Where is the choice for the child?

Cheryl J.

From the archives: Posted on 16th February, 1998

A poster wrote:

“It is not TV in itself that is bad.”

You keep saying this however, in the same breath you say that it is not a good idea.

“I do believe there are certain programmes kids are better off not seeing,”

Uh-oh! Which one are they? I think that I have probably seen them. I think that they have even brainwashed me into thinking that TV is good. Maybe they have some sort of subliminal message (remember Lion King?).

The question you should ask is what programs do your kids think that they are better off not seeing? This way you can look them up in your trusty TV guide and warn them in advance so they can avoid that channel.

Who decides what is good or bad? Who decides how much TV a day, or a week?

I’m having trouble figuring out how these children actually have any choice at all in TV watching. The TV was taken away (too expensive) and the children were told that they had to find better things to do with their time. Mother recently bought a TV for watching videos that she has approved. Children know that if the TV becomes “the center of their lives” (in the opinion of the mother) that it will be taken away again. They have to look in the TV guide (useless two word descriptions) and get approval on a show before even turning the box on. Where is the choice for the child?

These children don’t even ask for it to be turned on. Is this because it’s not important to them or because they are scared it will appear to be the center of their lives. Seems unlikely that you will ever be able to determine due to all the coercion involved in exorcizing this demon from their lives.

“just like there are certain neighbourhoods they’re better off keeping out of.”

Interesting. We live in a very nice neighborhood with lots of rich older folks and parents with teenagers. Just a few streets away there is a bunch of apartment buildings. It is considered a bad area by most people in the city. There are loads of kids in the apartment buildings. My son wanted very much to play over there (is he crazy? looks like lots of single parents, drug abusers, criminals, child molesters, gang members, wild kids).

Before Taking Children Seriously we told him all the good reasons that he would be better off keeping out of there. This made him very angry. He hated it that we didn’t trust him to use good judgement. Kept saying that he’d be careful and safe.

If you saw him on our street playing basketball, riding his bike, hiking in the field, or rollerblading, you might say that he appeared to be happy with the decision. He didn’t appear unhappy. Mostly he just appeared resigned to his fate. He knew that arguing about it or even asking again would be met with disapproval and even contempt for his hard-head. (How could he be so thick? Didn’t he listen to all the dangers?)

Well, since Taking Children Seriously, he has made the choice to play there almost daily. Met some real neat kids. This kid’s having a blast. Never had so many friends! Of course my son knows all the safety concerns and ways to prevent and elude all kinds of tragic situations (those who know me here can imagine all the scary scenarios that I have prepared him for 🙂 My point is that I considered this a bad area (insert TV show). My son considered this the funnest place he could ever dream of hanging out in. He also thought these kids were just the coolest and funnest anywhere. Needless to say, my son is quite happy with his choice and he is safe, too.

BTW, mostly he just “hangs out” doing nothing with these kids. Doesn’t look like much fun. He could be doing something “better” like riding bike, hiking or rollerblading. He needs physical exercise. Some would even say that a “gang” of kids are up to no good or will get enticed into criminal behavior by just “hanging out” and doing nothing productive or positive.

“What I have been repeating is that unlimited TV is not, IMO, a good idea.”

Unlimited by whom? Why not define which hours or days or programs are not good and explain this to the children. Surely they will agree with your good reasons and will adopt these same reasons as their own.

Sounds like in the past they have dismissed your suggestions as irrational. They then “vegged out” on too much TV. They even picked TV over other equally enjoyable activities. Why does this have to lead you to believe that their thinking was faulty? Why not listen to their theories on vegging out? They might be able to teach even you how to kick back, relax and veg-out.

See also:

Cheryl J., 1998, ‘Where is the choice for the child?’, https://www.takingchildrenseriously.com/where-is-the-choice-for-the-child/