TV-free vs. media - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 07-11-2011, 11:01 AM - Thread Starter
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So I'm living in the U.S. for the moment. The kids have been mostly media-free for their lives, which is something I believe in. However, I've recently figured out a way to hook up my laptop to a TV, and I'm able to watch TV from Hungary - both live, streaming shows as well as a bunch of Hungarian folktales, cartoons, music videos for kids, etc. I absolutely hate American TV (not shows, necessarily - I like watching some shows on Netflix but can't tolerate the constant commercials, etc.) I don't mind the European ones so much. They actually show shows there with some advertisements in between instead of interrupting the show every ten seconds. And they show shows, movies, etc. from all over the world (Italy, Australia, South America, etc.), and the news programmes are better too imo.

Anyway, that said... I have been spending way too much time with the TV on lately. We're staying in my mom's house in FL right now, and although we swim a lot in our pool, it's too hot out right now to really get out much. So basically we sit around at home, cook, do chores, read some library books... and watch TV. That's about it. I'm feeling sort of guilty, though, because I really struggle with providing media exposure to little kids. Sigh. I'm not sure what to do about it - they are learning new words in Hungarian and I only let them watch quality shows that I like, but I'm still not sure if I'm being hypocritical - Hungarian TV is OK but English isn't? That doesn't sound about right. But it seems to benefit our family - even DH is learning more about where I'm from. (He's never visited it.) To the point where he's even asking me to look into what it would take to relocate there. !!!! That's huge.

Does anyone else struggle with being media-free vs. using it to stay in touch with media culture overseas?

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#2 of 6 Old 07-11-2011, 11:12 AM - Thread Starter
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I'd also say that my expressive Hungarian has gotten a LOT better in the past few weeks since we've been doing the TV thing. I'm not sure why that would be, since my receptive language has been perfect - but I haven't spoken it in a long time. Now that I'm around it constantly it's back at, I'd say 85%, with the hopes of improving it back up to 100%. So, that's a definite plus.

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#3 of 6 Old 07-11-2011, 11:48 AM
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I'll give you my take on it - as someone who had intended to be TV free with only occasional videos seen together as a family (that was my pre-parenting ideal) In reality my dd (now age 7) is exposed to more TV than I EVER thought I'd be comfortable with, but here is MY line in the sand and that is COMMERCIALS (and of course age appropriate, no sex, minimal violence -  ie battle scenes if integral to the story plot and not graphic are ok - not great - but ok)


We have been quite successful in keeping commercial exposure to a bare minimum and I see a huge difference between her and her friends in what she 'wants' - at the grocery store she never asks for junk - she's begging me for kiwi or some other 'treat'


We have two kinds of viewing - the family movie night variety when we are all spending time together watching - these are movies and purely entertainment driven


the other is chill out after school and wake up  - and this is STRICTLY  pbs children's programs or carefully selected programs from netflix - she's really into Fat Albert and I do like alot of the lessons/morals they try to teach on that show...


Now, she is an only child so I probably allow more tv than if she had a sibling to play with but she knows her viewing is limited - must ask to watch beyond the set limits - and I am quite comfortable as I said with the content -


ALL this is said to give you my perspective - but I think what you are doing is fine - let go of any guilt and know that you are doing a fine job, IMO given the circumstances of where you live - Are they getting good physical activity, opportunities for creativity and building literacy skills? Good social and family interaction? Then the TV as you use it is a good, wise and acceptable tool...


The guilt and stress you feel over this is probably 'worse' than anything the commercial free (or european limited variety) programming  is showing them


One of my dd favorite shows is a video series we got from the library call Popular Mechanics For Kids - she learned ALL kinds of stuff on that - at 4 she saw me pouring molasses and it was so slow and thick she asks me "Is that a non-Newtonian fluid?" (has both the properties of a liquid and a solid, like corn starch ooze) So I was totally okay with THAT kind of tv.....:)


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#4 of 6 Old 07-12-2011, 05:13 PM
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Commercials are HORRID. and every measure should be taken to keep them away from kids as long as possible. When in doubt DVR and skip over it. long as you keep the tv viewing at about 1 hour a day you can be guilt free.

However, it is really hot and we are melting and ugh...really (we also go through this one of us is sick) so when one can't stick to the 1 hour a day...try to break it up as much as possible. and the key is to not let become routine.


Finally, you might be able to get away with online age appropriate (educational) games.


The fact that you are aware of what is happening makes it's too hot to feel guilty.

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#5 of 6 Old 07-12-2011, 06:01 PM
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My dd is only 2 1/2 and we don't allow her to watch TV (although we do put on nursery rhyme you tube videos for 10 mins a day so I can do her tightly curly biracial hair without her melting down)


My main issue with TV is also the commercials and the values in American TV (not just sex and violence but consumerism, materialism, brand consciousness, etc.)


It sounds to me like the shows you are watching are not portraying those kind of values, and that it is serving an important cultural function for your family right now.  I think it is great for multicultural kids to learn about both (all) cultures and it sounds like this is a good way for you to introduce them to the Hungarian language and culture for now while you are in the US.  


If you're not feeling comfortable or think you are watching too much, maybe set a limit for your kids (depending on their ages) and also for yourself.  I can understand wanting something familiar from home when you're living in a different country!

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#6 of 6 Old 07-14-2011, 03:40 PM
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I started out completely anti-screen and we lived that way for the first 2-3 years.  We are still TV free (and I have no intention of changing that aspect!) and all of our viewing comes through DVDs from the library, DVDs that my sister records and sends over and the internet. 


Two things have made me really back down on my anti screen stance.... the biggest one is the explosion of expression that my kids have got from having regular, exterior English input and the other is realizing that my son actually seems to really like acquiring information through watching.  It's really cool listening to them fluidly using vocabulary and expressions that never would have come up in our day-to-day lives! 


I talk with my kids about the fact that watching things is only one way to experience life and that it's important to experience a big variety of things in different ways.  My son will come to me saying "I've played Legos, made a snack, played outside, been in the sandbox, played with the dogs, checked for eggs, been to homeschool group, etc and now can I watch something?"  I would feel totally comfortable saying that I am willing to allow screen time in because it gives access to more of that variety.... in your case Hungarian).  And I'm pretty comfortable with saying no when I feel like they've already been saturated.


I totally struggle with how much I feel comfortable with and judgements about quality.  My kids are too little to be able to truly surf the net, so end up with a range I choose and I don't actively seek out Spanish/Catalan programming online (although if we lived in the US I would) because I feel that we already have more screen time than I would like.  Ironically the library is my biggest struggle because I feel there is a lot of stuff I wouldn't choose to offer, and a lot of stuff not available in the original language (so we're stuck with Juan y Tolola instead of Charlie and Lola).  However, I really want my kids to feel free to explore in the library and wouldn't police books, so I struggle with suddenly doing that with video. 


Also, living in a hot climate, I notice that the screen at midday becomes a lot more attractive to all of us.... shades low, a cool drink while we snuggle on the sofa.  But on the other hand, we're out cruising around the neighbourhood at 9pm, so it's more like the rhythm of our life changes when it's hot.  As the weather changes I start to shift when we watch.


Another possibility to consider is bringing some other stuff in to where you're watching.  My kids will set up elaborate Playmobil scenes and build forts while watching.  I also tend to use that time as a chance to put nourishing snacks in front of them as they are actually still enough to eat!

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