Allowing television in kids’ rooms

I love TV! Photo via Wynand Delport.

Television in the kids’ bedroom is a controversial issue even in my own home. I’ll admit, I have taken a page out of the lazy parent’s handbook on this issue and happily run with it. I think my husband thinks it’s somewhat unsophisticated and pedestrian to allow our children to have TVs in their room, but has chosen his battles wisely and decided this was a battle which was best left to snarky comments and not action.

When I set up the TVs, he decided that there were far worse atrocities in the world, besides, I am a gigantic TV head, he knew this when he married me. My husband and I put in long hours at work and at the end of the day, I cannot read another news story or science abstract, I simply want to veg, eat popcorn, and be mindlessly entertained in front of a ginormous television. When I go up to bed, I watch a little news which routinely puts me to sleep. I have always been that way because I, too, had television in my bedroom as a child. I have fond memories watching Please Don’t Eat the Daisies. For me, the television became a soothing and relaxing tool which proved to be harmless.

I was about 8 years old when my parents put a TV in my bedroom. My brother and sister didn’t have one. They weren’t interested, hey, ya snooze, ya lose. I have always had difficulty sleeping and I think my mother finally gave in because she chose her own sleep over my late night interruptions. And I was a pretty good kid. I did my homework, I was pretty responsible and I was popular on the playground because I was able to give other kids the what for on various issues that were off limits or foreign to them because I had TV in my bedroom. Of course, I only had 3 TV stations to choose from. Those were the dinosaur days where the extent of my television was determined by my antenna limitations.

Today, there hundreds of television stations. Kids have so many media choices. My kids aren’t all that interested in television when they have their Playstation DS, computer and iPod Touch to choose from — which may be the reason why it’s difficult to shut down their brain at night — and so I go the way of my mother. As somebody who also values my sleep and night-time meditations, after many nights of my son telling me various stories about being scared and trying to convince me he wasn’t tired, only to have him crawl in bed with me, forcing me to turn my beloved news station to Disney, I had to drill down my priorities.

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Both of my kids now have televisions in their room. The oldest one had to rely on basic cable for the first few years until we upgraded him to full cable. Parental controls have given parents the ability to control what shows kids can watch, and although we use those controls, I find it unnecessary as my kids preferences are for “G” rated content anyway. And much like the family dynamics I grew up wtih, one child is less enamored with the TV than the other. The younger one needs television to fall asleep. My husband thinks I’m partially to blame for this — foisting my own neurosis of having to have television to fall asleep, on him. Perhaps it’s true, but he is a good kid too. His academic abilities are significantly above his grade level and he is well adjusted, well as adjusted as a kid with television in their room. I’m not striving for perfection after all.  At the end of the day, he’s sympathetic and kind, so what more can I expect from him?

With the older one, I put a television in his room (again, against my husband’s wishes) in Kindergarten, with my younger one, I did the same. So now they fall asleep to NBA games and Nickelodeon, is it so wrong? While numerous studies suggest that children with televisions in their bedrooms are at an increased risk of child obesity and doing poorly in school, I have a hard time believing that given the circumstances in my family. My kids play sports and my older child needs to put on weight, not lose it.

I think these studies are for parents who don’t give a rip about what their kids are watching and likely have other contributing factors like excessive junk food and lack of activity along with their television habits and dependency. I think there is a responsible way to manage television as a parent and quite frankly, I don’t get what the big deal is.

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