Station to Station

February 18, 2006

When my son watches TV, I feel guilty. The primary reasons for that: 1) the nearly unanimous conclusion by pediatricians that television watching is bad news for kids, and 2) I grew up watching minimal TV, and I rightly or wrongly associate that with increased creativity.

Then this article comes along and up-ends some of my assumptions.

Most studies of the impact of television…are seriously flawed. They compare kids who watch TV and kids who don’t, when kids in those two groups live in very different environments. Kids who watch no TV, or only a small amount of educational programming, as a group are from much wealthier families than those who watch hours and hours. Because of their income advantage, the less-TV kids have all sorts of things going for them that have nothing to do with the impact of television.

This adds a bit of perspective. I am most likely to pop an Elmo DVD into the slot when I am exhausted from work, parenting, cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. When Madonna stares down the limits of her energy, she can click her fingers and a nanny brings the Shetland pony around to take Lourdes for a trot around the estate.

I’m still not convinced that TV is beneficial or value-neutral for my child. But the article helps to place viewing habits within a larger context. Keeping the TV off is as much about willpower as it is about resources.