Friday, May 23, 2008

Mothers Against Television Revisited...

Further to my original post about TV (read it here), I want to link to this interesting article (and comment section) by Ali Hossaini: Don't Kill Your Television.

Of course, I do like the Kill Your Television site, at My brother has the Kill Your TV sticker on his stereo, which I think is a great location! But The whole notion of "killing" the TV is kind of against my philosophy. I want more of a personal decision to consume media (and anything else) consciously. Kill Your TV isn't as blind as the slogan seems, but they're still wearing the slogan. And as an artist I know well how important a shocking slogan is. Still... it's not my style.

I'd also like to make it clear that MATV is not a card-carrying group of TV-killers. You don't ask permission to "join". It's just a movement of people making the decision to seek entertainment in real life as opposed to reality on TV. So if that means you have a TV in your house but only take it out for special events, or even choose to watch a particular program on a regular basis, that's OK. MATV is about being very aware of the media diet we consume and feed to our children, and taking social responsibility for our consumption. It's not the media's fault if we watch TV -- we're not slaves! It's our own decision, and whether we trash expensive new TV sets and forbid our children to watch TV at their friends' houses (they will anyway, of course), or keep 3 sets in our homes and watch them simultaneously 24 hours a day, we do it fully aware of the decision we've made. I hate to hear people mourn the fact that they watch so much TV; it's up to you to turn it off! And similarly, we can't stop our children from watching TV by forbidding it; we can only provide them with enough intelligence to look at it critically, see the value and the detriment in what they watch, and feel inspired.

Edited to answer some questions people have been asking:

No, I haven't read Jerry Mander's book, nor am I actually very knowledgeable at all about this whole issue, other than how it plays out in my own home. I'm always interested to hear your opinions, experiences and discoveries; don't hold back!!

I am very aware that children who don't watch TV or play video games may want those things all the more. In my own home that's definitely happened; when we go somewhere with a TV on, they can't peel their eyes away from it, and, quite frankly, neither can I sometimes! They're also not desensitized to the violence or even the blaring assault of light and sound. I'm not actually sure that's a good thing, either; it's certainly caused them not to fit in in some of their social circles. They've actually been quite traumatized at times to hear the gruesome stories some of their very young friends tell. I once went out and rented Sleeping Beauty just so my kids would get some ever-so-slightly-violent pop-culture, but it was a huge failure; Tal said it wasn't nice, and he didn't like that they made the witch bad, and Annie just sobbed her way through the movie and ended up with nightmares. Regardless, I still whole heartedly believe that we're doing the right thing for our own family by keeping the TV and video games out of our house, especially in these early years. Here's why:

  • The time we don't spend watching screens is spent in other ways, which I'm not sure we'd find time for, otherwise. I obviously can't list the ways, because they are as varied as our imaginations... but we are never bored.
  • The kids are very critical viewers. Especially Tal, as he grows older: Any ad he sees is quickly analyzed: What are they selling? Why? Do I like that? Do I like the way they are trying to get me to buy it? What assumptions are they making about me? Do I like those assumptions? Mind you, he's also the product of a graphic designer and a programmer.
  • Most importantly, from my perspective, our family is growing slightly independent of pop culture, and this gives my kids the freedom to truly grow their own way. I mean that I think they have more opportunity to become aware of their own individual natures before having to live in the context of media and the greater world community. Of course, if they're interested in things that are screen-related, I'm willing to go down that road, and at some point it will be very necessary for them to grow into the media culture we live in and learn to be at ease, there. I just think that's not the most important thing at this young age; there will be plenty of time for that, later. So for now they're totally busy just discovering the immensely large, complicated, and interesting world around them. We're quite happy this way!


  1. Thank you for the invite once again to your annual event, the timing might be poor for us once again, but it is my intention to come see you guys.

    As for TV, you asked me what unschooling lists I subscribe to and I keep meaning to forward you the links to them. But you'll find that a great many unschoolers, particularly those who think of themselves being radical unschoolers, are really against the norm because it seems a big chunk of them don't believe in limiting their kids tv access at all. Seriously! It's a topic that comes up again and again in these lists.

    We don't actually limit our kids tv, but I have moved it to a remote part of our house because I found it stressed me out having to listen to it as much as Emma wanted to watch it. She barely watches it, but is free to do so whenever she wants to. I have found, like many of the unlimited tv unschoolers, that she has learned quite a bit from tv and that it does expose her to things outside of our home and small community. The other day there was a really amazing show on about tarantulas and she was captivated, it was definitely better than a book to see baby tarantulas hatching and stuff. So there's pros and cons to it all I guess.

    The unschooling lists that i go to are: (general)

    I rarely post to them, though did recently air some dirty laundry with parenting struggles at the always unschooled one. I set them up to receive them each as a daily digest to avoid getting hundreds of emails a day.


  2. Am moderately disappointed that I cannot become a card-carrying member of the “MATV” party. (Was hoping for secret weekly meetings, accompanied by minutes being taken, and lots of parliamentary procedure.)

    Kidding aside, agree with you that the stress needs to be to “seek entertainment in real life as opposed to reality on TV.” Probably a good idea to teach our children not to just seek entertainment in life in general, but engagement and critical thinking, as suggested when you wrote about critical viewing of television. Think that it’s fantastic that your children are already so media literate and understand that television is basically a way to get us all to buy stuff that we don’t need so that we will become consumer slaves.

    I share your pondering about desensitization too. My child seems to “fit in” better in some social circles at preschool (i.e. “the monster kids” who run & flail around) after watching the more surreal & hectic “Sponge Bob,” rather his former favorite: serene Teletubbies. But at least he is still at the point where he would rather be outside or play a board game than watch television. Sorry to hear about the Sleeping Beauty outcome. Whenever my son is scared by something he watches (or reads, for that matter), I wonder if it just makes him a little stronger for the next inevitably unpleasant encounter, or actually becomes traumatized. Will share some Mander quotes and thoughts for us to ponder when I get a chance. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences!

  3. Thanks, Diadipaolo.
    You're right about the "entertainment" issue, and I could have worded that better. Maybe "seek happiness in real life..." Don't know. I'm not careful enough about what I post. :--)

  4. Hi, Emily.

    Not terribly careful about what I post either. Think that’s the nature of blogging anyway.

    Here’s a Mander quote from his introduction that I thought I’d share. It’s about how he noticed how television was influencing people:

    “People’s patterns of discernment, discrimination and understanding were taking a dive. They didn’t seem able to make distinctions between information which was preprocessed and then filtered through a machine, and that which came to them whole, by actual experience.”

    Even today, people confuse television for their reality, which you touched on in another one of your posts. It is sad when televised “experiences” can actually become more important for people that real ones.

    My son would rather sit on the porch and talk and play than watch television, this is good. But, he does watch DVDs every night (after we read) and is now addicted to that nightly ritual. His preschool teacher said his work and play are original and imaginative, and show no signs of heavy television influence. She said that she can really tell kids who watch too much television because all they want to draw in their pictures is cartoon characters that have watched and reenact the scenarios they have memorized.

  5. I thought I wrote a big long reply here with link to the unschooling lists I'm on, did it get to you? Damn it was long I think, sad if it got munched by blogger gremlins :)


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