Shutting off the TV During the Day
I just finished reading "Consuming Kids, The Hostile Takeover of Childhood" by Susan Linn. It is an in-depth look at the advertising media, specifically, its questionable methodology of marketing to children.
Now, when I first started the book, Ms. Linn worked me up in to a nice indignant tizzy about the money-grubbing ad execs who would prostitute their own mothers for a few sheckles. However, the angry high wore off quickly and I soon found myself silently arguing with the deluded author.
Is it morally wrong for advertisers to tell kids to nag their parents? Sure.
Is it ethical to purposely target younger children with products that should be intended for a more mature audience? Prolly not.
Has advertising ever been the domain of the morally pure and ethically correct? Ummm, I don't think so.
It is, and always has been, my opinion that there are two people responsible for instilling basic moral concepts in my children. And neither one of them works in advertising. It is MY job to ensure that my children do not fall prey to the slick ad lines produces by marketers. It is MY job to ensure that my kids understand that family and friends are the most important assets in life - not gadgets and gizmos. It is MY job to teach them right from wrong, good from bad and even need from want.
Good God, these kids are screwed, aren't they?
I guess what I'm getting is that, while the book didn't exactly leave me feeling as outraged as its twitchy author, it DID open my eyes to the constant barrage of marketing I unwittingly foist upon my children each day through their television viewing habits.
Until I read that book, I'd considered myself a pretty decent mom. Not "great", but "good". Definitely a solid "OK" parent, at the least. Afterall, I never let my kids watch commercial television. It's either DVD's, PBS or a commercial-free children's station like Noggin or Boomerang. And I've already seen it payoff, because Ethan doesn't ask for any of the hyped-up, super-marketed crap the "real" tv channels advertise - even though I know kids his age that do.
But what I didn't even think about? What didn't even hit the radar? Was all the merchandising of the cartoons he does watch. Products like Tickle Me Elmo, Superman pajamas or Diego lunchboxes. All these Disney, Sesame Street, and Dora items that clog the shelves of the big box stores are the exact same shows I let my kids watch.
So what the hell am I supposed to do? Ban TV? NO WAY! Green and crazy are two different things. What I WILL do, though, is limit the amount they're watching. Often times, I turn the old boob-tube on just out of habit or to have background noise. Hell, sometimes the kids aren't even in the room!
So today's change will be to limit the tv. I'll allow a half hour in the morning (these kids are NOT morning people and I actually fear them when they first wake up. I mean, look at that:)
There will be the 2:00 pm "rest time" which I need (won't show you how I look by then). Although I'm going to try offering the option of playing quietly in their rooms for an hour and see how that goes.
Then there is the pre-bedtime half hour Tom and Jerry show. You know, cuz nothing calms a kid down for the night more than watching two cartoon animals pound the crap out of each other.
So that's it. Two hours of television per day. ugh. Even that sounds like too much, doesn't it? Hopefully they'll opt for playing in their rooms during rest. And if I juggle the day's schedule around a bit, I could move story time around and replace T&J with some good ol' book reading instead (I hear some parents read to their kids at bedtime - a novel idea, don'tcha think?).
Anyhow, I'm sure this post makes me sound like a HORRIBLE parent, but at least I'm a HORRIBLE parent taking a step in the right direction.
The idea behind this change is to reduce the consumeristic attitudes of the kids. However, it will also reduce my electricity by about .2 kilowatts every hour the tv is shut off. Assuming I turn it off 2 hours each day, that's 2.8 kWh per week, 12 kWh per month, 145 kWh per year.
Difficulty Level: 2 out of 5
I really do like the background noise. I think to help compensate, I'll dig out an old radio from somewhere and turn that on instead. Honestly, I don't know if this will be an easy transition or a hard one. I think I'm more hooked on the tube than the kids are! I might miss my Dora.