative.
Second, I'd point out that Waldorf does offer a set of values, archetypes etc, mainly through the fairy tales. I have serious issues with the Waldorf curriculum in terms of the presentation of stereotypes of women but also, unless you take active steps to mitigate it, people of colour and general multiculturalness. Its an actively highly heteronormative world. I would personally rather that my kids played out Doctor Who than the notion that women have to wear skirts or engage with the daughter-mother-grandmother stereotypes that I'd say are propagated by Waldorf. So I guess what I'm saying is that we all make our decisions about what we feel is ok for our kids and then accept that it will appear in their play.
awww thank you ilovefelix, thats a really nice thing to say! Appreciate it x
oh ETA I wanted to agree with you also Miranda, I think what's being described among people who are saying a forbidden fruit effect didn't happen is certainly parent dependent. I think its totally possible to create a situation where kids do crave tv because it is seen as an extremely exciting forbidden thing.
Ok this is a really sweeping generalisation now but the families I know whose kids really do seem to seek out tv/sugar are actually often Waldorf school educating families, and I think the issue there is actually possibly around how you communicate with kids. Hardcore Waldorf parents do usually speak to their kids differently to how I would. I think, first, in these families things like why we don't have tv will often be modelled and redirection offered, or the kids just told "we don't watch tv on a school night" or whatever. Whereas in my family, and in most homeschooling/unschooling families I know a reason is almost always given. Pretty much every homeschooling parent I can think of has explained tv restrictions-or helped their kid to work out a good amount of tv- in terms of how we feel when we watch a lot of tv, how we need to be sure to balance tv use with exercise, and so on. That isn't something that Waldorf really does. My sense and observation is that, at least in the early years, if Waldorf kids then do get access to tv and sweets etc (eg at friends houses or with a less enthusiastic spouse) they often seek them quite mercilessly, whereas the kids who genuinely would quite like a bit of tv or sweeties but know that there's a good reason not to go for them often have a lot more self control.
I grew up with Waldorf and happily sent my kids through the kindergarten but I do sometimes really feel that the philosophy does underestimate kids.