Teaching media responsibility vs. avoiding it totally - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 10-09-2010, 02:24 PM - Thread Starter
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DS is screen-free and mostly media-free (quality storybooks being the exception). He is 3.5.

In some ways we love the idea of being screen-free indefinitely, and I know it is possible and that there are many benefits to it. But we've decided that we'd like to take something of a responsible middle-road in introducing media to our son. We plan to do this by showing him (by living, not any kind of didactic lesson) that movies, televised events--Olympics, Inauguration, Super Bowl--and selective educational programming (I do not mean Sesame Street, but like a quality, age-appropriate documentary about something we're doing in homsechool) are fine things both as tools and as occasional entertainment (like monthly or eventually weekly family movie night).

I feel that it is more important to teach (through example) that screens are to be a part of our lives, but not something to just "veg" in front of. I grew up using the television as a friend--I actually believe I replaced the attachment to my parents AND peers with television as each of the former let me down. I watched it when I was bored, sad, lonely, tired, nervous, etc. I was pretty much ALWAYS one of those!

So we have filled DS' life with wonderful and valuable experiences and TV is simply not needed or desired. I don't even know when we would simply "watch" TV.

So what I am looking for is both a discussion here of others who've taken this road, looking to teach responsible use of media as opposed to strict avoidance of it AND I am hoping someone knows of some resources (books?!) on this topic.

Also happy to hear from those who've decided to keep their kids/themselves totally screen-free (no computer, DVDs, HULU, etc.) to 6, 8, indefinitely... Do you have concerns about your children not being able to use media responsibly when they are older and able to make the choice themselves? Do you worry at all about your children being too removed from the media culture in which they live?

Thanks, happy to hear all opinions on this topic--I'm not at all set on this decision!
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#2 of 6 Old 10-09-2010, 07:23 PM
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We don't own a TV at all. But DH and I watch a LOT of movies together (after our toddler is asleep). We don't let DS (23 months) watch anything but the occasional episode of "Signing Time!" and once in a blue moon, an episode of a David Attenborough nature documentary like "Planet Earth" or "The Life of Mammals". And I don't think we'd even let him watch those yet if it weren't for my pregnancy and the fact that DH has been gone for much of the last year on business.

We're definitely not a screen-free family. DH and I both spend much time on our own computers for work-related reasons and for internet browsing/writing emails. DS doesn't play video games or computer games and I'm not eager to introduce him to those, though we do have a Wii that we bought before he was born and someday he'll probably be allowed to play Sports or something.

Over time, we'll surely let him start watching the occasional age-appropriate movie (carefully screened in advance, of course) or an episode here and there of a high quality television show like the nature series I mentioned above.

Everything in moderation...even moderation.




Edited for privacy

Loving wife partners.gif and mama to my sweet little son coolshine.gif (Fall 2008) and a beautiful baby girl babyf.gif(Fall 2010)


When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty. --George Bernard Shaw

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#3 of 6 Old 10-10-2010, 06:37 PM
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This is basically the route we've gone. We don't have a TV, but do have computers, on which we occasionally watch a movie (during the school year usually around once, maybe twice a month, more on vacations). We watch a lot of documentaries like NOVA and Nature (available online), Hayao Miyazaki movies (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, etc.), and a few other odds and ends, but pretty much only things we consider to be of good quality. My kids are 8 and 9, so as far as violence goes we tend to be more concerned with the "quality" of it, rather than restricting it altogether. I like Miyazaki movies a lot because they tend to address serious issues like environmental problems and social justice in a nuanced way, as opposed to Disney movies which tend to present things in a black-and-white way. There is violence, but it is shown to be a very painful thing that should be avoided. War is not glamorized.

One of my biggest reasons for avoiding TV is the commercials, only watching movies/ documentaries on our computers lets us get around that.

All that being said, my kids do go to my parents' houses very often, as they are nearby. They have TVs and let them watch basically whatever they want, but that usually means Food Network (I know, I don't get it, but my kids love to watch cooking shows), Animal Planet, Myth Busters, and Dirty Jobs. They see commercials, but I guess I just feel like shielding them from the outside world isn't much of an answer. Instead, we demonstrate an alternative lifestyle, and discuss our values quite a bit.

It seems to be working out fine for us, as my kids tell other kids that they don't have a TV and then laugh about how the other kids say "I can't LIVE without my TV!", and don't envy them at all. In fact, they frequently criticize how much time their peers spend watching TV or playing video games. They also never bug me for things they see advertised, though they don't watch a lot of children's programming on TV, so they see a lot of car or detergent ads... which of course they don't care about. Also, we don't buy almost anything that is mass-marketed, so they don't come home and see us using Tide, but instead see us using Seventh Generation or whatever.

I personally think giving them the tools to navigate the modern world while not being sucked into all of it is probably the best approach, of course everyone will have their own interpretation of how to implement that idea. A lot of it just comes down to your comfort zone.

Mama to 3 awesome girls: DD1 born 2001, DD2 born 2002, DD3 born March 2011

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#4 of 6 Old 01-05-2011, 10:50 AM
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In our family we have many exceptions, ie, no television, but Netflix and Dvd's are ok. I also allow my children to play "active" video games ONLY! We have the Move and it is the only thing I allow them to play, video game wise, because it keeps them up and moving around. I try and monitor it to a minimum to an hour or so a day, you have to keep a balance in life. We can't all be completely amish and we can't all be walking media billboards. A balance must be made how ever you see fit. 

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#5 of 6 Old 09-06-2011, 12:23 PM
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We do have a TV, but viewing is limited.  I usually allow a show off of PBS/KLRN.   And we watch it together.  My kids hear about a show from their friends at school and ask if we can watch it.  DH and I will take a look online first and see what it's about.  If it's not too old or too young for them and something conversational we'll give the option to substitute the show for a what me may normally watch together.  For the most part TV isn't a big deal at all in our house.  Except for sports.  Our rule is, since we can't go there and watch the game in person.  We have to do with what we got. 

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#6 of 6 Old 09-06-2011, 12:49 PM
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we're not near this point yet and haven't decided what to do with this problem...

however, as a person who has been responsible for teaching this in a school environment, i can tell you there are scores of nonprofit websites with lots of good ideas.  one is the center for media literacy

"media literacy" is the keyword phrase that will give you lots of things, you can google it like this:

media literacy site:.edu    

or media literacy site:.org 

and those will get you educational sites or .orgs (which doesn't mean much anymore) that will have good ideas for you.  telling the google that you want to search an educational or .org site might get you better stuff.  if you have a college nearby, too, there ought to be stuff geared towards librarian/media specialists or teachers, who have been pushing this as a necessary skill for kids in general.  good luck!

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