If you don't do live TV, how to handle when others do? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 16 Old 11-15-2009, 10:56 AM - Thread Starter
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DS is a little over 2.

I don't allow live TV in front of DS. I HATE commercials and frankly I don't want him knowing about those characters that are marketed everywhere from vitamins, to lunch boxes, to diapers etc. As of now, if I have to go insode a Toys R US (usually shopping for others, not my own DS) Ds is oblivious to all those things. There is no character recognition and therefore he's not screaming down the place begging for every toy he sees. He just gets excited when he sees tractors and the like, but not character items.

For the record I do allow him to watch movies but those are movies that I OK and know the content of. Ia lso try to stick to older movies that are not so heavily marketed anymore. Or he watches Brainy Baby DVD's, not Baby/Little Einstein becasue again with the marketed characters everywhere.


We go to a gym class/tumble class once a week and during circle time the teacher brings out a multi colored parachute and asks the kids to name the colors by asking "what color is big bird?" "what color is cookie monster?"

DS stands there looking at her blankly. Now, he knows his colors, all of them, even colors like maroon and grey. But he hasn't a clue who big bird is. so the teacher asks me if he's having trouble with his colors and I have to defend him and say no, he doesn't watch TV so he doesn't know who big bird is. Meanwhile my son is confused. (He hates feeling left out) On the way home he asks who is big bird and I have to say he's a puppet that some children see while we're having fun riding horses.

It's happpened before, like at a store once they offered him a choice between stickers with some characters on them that I didn't even know. They're asking him who his favorite is and again he's looking at them confused.

So I guess my (LONG) question is how to handle this with both the outside world and my DS. I know how hard kids/peers can be and I don't want him to feel different and strange or left out but I really feel strongly about over marketed children's TV showsand TV in general.

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#2 of 16 Old 11-15-2009, 12:12 PM
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I don't know. We don't watch much tv at home. Were not totally tv free, but we only watch a few minutes here and there. When we're at my mom's house, they constantly have the tv on, but it's a satellite so it's usually Arabic channels. Any time I want to buy him a lunch box, toothbrush, snack, etc, there are characters ALL OVER THE STUFF!! I sit there for so long trying to find things that don't have all of the advertisements plastered all over. I hope others have some good suggestions.

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#3 of 16 Old 11-15-2009, 12:40 PM
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well how long do you plan to do this for? I mean, are you just trying to get him through the early "impressionable" years (I say "impressionable" in qoutations because really we are all vulnerable to outside influences, not just toddlers)?

Or do you plan to stay tv free for his entire growing up years? Because I have to tell you I grew up homeschooled, without a TV in the house until I was 14, and it was both a blessing and a curse. It was because of my experience as a child/teen that I am choosing to make very different decisions in the amount of sheltering I do for my own dc.

I found that when I finally went to "real" school I couldn't even carry on a conversation with the other kids because, sad as it is, all they had to talk about were tv shows, pop culture, etc. Now in retrospect I probably had mroe interesting things to say, since I spent my spare time reading encyclopedias, newspapers, and so forth, but it didn't help me to fit in with peers. I didn't have anything in common with them and so it was a miserable experience for me trying to socialize and relate. I felt very left out and it had a hgue impact on my self esteem.

I know that you are obviously not trying to isolate your child as my parents did, and I'm not telling you that you should throw your standards and ideals to the wind for the sake of fitting in. But maybe you can find a middle ground that will allow him enough exposure to at least be able to recognize the characters and not feel like he's not part of the group when these things happen, without going crazy over it. I mean, you don't have to buy all the merchandise just because he watches the show a few times.

The other thing to consider is that you don't want to start out making these types of things a forbidden evil or a big deal at 3, because if you do plan to avoid a lot of mainstream marketing and consumerism in the years to come, you will have much, much bigger battles to fight, and they have the potential to turn into a major power struggle, and to become that much more appealing to your dc just because mom and dad have made it a hill to die on so to speak.

Also I was just thinking that if your ds is seeing these characters in stores and so forth and isn't interested at all at this age, chances are that even if he does see their shows, he won't become one of those kids who screams for their favorite character every time they see him. I say this because my ds did not watch Elmo (or any other character for that matter) until AFTER he showed this insane, almost obssessive interest in Elmo. I know for a fact that he had never in his life watched sesame street but all of a sudden he wanted elmo cups, shirts, shoes, etc. I started to let him watch sesame street once in a while and about two months after he started watching it, he moved on to dora and diego. So now we are the proud owners of a dora/diego fan collection, even though he again did not watch the show until *after* he got into the characters. I have no idea how this happened. But I think it just has to do with the kids' personalities. I have a friend whose one child was obssessed with dora for several years, while her other two could care less about any character on tv. Same house, same rules, different kids.

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#4 of 16 Old 11-15-2009, 12:41 PM
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In that kind of situation I would ask the teacher to not use commercial characters or find some other activity. I might even ask for my money back if it were a lot and it were not clear from the course description that it were a commercial-character-based class. I mean, surely the other children know the sun is yellow, the grass is green, the sky is blue, etc., right?

I thought you were going to ask about visiting other families. Honestly, I would not attend a class like that. I'm not going to pay for something that goes against our family values.
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#5 of 16 Old 11-15-2009, 12:49 PM
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We have encountered this a few times - funnily enough, same colour to match character situation where I had to just simply explain that my son does not know such and such character.

We do tele - just not live tele. So if DS watches something, its one of his tapes or something I have recorded for him on our Sky+ box.

He knows some characters - he likes his Cars and he likes Thomas lmao... But not much other than that.

TBH with you - its never been much a problem. DS is four ...but as we home educate and are selective about who he 'hangs' around (there have been many groups we have stopped going to because they simply did not fit in with our family and our values) he is a pretty 'sheilded' child (and not in a bad way either). If we go over to other peoples houses and they have the tele on - he never watches it! lol

There are many things I am oblivious to simply from lack of exposure, its not much of a problem. People can think what they want! lol
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#6 of 16 Old 11-15-2009, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by expecting-joy View Post
In that kind of situation I would ask the teacher to not use commercial characters or find some other activity. I might even ask for my money back if it were a lot and it were not clear from the course description that it were a commercial-character-based class. I mean, surely the other children know the sun is yellow, the grass is green, the sky is blue, etc., right?

I thought you were going to ask about visiting other families. Honestly, I would not attend a class like that. I'm not going to pay for something that goes against our family values.
I agree with the above and I agree with your philosophy on T.V.

Dd will be 8 in a few months and still doesn't watch T.V. Well, not typical T.V. She enjoys watching Andy Griffith and I Love Lucy and other black and white shows from the early 60's. She has never watched the typical shows like Sesame Street, Dora, and even now has never seen Hannah Montana and that disgusting ilk of Disney commercialization poorly disguised as T.V. She has attended a private language immersion school since she was 3.5 and most kids in her class know all of these characters. But there are plenty of other interests for the kids to find common ground. In fact, because the school philosophy, she has very few kids in her class that have two American parents... it's very diversified, so there are many different ways families approach T.V.

We actually returned from living abroad around the time dd started school and we were TV-free completely at that point. She was about 5 before she really started watching anything other than a few classic videos (nothing live). She has NEVER felt left out at school because she doesn't know these characters. It's not like kids sit around talking about the latest episode of Sesame Street like adults do Survivor. So, on the playground, they'll start playing Little Mermaid... O.K., dd has never seen that, but she can figure out what they are playing pretty easily and just join in. She's an easy-going and smart kid, so she quickly adjusts or she'll take some initiative and say, "Hey I don't know how to play that, how about playing *something generic*?" She has never had self-esteem problems and quite frankly, I would work with her if she felt that her self-worth centered on knowing pop-culture rather than being true to herself and beliefs.

Stick to your guns. When someone uses examples such as you have described, step up and say something. If you're somewhere and the T.V. is on, ask politely to change it or occupy your child elsewhere (we had to do this a lot at gymnastics). As long as you are polite and not self-righteous about it, people are usually more than happy to accommodate. In fact, many times I've had people say, "Yeah, I hate that show and I wish my kiddo didn't watch it!" (as if they have no choice... this is what the media wants you to think!!) As the mother of a 7 year old, I can tell you that the rewards are enormous and will not have any lasting effects on a well-centered and well-loved child that has plenty of activities to keep him/her active.

(BTW - dd rides, too, and is crazy about horses, so she does have a specific interest... it's just not character-based.)
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#7 of 16 Old 11-15-2009, 01:12 PM
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We have this problem a lot too - ds doesnt watch tv, other than on rare occasions something like 'Wild Pacific' on animal planet (which we DVR andFF the commercials), and we talk about all the animals and things.
edont do cartoons/character showsever, and the only characters he knows about are seseme street ones because of the books we have (which were MINE when I was a kid, that was the only show I ever watched as a kid, we had limited tv too)

He gets asked what his fav. tv show is, or someone will mention Dora or something and he will get totally confused. Which is weird for him b/c he is smart and verbal, he just doesnt know tv stuff!

I usually just say 'oh he doesnt watch tv' (which gets me a weird look, but ds agrees- 'yeah I dont watch tv!')

We have a similar problem w/food b/c we are vegetarian and he has allergies - someone will ask him what kind of ice cream he likes and he says 'I cant have milk!'. In his gym class his teacher wanted the kids to be 'meatballs' rolling down the little ramp, when I said we were vegetarian, she quickly changed it to 'basketballs' which is fine with me! Maybe your kids teacher could change it up just as easily, like a pp suggested, green grass, blue sky, yellow sun etc.

Im going to avoid 'characters' as long as possible, we will probably homeschool for a while so that should help too!
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#8 of 16 Old 11-15-2009, 01:23 PM
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If there's something specific show or character-wise, and he feels left out of something the other kids know, you could also buy or check out just one book that has sesame street characters in it. We have a few disney and sesame books that are actually reasonably well written.

I'm surprised the teacher would expect sesame street to be universal, bc even my TVed kids wouldn't know those characters except from a couple books, it's not what we watch.

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#9 of 16 Old 11-15-2009, 03:07 PM
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I ran into that when DS1 was that age and tv-free. I'd just smile and say "he doesn't watch commercial tv" or whatever, and that was that. I'd also explain to my DS1, that's Bob the Builder, or whatever. He had a real thing for Elmo before he ever watched SS--their marketing arm is certainly far-reaching.

Re: your class, I'd bring it up. Seriously. She can't think of any other examples? I'd just tell her, we're following the AMA's guidelines for children and tv viewing, can you come up with non-tv examples so my child can participate, thanks.
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#10 of 16 Old 11-15-2009, 03:43 PM
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I don't know. I don't see it as that big of a deal.

Maybe it is because I grew up tv free and am choosing to raise my kids similarly. I just handle it matter-of-factly, i.e. "oh, we're tv free." I have allowed my kids to learn about Seasame Street characters through activities like the ones you are describing, but I try to avoid them learning about characters from "Cars" and stuff. I see a difference there.

The other day my four-year old son asked me if "Nemo" is a type of fish. Smart question. I told him that it was the name of a movie character, and named some of his book characters and told him it was like that. It was fine, all very matter-of-fact, and I think that as he gets a little older and begins to have more social exposure, it will be best if he has at least *some* awareness of the pop culture stuff even if he isn't exposed to that much of it first hand.

When I was a kid, having a small bit of knowledge helped me in my relationships with the other kids without undermining my family values. Since I didn't watch a tv at home, even limited exposure while at a friend's house wasn't problematic.

I have remained tv free through most of my adulthood.

P.S. Recently my kids have begun watching tv with their grandma at their grandma's house (my dw's mother's house) when we go for a visit. It is in that early morning time...they go in and wake her up and she puts on PBS Kids and they watch Curious George and/or Sid the Science Kid with her. I wouldn't have allowed it when they were younger, but now that they are in the preschool years, I am going with the flow. We don't visit grandma more than twice a month, usually much, much less frequently. Meanwhile, grandma is old and unhealthy, so it's hard to do a lot together, and I know they treasure that time snuggled up with her. I was a little shocked at the bank a while back when the teller asked what their favorite tv show is and they had answers (!)...one said Curious George, and the other said Sid the Science Kid. I laughed and said, "Amazing! We don't even have a tv!" But I think it made them feel a little less of an outcast to have an answer .

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#11 of 16 Old 11-15-2009, 03:55 PM
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Like Sierra, I grew up without television, so here's my perspective.

What was a big deal to me was not the TV, but the way my mother carried on about our seeing it eleswhere, as if it wa this terrible evil thing that would turn our minds to mush, oh the horror!

Naturally, I wanted to see all the tv I could watch. And back then, not having a TV was far more freakish than it is now, since with only 4 channels, the entire country was basically plugged into the same (much smaller) set of shows and someone like me could feel awfully clueless, not knowing who the Fonz was. (On the other hand, it certainly didn't mean I had nothing to talk about).

Anyway, my take, raising kids without TV myself, is not to make a big deal about it. If he watches it now and then, it won't be the end of the world. Nothing is more important than what goes on in his own home.
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#12 of 16 Old 11-15-2009, 04:18 PM
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We're not a television-free house but we certainly limit T.V. time, and DD (who is 3) is only permitted to watch certain commercial-free type programming. I grew up in a limited television household and there was a lot of programming (in the 70's) that we weren't allowed to watch but that kids talked about at school. I never really felt left out of conversations but I was sort of nerdy and preferred to to be doing art and having my nose in a book at school anyway.

I have less concerns with the commercialism of television (which is pretty much in our control) than the wide-spread commercialism I encounter every time I step out the door. Unfortunately, we live in a society saturated with commercialism. DD goes to a Montessori school and although she doesn't really encounter any characters or commercialism there, all we have to do is walk down the street, step on the bus or subway, look up at a billboard, etc. and boom...someone is selling something somewhere. I prefer not to water down explanations to DD. If she asks me about something like Big Bird, I tell her who Big Bird is and where he is from. Today it will be Big Bird, tomorrow it will be cigarettes and alcohol, the next day it will be something else. I think situations like this gives parents a good opportunity to explain their own values. I think we might underestimate kids' ability to process how we feel and why we feel it. Another handy method when we use when DD sees things she might want in a store: "No." Then explain why "no." It is pretty amazing how she understands and accepts.

Although I don't agree with my own parents on a lot of issues, one thing that they were successful at was the art of diversion. In other words, they provided me with a ton of other challenges and interests and not having certain things and not being able to watch certain things were less of an issue. They highly encouraged creativity and knowledge and provided us with the best possible environment for pursuing those things. My experience is that one can overcome all the questionable things in our society by creating a better alternative, rather than dwelling on the negative.

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#13 of 16 Old 11-15-2009, 04:49 PM
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This thread resonates with me because I just read a stat that the average American over age 2 watches over 4 hours of television a day.

I feel like, it doesn't matter what my family's choices are, we are going to be negatively impacted by the fact we are surrounded by tv zombies! We are so outnumbered! I have already been affected by the fact that friends rush off the phone with me because they are 'busy' watching television every evening without fail, people are less likely to commit to social engagements because they just want to veg at home on the couch in front of the tv. The thought that my daughter might have to sit in lessons that use tv characters is just.... ugh.

I feel so isolated. So then I myself turn to a virtual world (MDC), which I am happy to have, but probably wouldn't need so much if I had more kinship with my peers on this, and people were out engaging in the community more. Have I tried to change this myself? Yes. Has it worked at all? No.
I don't preach to people, I just invite people to do other stuff with me. They usually turn me down.

I am very live and let live, but the 'tv addiction' in our culture is I believe costing us as a community! I am not criticizing the occassional video or program, but four hours a day! C'mon people! And I believe this statistic.

I feel that all I can control are my own choices, and I don't want to be judgemental, but this stat (and the reality I have witnessed) just makes me sad.
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#14 of 16 Old 11-15-2009, 05:43 PM
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I feel like where are the children (&adults) running to....TV, phone,and so on!

I would ask the teacher to change the "color questions". That is a little ridiculus to ask color recogntition by TV characters!
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#15 of 16 Old 11-23-2009, 03:54 AM
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I end up surfing stuff a lot---a kid at dd's daycare had something about sponge bob on his clothes and dd learned who it was---so we looked it up and watched a clip on youtube. Same thing with the sesame characters. While we have no TV, there are some cool clips that I am fine with dd seeing--sometimes nursery rhymes, songs, kids doing stuff, animal clips, how to make soap videos, etc. We use video as a learning tool, and it's always by interest, not fed to us. So we'll stay tv-free, but in the age of internet availability, won't be in the dark, hopefully. I tuned in to an episode of hannah montana recently to see what the hype was about. At least it wasn't terribly offensive. I'll keep the door open for socialization-type activities as the years go by, but I suspect that there will be literally thousands of channels by then so rare that someone will be "missing out" too much on the latest tv show. So on the trip to grandma's I know she'll see stuff on tv--mostly football and golf, but okay then, at least it's not boxing, you know? Go ahead and junk up on it, kiddo, and we'll get back to the fun life soon. I was very proud of myself for not throwing a fit when they showed the kids at daycare some Disney princess smut for 15 minutes one late afternoon.....just don't send any of it home with dd, tyvm.

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#16 of 16 Old 12-17-2009, 02:15 AM
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I'm not a huge fan of characters and I remember trying to shield my children from them-- but really, you can't.

If it isn't Barney or Dora, it will be Star Wars or whatever tween show there is on tv.

My kids have hardly ever seen sesame street-- so I don't think they'd know who Cookie Monster is, either

But...well....I guess what I'm trying to say is that if your child goes out into society, he's going to come in contact with these characters.

Welcome to the Real World she said to me, condescendingly, take a seat. Take your life; plot it out in black and white.
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