Sensitivity in TV free kids - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 17 Old 03-29-2008, 03:51 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I was just talking about this with a fellow TV free mother and thought I'd bring it up here and see what your opinions are.

I have an almost 5 year old daughter who is incredibly sensitive and empathetic. When I say sensitive I mean she has issues with loud noises, crowds and chaos, is very aware of social dynamics, has a real sense of justice and feels things very deeply.

I wonder how much being TV free has contributed to this. I know that she has these traits inherently (she's artistically gifted) but I wonder if they would have lessened had she been raised with the TV.
The reason that I put the two together is that on the rare occasions that she has seen kids media entertainment (movie playing on a plane, in a shop, restaurant...) she is really a bit freaked out by it. We went to a friends place once, ages ago now, and they had Finding Nemo on the TV. It was the bit with the sharks and when my daughter saw those sharks she started to scream in panic to her friends that were near the screen "Move away, get away, MOVE!!" like the sharks were coming for them.
She saw part of Happy Feet on a screen on a plane and became upset just seeing one of the birds that looked like a "bad guy".

She has trouble dealing with seeing other people hurt, upset or even misbehaving! We have had issues in live theatre where a character on stage is hurt, even in a slapstick way and she gets very upset.

I am not complaining about this, I love everything about her and I wouldn't change her for anything. But, I wonder if she had been raised with the TV, would she be less sensitive, would it be easier for her to deal with things because she would have experienced it all in the name of entertainment?

Can desensitizing ever be a positive thing? What do you think?

This is just theoretical discussion mind you as I have no intention of introducing TV, I just thought I see what everyone thinks. It would be interesting to see if there is a high instance of sensitive children who are also TV free.
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#2 of 17 Old 03-29-2008, 04:30 PM
 
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I think the sensitivity is probably related to being TV-free. We did a one-year "experiment" of being TV-free and the first time I went to a movie afterwards, it was just too intense!
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#3 of 17 Old 03-29-2008, 11:01 PM
 
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You could have just described my oldest daughter! We aren't entirely TV-free, we do occasional DVDs, but whenever she has had a run-in with the usual "kid's fare" she doesn't handle it well. We were at a friend's housewarming and they had Toy Story on for the kids when we got there. She was so, so stressed out and unable to handle it, we wound up only staying a short time.

I think part of it is just how raucous the kid's shows & movies are. I was shocked when I was babysitting and saw Finding Nemo. I mean, it was intense for me as an adult, even knowing full well that it was animated. The three year old I was watching seemed totally unmoved by it, and to me that was strange and sad.

I wouldn't say it's just TV in general with my DD however, at my mom's she'll gladly watch one of those cooking shows (and help Nana cook, which makes me mind it much less - it's not a veg-out session) and be fine. It's the horrible things they expect children to be okay with. :

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#4 of 17 Old 03-31-2008, 02:10 PM
 
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This is of related... we have very few battery-operated toys and certainly no books that sing songs or light up or anything like that. When we go to someone's house that has toys or books that move and make noise, my daughter can get really freaked out.

Unfortunately, when she sees TV or a movie, she gets completely absorbed in it, if it is kid-oriented media (seeing Fox News at my parent's house fortunately doesn't capture her attention!). But she does react strongly to violence if she sees it (we try very hard to distract her away, at that point!). One of the movies we had lined up for our homebirth to entertain her during that critical time was Heffalump (a Winnie the Pooh movie . I was shocked when I realized it showed Pooh and all his cohorts trying to beat off the elephant with sticks and stones. They were unrelenting! My daughter was beside herself!!! She could NOT understand why they were trying to hurt an elephant. Either could I. But she watched the whole thing -- it was gripping to her.

In general, though, I think that kids who grow up with a wide range of TV are much more likely to be less sensitive to others and tease and taunt other kids, and to "grow up too fast." I enjoy my daughter's naivete.
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#5 of 17 Old 03-31-2008, 06:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Shell View Post
This is of related... we have very few battery-operated toys and certainly no books that sing songs or light up or anything like that. When we go to someone's house that has toys or books that move and make noise, my daughter can get really freaked out.

Unfortunately, when she sees TV or a movie, she gets completely absorbed in it,
Yes, this is very much us as well. She is really freaked out by electronic noises, especially coming from toys. We have fabulous neighbors with kids who we love but they are very mainstream and there are times Hannah just stands with he rhands over her ears asking them to "turn off the toys!!"

Also with the becoming engrossed in it when she sees a TV. It's terrible going to a restaurant that has a screen which we were unaware of. She cannot take her eyes off of it and is completely mesmerized. It doesn't matter what it is. We were at a place last week where they had a screen playing football/soccer without the sound and she just stared the whole time.

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One of the movies we had lined up for our homebirth to entertain her during that critical time was Heffalump (a Winnie the Pooh movie . I was shocked when I realized it showed Pooh and all his cohorts trying to beat off the elephant with sticks and stones. They were unrelenting! My daughter was beside herself!!! She could NOT understand why they were trying to hurt an elephant. Either could I. But she watched the whole thing -- it was gripping to her.
Wow, really?? It's been ages since I saw a kids movie but that is awful.
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#6 of 17 Old 04-01-2008, 01:36 PM
 
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Yes, this is also true of my DD, who is actually not even all that sensitive in other contexts. They're just not desensitized in the same way. Fortunately, DD is actually not that interested in watching on the occasions when she gets exposed.

I think we are keeping our kids kids longer, against the grain of society. DD is also not as socially sophisticated in "meanness" and kid taunting and backtalk as her peers are. She is only learning these things at school, and in a way it's sort of funny because she almost doesn't even "do it" right.

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#7 of 17 Old 04-01-2008, 01:37 PM
 
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*oops*

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#8 of 17 Old 04-01-2008, 03:02 PM
 
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Interesting theory! Do you have a lot of TV free friends? We are TV free, at 3.75 and 2.5. My 3.75 yo is definitely sensitive(and sounds a LOT like your 5 yo), compared to her peers. But her TV free friends (which is most of the kids we know) aren't, really, nor his her younger brother, and her bully at preschool is TV free. I only wish we could solve meanness and taunting by taking away TV.

I think it's definitely possible that being TV free makes a kid more sensitive, but it's not noticeable in my world. So if it's there(and I think it has to be, at least a little), I don't think it's a huge factor at this age. They either are empathetic or they aren't, and I can't see a difference in social development yet, at least not with my sample size (maybe 50 TV free kids, 15 not?).
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#9 of 17 Old 04-01-2008, 04:17 PM
 
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I think that like anything, some sensitivity is organic and some is environmental.

None of my children have ever watched TV in our home, and I do notice a HUGE difference between them and other tv-watching children of the same age. To generalize, my children are more child-like, more emotionally open, more creative, and never "bored".

Conversely, my nephews who are similar ages seem much more jaded, sophisticated, and cynical (even at 4 y.o.!) and while I've never heard them curse, they often speak very meanly to each other. My children have never even heard the terms their cousins use.

While all of my children are sensitive, my DD is particularly sensitive like I am, and I'm so grateful that we are able to protect her from the kinds of things I was exposed to on television when I was her age (and tv is a lot worse now). My entire childhood was full of recurring nightmares (night terrors, really) from movies I'd seen. As a child I had a lot of irrational fears generated by movies and television that took a while to outgrow.

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#10 of 17 Old 04-01-2008, 05:59 PM
 
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I think that like anything, some sensitivity is organic and some is environmental.
I agree.

A friend's daughter was raised with tv in moderation but the family went mostly tv-free BECAUSE she was so sensitive emotionally to everything she saw.

She was more upset by anything animated than by tv with live actors, though, which I always found interesting.
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#11 of 17 Old 04-01-2008, 08:56 PM
 
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I'll be the dissenter here. I have two boys, both of whom have been tv-free from birth. Neither of them is particularly sensitive or empathetic.

It is rare for them to apologize or even seem to care when they do something to hurt another, even unintentionally. They rarely comment on other people's feelings or notice them. They like nothing more than to fight and create lego vehicles equipped with guns and blasters.

I took my 8yo to an outdoor showing of Raiders of the Lost Ark in a local park last summer. I'd forgotten just how much violence was in that movie, but we talked quite a bit about it later and he didn't mind a bit.

There were very sensitive kids long before anyone watched tv, as well as kids like mine who aren't so much. I honestly don't think having a television has even the smallest correlation to empathy or sensitivity.
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#12 of 17 Old 04-02-2008, 11:16 PM
 
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There were very sensitive kids long before anyone watched tv, as well as kids like mine who aren't so much. I honestly don't think having a television has even the smallest correlation to empathy or sensitivity.
Actually, studies show that children who watch violent television behave more violently.

Children are simply created to learn by watching. If given a steady diet of mainstream television messages, of course those things will become part of their assumptions about life.

Until I stopped watching television myself, I didn't realize just how desensitized I'd become to its constant negative messages.

Basically, anything we consistently watch forms our assumptions/behaviors, unless we're mature enough to question and process it (and even then I think it impacts us).

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#13 of 17 Old 04-02-2008, 11:51 PM
 
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We are not TV free. Ds watches a bit almost everyday , though we are careful about the content. The two movies you mentioned were WAY to much for him and he is almost 5. He freaked out at Nemo (mostly the sharks) and had to turn it off and has never watched it again. We had to leave Happy Feet because it was too scary. I do think that TV images CAN desensitve children to violence, scary images and bad language which is why we try to keep ds's TV pretty mild like Franklin and Little Bear.
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#14 of 17 Old 04-06-2008, 11:00 PM
 
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We are TV-free and have been since DS was born. (By TV-free, I mean that we have a television, but it's mostly used by DH after DS goes to bed. We do record space shuttle launches for DS because he loves watching those, and I have a DVD of trains that he watches about once every 2-3 months.)

I don't know if he's more sensitive, but I know that he finds standard children's fare very upsetting if he catches it at other people's houses. I'm not sure he's more sensitive in general, definitely when it comes to TV.
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#15 of 17 Old 05-01-2008, 05:30 PM
 
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We were tv-free for about 8 years and when we first started watching tv again it was very difficult to handle... and that's as adults. I don't see how it can't desensitize us in some way.
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#16 of 17 Old 05-01-2008, 05:40 PM
 
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IME the two are not related. Have you read any books on highly sensitive people?
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#17 of 17 Old 05-01-2008, 07:39 PM
 
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I've got two TV free kids. One is exactly like you describe; his twin is exactly the opposite! Not fun to have one loud kiddo seeking excitement/movement/noise who has very little to no empathy for his sensitive twin who finds it overwhelming and even painful when it comes to noise.

So I personally think you're seeing temperament/sensory differences more than TV free stuff.

FWIW we've been exposed to zero violence--TV or otherwise. My seeker of excitement guy is pretty aggressive.

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