Parents, kids and media

This article makes makes a statement that may be surprising for some: “for a majority of kids there are no rules in the household about media use. Where there are rules, often they aren’t enforced or they apply only to how many hours children watch TV, not to what they watch.”

Of course, all of us parents know some of our friends’ kids whose media use rules are too loosey-goosey. My poor girls get assaulted by R-rated or bad PG-13 rated movies everytime they go to visit their friends. And don’t even get me started on the video games.

We are extremely fortunate to have modern-day prophets who have warned us about this situation. So, most Latter-day Saints are aware of the dangers of excessive media use.

Here are the rules in my house for my children:

1)No TV at all except for BYUTV which we get via satellite. (Yes, that even means no cartoons. My kids seem to get enough cartoon-watching at their friends’ houses.)
2)All movies that are watched are G or PG-rated or have been cleaned up by Clean Films. (We watch about one movie a day).
3)No video games.
4)No music with bad lyrics.
5)Time on the internet is limited and the computer is public.
6)No private media viewing at all in kids’ rooms.
7)On Sunday, we try to watch media that is uplifting and Church-related, (BYUTV, Living Scriptures, movies on the scriptures such as “The 10 Commandments”) although sometimes we will watch a good movie that is not Church-related.

I realize my rules are pretty strict. But they seem common-sense to me. I also realize that these rules will be much more difficult to enforce as my kids grow (the oldest is only 9). But I intend to hold the line in the years ahead. As Dan Rather would say, “courage!”

The interesting thing to note is that my kids feel very secure in my house. They know exactly where their boundaries are. They have no need to push the boundaries because they know the answer will be “no.” So, instead of begging me to watch “That’s So Raven” they go read a book. It seems to be working quite well actually.

I’d like to hear from other parents out there. What do you think about the state of media viewing in your own home and in the homes of your neighbors?

This entry was posted in Any by Geoff B.. Bookmark the permalink.

About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

92 thoughts on “Parents, kids and media

  1. Growing up, we had a TV that didn’t get any channels (just lots of good movies). Watching static wasn’t much fun, so my parents didn’t set any TV rules. We spent lots of time reading, running around outside, etc.

    Though we have no kids, and no formal rules, our TV is pretty limited-viewing. We bought a little padlock that fits through the hole in the plug-in, and my wife keeps they key. Otherwise, I’d watch whatever was on… I have good principles until the TV is on, and then they’re much harder to maintain.

  2. Wo. You guys are serious. I have to admit that I find these boundries rather reactionary. I don’t watch alot of TV because I’m not interested in what is on (I do have a weekness for c-span). I grew up in a home that was pretty laissez faire and I’m greatful. When I made poor choices, my parents gave me opportunites to understand the value of better choices.

    e.g., my mom didn’t like the music I was listening to. So she bought me a guitar and had me learn to play. I didn’t take me long to loathe the butt rock that had so fascinated me before.

    I hope that by sheltering the children we don’t send them off to college to become X-box/cable addicts. Will they have skills to make their own choices?

  3. We don’t watch tv in our house either, although primarily because it’s not a good use of time, and not out of concerns over the content (for example, back when I did watch tv, I had no compunction about letting the kids watch The Simpsons with me).

    The kids can watch movies with parental permission. Friday night and Saturday morning are the usual times.

    One thing we have noticed is that our kids are never bored. Never. They can always find something interesting to do at home.

    I do plan on watching the ACC basketball tournament this weekend. The kids are welcome to watch if they want.

  4. “I hope that by sheltering the children we don’t send them off to college to become X-box/cable addicts”

    Uh, most X-box/cable addicts grew up watching lots of TV. That’s just in the nature of things. Sheltering your kids is no panacea, but you’re selling it way too short.

  5. J. Stapley, I was thinking of letting my children make their own choices, so I was going to put coffee, cigarettes and a good bottle of 9-year-old scotch on the dinner table every night and allow them to choose. And then I figured I’d buy a few extra TV sets and have them play the Playboy channel, MTV and VH1 24 hours and day and tell my kids, “choose whether or not you want to watch this.” And of course when they ask me for my views on premarital sex at the age of 13, I would hand them some condoms and say, “choose for yourself.”

    I’m being deliberately provocative here. Please don’t take offense. My provocative comments are not aimed at you as a commenter but instead at the line of thinking that says by controlling what kids see you are turning them into rebels. My experience has shown me there’s simply no truth to that. My father raised eight kids with no TV in the house and in an uplifting atmosphere, and guess what — all eight of us, even the siblings I have who are inactive in the Church, have chosen to create uplifting atmospheres for their kids. Some of us rebeled here and there (I was probably the most rebellious), but in the key issue of watching the right media and creating the right atmosphere at home, all of us see pretty much eye to eye.

    Aren’t we supposed to be a “peculiar people?” Aren’t we supposed to be in the world but not of the world?

  6. We had simple rules in our house as the girls grew up. There was only one TV and Dad had the remote. TV was on a lot. However, TV was pretty innocuous 25 years ago. Computer/Internet use was in same room as TV. We had a living room but all media was in the family room near the kitchen so everything was public. We watched our fair share of crummy TV, but we watched together. The girls learned, as we turned channels, what was and was not appropriate viewing.

    We didn’t watch Jerry Springer or all those creepy talk shows, very few cartoons, and the occasional music video. We also played a lot of classical music, watched opera on PBS and let the girls see a cross section of entertainment that was appropriate for their age.

    When one daughter went off to SLC for college she had three roommates. One grew up without a tv. Said daughter would return home to find tv-less roommate in her jammies at 1 in the afternoon watching Jerry Springer. The girls flunked her first year of school.

    Children need to be given boundaries and taught why they exist. Because I said so, is never an appropriate answer, unless you give the subject full explanation another time.

  7. It’s an interesting question. We were driving back from Idaho on the weekend and I had my iPod plugged into the car with some driving music to help keep me awake. Several of the tunes were Rage Against the Machine. So without me even being aware of it the singer launches into this “F*** no we won’t do what you want” diatribe. Now I’ve listend to that song hundreds of times without paying it much thought. But now I had a baby in the back seat and eventually the baby is going to understanding English soon. It made me worry about media more.

    I personally don’t think cuss words are that big an issue, partially because I grew up in a non-Mormon community where the language I’d hear at school was 10x worse than what you’d hear in any Tarantino movie. After a while it frankly looses the effect and it becomes just an other word. Not that you’d use it – but it’s like the phrase “oh, my God” on TV,” something to my mind that is technically far worse than the noted four letter words.

    So now I’m thinking about rules for my kid. Further I have to think about what to do with the DVD collection. (Which frankly includes several movies I’d not want my kids to watch as children)

    I do think limiting TV is good. But like Justin mentioned, you pretty much have to have other things to do.

    I tend to come from the school of thought that in a way what the rules are is less important than having a set of rules and teaching kids how to deal with rules and self-discipline. (Recognizing that some rules regarding sex and violence make sense, as do rules designed to keep kids physically active and reading) The problem is that far too many kids just aren’t used to structure. That makes it harder to learn and work in structured environments which will have a huge impact in the opportunities available for them. (i.e. doing well in school at a minimum)

    I think one can go overboard, and we’ve all seen parents with far too many rules that either limits kids, makes them socially backwards, or else causes them to lash out and rebel in ways they otherwise wouldn’t.

  8. I actually laughed hardily at that first paragraph…a definate beauty.

    While I don’t doubt that you and your siblings have supperlative families, there is an equal amount of emperacism that suggests other outcomes (to bad we have no data). As Adam mentioned I am selling it short, but we do at some point have to learn to choose.

    I’m not advocating forcing choices onto our children that they have no hope of successfully navigating. I guess I am simply stating that the experiances that I had as a youth (which entailed a much broader freedom), as I believe that it gave me certain qualities that I value.

    Perhaps we are both right.

  9. The question raised by J. Stapley deserves a good answer.

    Apparently Geoff B’s experience leads him to believe that there is “no truth” to the line of logic that a parent making your decisions for you couldn’t possibly lead a child to want to experiment. Perhaps that is true, although I doubt it is true in every single case as seems to be implied by the comment (and I am sure that many of us can think of examples if we try … I know I can).

    While my own children are small, I place lots of boundaries on them (true in media as well as other spheres). As they grow older I expect to remove many of those boundaries, and I have no doubt that they will make some choices I won’t like. But if I don’t remove the boundaries while the children are still under my own influence, how can they learn line upon line, precept upon precept?

    Ultimately ALL of the boundaries come off. Do you really want a child exiting a home without any test of whether or not that child will make the right decision all on her own?

    Of course, I’m just being deliberately provocative …

  10. “Ultimately ALL of the boundaries come off”

    Why, yes, when they’ve left the home. But until then, there will be certain rules. If nothing else, because this is my home and some things I won’t tolerate in it, no matter how pedagogical one can argue they are. Fuh instance, I and Geoff B. and no doubt J. Stapley are never going to tell our teenagers that it’s up to them whether or not they invite their boyfriend/girlfriend over to spend the night, or whether they stash drugs in the bedroom, though we hope they’ll make the right choice.

  11. “Fuh instance, I and Geoff B. and no doubt J. Stapley are never going to tell our teenagers that it’s up to them whether or not they invite their boyfriend/girlfriend over to spend the night or stash drugs in the bedroom, though we hope they’ll make the right choice.”

    Which is obviously and clearly what I was arguing.

  12. JCP, I doubt very much that “ALL of the boundaries come off.” If your 25-year-old announces she is moving back home with her boyfriend and starting a business selling drugs out of your house, do you say, “OK, dear, that’s great!” Obviously not. Yet she is an adult. She can make her own choices, right?

    You are correct that as children become teenagers some boundaries are certainly lifted. Curfews should be later. The kids need to be given more latitude in terms of suffering the consequences of not doing their own homework. If my 16-year-old puts his foot down and says he’s not going to Seminary, then, well, that’s his decision. He has made his choice. But my 14-year-old doesn’t get that choice. He has to go for at least the first year or two. So, clearly it makes common sense to allow kids to make more of their own choices as they grow up.

    Having said that, parents have an obligation to make their homes a temple, a sanctuary from the rest of the world. That means very clear, definable boundaries. So, when the same 16-year-old says he’s not going to seminary, and not only that he’s dying his hair blue and getting a panther tatoo across his back, the answer is: “Not in my house, you’re not. When you are 18 and you live on your own and I am not legally liable for you, you can do what you want. In my house, the rules are set in stone, and that’s the end of the discussion.” I think boundaries like that are extremely healthy for kids. But they need to be consistent and predictable and logical. I also agree you need to explain to kids the reasons for the boundaries as they age — otherwise they become just “stupid rules.”

    As I say, so far it’s working pretty well. My kids don’t seem to miss the TV or video games and even brag to their friends about how strict their dad is. We’ll see what happens in the coming years.

  13. “Not in my house, you’re not. When you are 18 and you live on your own and I am not legally liable for you, you can do what you want. In my house, the rules are set in stone, and that’s the end of the discussion.”

    Just speaking anecdotally, of course, but I know parents who very much regret losing their relationship with their kids because they set such strict boundaries. Either the kids moved out when they were 16 to get some freedom, or built up such resentment during the teenage years that it took years to overcome it. Boundaries are certainly important, but sometimes it is wise to take a step back and see if love requires a different approach than “my way or the highway.” I’d love to see more comments on this from parents of teenagers, if you’re out there.

  14. No doubt what I wrote really did imply that I favored teenage sex and a crack house in my basement, and I just missed it …

    I probably can’t list every thing that I would not permit in my house within a single comment, so I’m not going to try. I’ll stipulate that there are lots of boundaries that I would not remove (not simply for my children but anyone staying at my house).

    But, ironically enough you seem to implicitly endorse my point … everywhere except in the realm of media. Why that exception? The offered justification seems to be that the home should be a temple. Great. I agree (and let me just stipulate again that I’m not suggesting renting anything salacious to put out on the coffee table). But the home exists to create a happy family. It is not an end in itself. The kids are the reason to have such a home.

    The reason media is not a special category (and therefore deserving of some exemption to the “lift some boundaries” principle) is that a parent might want to know what will happen when SOME of those boundaries go away. That is a crucial bit of information that I am suggesting is unavailable in the regime described above.

    Additionally, my suspicion is that as my kids age I’m going to have to learn to better use persuasion and longsuffering to teach them. I doubt that making all of their media choices for them will really help me get better at that.

  15. P.S.:

    “JCP, I doubt very much that “ALL of the boundaries come off.” If your 25-year-old announces she is moving back home with her boyfriend and starting a business selling drugs out of your house, do you say, “OK, dear, that’s great!” Obviously not. Yet she is an adult. She can make her own choices, right?”

    I didn’t realize it but this paragraph makes my point for me. The point is not just to preserve the home, but to raise good children. I suspect you agree. But that means defining victory in the following way:

    “children who grow up and live the gospel.”

    Not: “children who never violate my media rules.”

    To reiterate: the boundaries really do come off, if not at your house then somewhere else.

  16. Sister Hinkley’s daugther tells a great story in her book Glimpses about Sister Hinckley. As she tells it, the daughter was struggling with her children and Sis. Hinckley said: Just save the relationship. (I’m paraphrasing but I think I’m close). I think all of us agree that our homes will have certain rules. How we structure those rules I think depends what we want in our relationship with our kids and what we want our children to become. I think certain kids do better with more or less rules. We have to prayerfully decide what ration of rule to freedom will best help our children to 1. grow up with testimonies and a desire to serve our Heavenly father etc and 2. will allow us as parents to continue to have strong relationships with our children no matter what decisions they happen to make that we cannot control.

    Also, I grew up in a very happy home and my dad never seemed to mind my meth lab in the basement. So I guess it just depends…

  17. I address this issue in my post Mormons and media consumption.

    I agree with Greg’s comments on strict boundaries — with the caveat that, of course, there should be boundaries when it comes to media consumption and that those can be reasonably be different for different families and individuals. But I also don’t think that the issue is boundaries so much as how they are presented and enforced, as Geoff B points out in #13.

    The best thing, of course, (and this also helps maintain relationships) is for families to do as much together as possible. We seem to be pretty good about doing that when our kids are young, but it becomes more difficult when they become teenagers.

  18. I agree with JCP. In the immortal words of princess Leia (sp?): “The more you tighten your fist, the more they slip through your fingers.”

    Children need to know the reason for discipline. Not just discipline. When you give them the reason, they can work it out in their mind and make good judgement calls.

  19. Great list of rules, Geoff. I have 3 kids (8, 6, and 1 years old), and I completely empathize with your rules, although ours are a little different. Here are the things my wife and decided to do:
    No cable TV. We have relied on a pair of rabbit ears since we’ve been married. Part of this is keeping out the crap, but an added bonus is we find ourselves doing things other than watching TV, simply because we only have 12 channels to choose from, rather than 78.
    All TVs and computers are in public places. We have one TV and three computers, and (with the exception of my laptop), everything’s in the living room.
    Internet filters on the computers. We subscribe to MStar Web Sentinel for $4.95 a month. MStar uses a “black list” of web pages that cannot be accessed. It’s quite effective.
    Observe the MPAA rating system. Frankly, I think the movie rating system in the U.S. is junk (frontal nudity in Titanic gets a PG-13 — whah????), but it’s reasonably effective for small kids. We allow G and pre-screened PG films only. No PG-13 films until the kids are 13 or at a maturity level to handle an individual film. My 8-year-old son loves Spider-Man … even though he’s never seen either movie. We let him watch films in the Star Wars series (to my mind, the moral message underlying the series justifies the mild violence), but it looks like the forthcoming Episode III is going to be PG-13 — I know he’s going to be horribly disappointed, but we’re committed to holding firm on that issue.
    No X-Box or PlayStation. Non-negotiable.

  20. Mike, great rules. Except the no x-box. have you no heart!?! No compassion? Man cannot live without an x-box, at least not fully!!

  21. I don’t think that setting up strict boundaries ruins the parent/child relationship. My parents were very strict. We watch no television and only pre-approved movies. Now that I am raising my own son I am grateful for those rules. I was grateful for them even as a teenager. I realized that my parents were giving me room to rebel without endangering more important things.

    I haven’t become addicted to television or video games. I get along great with my mother and father.

    Having no guidelines is bad parenting. My husband and I will be monitoring media in our home.

  22. I don’t begrudge my kids watching television programs that my wife and I approve of. I’m much more concerned that they’re learning what I think they need to learn and that they get a job when they turn 14 than whether they get good grades or spend too much time in front of the tube.

  23. My rules (we’ll see how long they last).

    1. There is one computer and one TV, both in a well travelled, open area.

    2. Kids are limited to one hour of TV a day on school days and 3 hours on Saturday IF all their homework is done. Only Veggie Tales or church type movies on Sunday, if we allow any TV at all.

    3. Cable TV is fine, because without the Sci-Fi channel or the Cartoon Network, TV is not worth watching. However, we block any unsuitable channels and have no premium channels.

    I figure if we start early and enforce them now, it won’t seem out of the blue as my kids get older. But they’re old enough the rules make sense.

    As they get older, I could see us getting a second computer, but it would still be out in the open.

  24. Plus –

    I always felt JS’s advice “teach them correct principles and let them govern themselves” applied to relationships with other adults, and is in fact a horrid parenting technique.


  25. Things now are very much like things were in Joseph’s time in many respects. Specifically, if we’re looking to find out how the Smith children were raised, something tells me that we’d get better info from Emma than from Joseph.

  26. Arturo –

    well, when JS said it, he was referring to adults.

    But I occasionally hear LDS parents use it to justify things like no curfew, etc. (basically, no rules).

  27. It seems we are conflating two reasons to limit tv. 1. subjecting our children to bad/immoral media and 2. subjecting our children to too much tv (even if not immoral), which is bad. While I agree with the 1. I don’t agree with 2. Why not allow children to watch as much tv as they care to view (within certain reasonable limits–if my kid would watch 20 hours a day or if he watched so much that it got in the way of other necessary activities like family dinner, bed time, home work, church activities the rule would extend to such activity). Is there something worng with tv in and of itself. If I found 10 hours of quality viewing for my children a day (and they kept up with homework, etc.) would you guys have a problem with it? How about if we watched it all together (or much of it) so that we still had family together time. Are there people that get more enjoyment out of qulaity tv viewing than I do from sports, reading, etc. And if so should they feel guilty for watching it/or not watch it b/c we have some belief that tv is intrinsically bad at some level?

  28. HL –

    no, I don’t see anything intrinsically wrong with TV, but I know my kids would watch TV and never play outside, do their homework or socialize if I didn’t limit it somewhat.

  29. I don’t see anything intrinsically wrong with TV. I certainly watched my share of “Gilligan’s Island” and “Brady Bunch” reruns, and look how I turned out Hmmm…. maybe that’s a bad example.

    Anyway, I think that strict rules are fine, and disappointed kids are just out of luck. It’s the kids’ place to want to please the parents, not vice versa.

  30. I agree with you guys. I have no problem with strict rules per se. I think they need to be tailored carefully to the specific child/family–but we’ve discussed that.

    What if the rule were as much tv as you wanted if you get homework done etc and go to bed at bed time and we also enforced a quality standard. Would people have a problem with that?

    I don’t think I would. While I loved playing outside as a kid and did so much more than I watched tv I don’t see anything intrinsically better about palying outside v. watching tv (as long as it is a certain quality level of tv).

  31. I could be wrong, HL Rogers, but I believe that playing outside requires more from the child. So it not only develops them physically, but also mentally.

    Still, it’s not the end of the world, I guess.

  32. I want to defend our Gameboy.

    A child who would drag his feet and waste three hours folding a bucket of laundry, whining periodically about the lack of disposable clothing, will now happily (OK, quietly) fold the bucket in twenty minutes.

    Of course, we only do the totally innocent games and we limit the time. But going along with the ‘just save the relationship’ idea, I think that a nice carrot can take a lot of strain off of the relationship by providing an incentive to get work done quickly.

  33. Julie –

    Oh, yes. Our kids will whine forever about cleaning their room –

    but if we tell them they can watch a Care Bears or Veggie Tales video if they clean the room – it gets done in ten minutes or less.

    “Carrots” are good.

  34. Adam Greenwood: I could be wrong, HL Rogers, but I believe that playing outside requires more from the child. So it not only develops them physically, but also mentally.

    I could be wrong, Adam Greenwood, but even Monkeys play outside. It takes a real intellect to enjoy SpongeBob SquarePants.

  35. It seems to me that the reason to limit TV time is the way it’s done: many of the stories are told using techniques that (I think) can be detrimental to the way we interact with each other and other art. For example, the use of canned laughter tells us when we should laugh, developing our sense of humor in line with the show’s. I’m for limiting the amount of time watching TV just so a child can have a variety of experiences with art in different mediums and can (hopefully) develop a range of tools to view and critique art.

    Besides, HL (#21), we all know that PS2 is better than X-Box.

  36. Pri –

    many of the stories are told using techniques that (I think) can be detrimental to the way we interact with each other and other art.

    I could say that about a lot of what kids read as well. I don’t hold with those who feel reading is intrinsically and inherently better than TV. I think kids need a nice mix – reading, watching television AND listening to radio & music. Kids need to learn to interact with all types of media.

  37. I think we’re being a little naive about the impact a tv, computers, and video games have on our kids. I feel I have a fairly moderate approach with my kids, but am frankly suprised that some of you seem to be suggesting you find no difference between watching tv and playing outside for a child?

    TV, computers and video games do not allow children to interact. Even so-called interactive shows and games don’t come close to human to human interaction. I also think we’re minimizing the merits of physical activity. My children as well as all others I’ve observed, are happiest, healthiest, sleep better when they’ve been running around outside. They are whiniest, rudest, greediest when they’ve been watching a lot of “quality” television.

  38. Several of the brightest minds of the early twentieth century were kept at home and privately tutored. For example, if you read Bertrand Russell’s memoirs, university was the first extended experience they had with a substantial group of peers. This entire idea that a child’s interaction with peers is somehow an essential ingredient in their development. But this notion is a product of the extended adolescence afforded by the increased luxury that has developed since WWII.

    That said, the priorities that often prevail in our day are pretty backward. When I went to high school, there was a smoking court, but we didn’t spend nearly so much time in front of the television–no MTV and three network channels didn’t provide the constant flow of brain deadening nonsense. And I don’t remember any of my kids’ parents keeping around as much junk food as I see many children eating.

    Instead, nowadays kids spend all day sitting on the couch, eating junk food all day, watching MTV, and bringing the rate of teenage obesity to record levels. But heaven help us if they pick up a cigarette. For my part, if I had to choose, I’d rather my kids smoked, watched less television, and were physically active.

  39. Wow! There are a lot of extremes being thrown around this discussion here. First of all, the post itself, NO TV AT ALL!! (BYUTV is not TV, it’s a sleeping pill). That’s extreme. Reactions saying that those who don’t watch TV will get addicted later in life, that’s extreme. Then the reactions suggesting if you watch TV you will not want to go outside, that’s extreme. Why do we have to use such extremes? We can always find extreme examples to make a point, but is that the norm?

    Goeff B,
    I’m still not understanding what is inherently wrong with TV that you’d not allow ANY of it. Also, do you have the same restrictions on what they read, or is that less restricted? Your interpretation of the (non) scripture, “Live in the world, but not of it” seems a bit strange to me. What does “live in the world” mean to you? Dwelling on the earth? We live in a media-saturated culture. TV is a big part of that. Shouldn’t we be a part of that and be able to speak that language?

  40. We don’t really have “rules”- per se, but our TV is never on and is usually in a closet, tucked away. We don’t have a place for it, and we usually only drag it out some nights after our kids are in bed to catch Andrea or I’s favorite show.

    Because our TV is not accessible to the kids, we don’t need rules. When our TV is out, then occasionally we will watch a movie with our kids, like Mary Poppins or Annie. And we also occasionally put on an episode or two of Anne of Green Gables.

  41. And Rusty- our TV situation is not some reaction to the outside world. We have just found that there are so many better things to do when we have a choice between television and other activities. I love to read a good book, and the kids love to make up all sorts of games. We definitely do have our days when the TV is “out” more than we would like it to be.

    Also, every time we think about getting a new TV (our only one is an old 20 incher) we think about all the better things we could spend our cash on.

    As far as being “able to speak that language”, that argument sounds a lot like the arguments I have heard used against homeschooling- that homeschooled kids won’t be properly “socialized”- ie able to walk the walk and talk the talk of other kids. I don’t buy that. The main reason is that you are right- we ARE a media-saturated culture. That means that our kids WILL have exposure to media whether it is at our home or elsewhere. Our kids certainly get to see some cartoons, etc., at other peoples’ homes. Trust me- they know what’s up, despite not watching it here.

  42. “40 Several of the brightest minds of the early twentieth century were kept at home and privately tutored.”

    Arturo, I never limited interaction to interaction with peers. Children who were privately tutored did have at least some human interaction with their tutor and they had the opportunity to use their brain much more than they would have watching television.

  43. Why the claim that watching tv is not using your brain?

    Certainly humans need interaction with other humans, playing outside is certainly a good thing. But why are they any better than tv. Isn’t a mix the best option (everything in moderation). TV can be a powerful learning tool. It can expose children to places and ideas in ways other mediums cannot and which they cannot see in their yeard, their community, their city, or even their country. Granted tv watching should be limited. By I have yet to hear a compelling reason to remove it or to think it instrinsically less valuable than any other learning tool or form of entertainment.

    If the criteria instead becomes quality and cleanliness does it really matter the meduim we choose as long as our children are exposed to decent levels of all of them.

    There are life lessons I gained from Magnum PI that are simply invaluable, not to mention the instructional power of Goonies.

  44. And here I just finished teaching my second grader his three-times-tables by way of Schoolhouse Rock. Last time I checked, no Schoolhouse Rock on BYUTV.

    Look. There are bad books out there yet I don’t see the “go read a book” parents ripping their bookshelves out of the walls because there are books out there that will slash at their kids’ moral underpinings.

    Personally I have had much better success at teaching my son how to make good choices as opposed to giving him no choices and only allowing him to do as I say. It’s a method I’ve supported for two estates now.

    If you want to go without TV, fine. But to cast aspersions on those of us who teach children how to choose between appropriate and inappropriate TV for those few hours each week when my otherwise intellectually over-scheduled son actually gets to have free time: don’t you have a witch to burn or something?

  45. But to cast aspersions on those of us who teach children how to choose between appropriate and inappropriate TV for those few hours each week when my otherwise intellectually over-scheduled son actually gets to have free time: don’t you have a witch to burn or something?

    Who is casting aspersions? I hope you aren’t thinking of me. People were sharing what they do with their kids and TV- and so I shared. Our choice was to keep the TV in a closet. We certainly don’t intellectualize instead of watching TV. The option is not between READING or TELEVISION. Instead of watching TV, the kids PLAY- like we used to when we were kids. (In my family, we played). We don’t overburden them with “intellectual” activities or anything like that- we think it is a travesty that society expects kids to read and do all sorts of other “intellectual” stuff at such young ages.

    Our decision to keep the TV put away also has a lot to do with the fact that we don’t really find many shows that interesting- and I don’t watch sports. So what would be the point of having a TV take up space in out living or family room? Especially our old, beat-up, 20 inch TV that does not match any of our furniture or anything?

    In no way does our own family choice have anything to do with the choices of others. In no way is our choice a way for us to secretly “cast aspersions” on those who choose to have a television front and center. If you find it interesting, then more power to you.

    But I had better get back to witch burning. Thanks Chad, for calling me on the carpet simply for following suit and sharing our personal experiences regarding TV as did everyone else on this thread. I thought it was interesting. I did not know that some people would read what I thought was nothing more than my own experience and find it preachy or feel as though I was “casting aspersions.” Now I know better.

  46. Chad Too –

    I don’t recall anyone who doesn’t watch TV actually accussing those of us whp do watch it of being bad or evil or whatever. Actually, I find the whole discussion fascinating, as this is not a topic that often gets discussed beyond the simplistic “TV bad/TV good” dichotomy. What I see here are a lot of “in between” viewpoints – a much more “nuanced” discussion (despite the damage Kerry did to the word “nuance”).

  47. Okay, maybe the witch burning comments was a bit harsh. I’m going to blame the headcold I’ve got for making me a little testy.

    On a side note, I know some blogs have editing functions that would have allowed me to go back in and phrased more delicately. Does this one have such an option and if so how to I access it?

    Mea Culpa.

  48. Jordan, my comments were definitely not directed at your post. Having read a lot of your messages here and elsewhere I have great respect for you.

  49. Chad Too–

    You can always email administrator @ millennialstar . org if you really, really want a comment of yours deleted.

    It would probably help if you reminded people that TV provides food for your family.

  50. Rusty, the first point is that I’m sure there are all kinds of people who let their kids watch TV who are not doing any damage to their kids. But in my house, there are really three issues. The first is a matter of time. Given that my family spends five to six hours every Sunday getting to and from Church and then going to meetings once we are there, we don’t have much time on the weekends. Saturdays are filled with chores and social occasions, horseback riding lessons, piano lessons, tennis and the occasional church meeting. My kids have to spend at least two to three hours a day on homework. There really aren’t that many hours in the day. If I don’t have rules saying no TV, the homework doesn’t get done, the chores don’t get done or the piano doesn’t get practiced or good books don’t get read. Then there is the issue of the content of what is on TV these days. Sure, there is nothing wrong with the Disney channel sometimes, but some programs even on the Disney channel are not that great for six-year-old girls. But what happens when I can’t hover over the kids and make sure they are not stopping on Oprah (“my lesbian lover left me for a transexual man/woman!”) on their way between the Cartoon network and the Disney channel? Every time I turn on the TV it’s just garbage. I feel offended and I feel the Spirit leaves my house. And the last issue has to do with the dumb hypnotizing effect of TV. It’s one of the reasons we Americans are so fat — we spend hours with our mouths half-opened staring at the boob tube. The world is so wonderful — can’t we go out and see it rather than sinking into our couches and staring numbly at the screens?

  51. I didn’t realize that was a secret, Bryce. In the interest of full disclosure, I do work in television. I wasn’t speaking as a producer but as a parent, but I suppose it does color my comments.

    Despite drawing a paycheck from one of the Big Three, that doesn’t mean I approve of all of it, and I encourage smart choices. But I still encourage choices.

  52. Let me just preface my comments by saying like Chad Too I work in television. I’m always fascinated by conversations like this one among church members. It’s interesting to work in an industry frequently criticized in church and characterized as garbage or sewage often over the pulpit. I often wonder how lawyers or other professionals would react if they could depend on being raked over the coals in church at least twice a year. I can’t think of any other industry or profession that gets so much blame in our chapels or our society. Frankly, this thread is no different. Again, I find members making the media and TV a convenient scapegoat.

    TV makes us violent. TV makes us fat. TV makes us stupid. TV makes us lazy. TV is a waste of time. Apparently, before TV was popularized in the 50s there were no fat, stupid, violent or lazy people in the world. The people who make us violent, fat, stupid, and lazy are surprise surprise, ourselves. As long as we have TV to blame we can avoid taking personal responsibility, or placing responsibility where it belongs, which is with the viewers and the parents.

    It’s disappointing because the post began by stating that most parents don’t have rules to monitor their childrens’ viewing habits, or if they have rules, they don’t enforce them. The conversation could have centered on how parents can consistently enforce rules, or on how we can set better examples for our kids, or even on what programs are great for children. Instead it didn’t take long for the thread to pick-up a bit of a self-congratulatory tone. Now, I am sure you are all excellent parents and I applaud the efforts of any parent who chooses to place boundaries on how much or what their children watch. I intend to do so with my own children. However, when one examines the rules a couple disturbing patterns become evident–patterns which as a TV professional I hear constantly–patterns which illustrate the love/hate relationship Americans have with TV and more importantly show how our children get mixed messages.

    How frequently do we hear people say how much they hate TV and that it’s all trash…except for these few channels or these few favorite shows? And how often is the favorite channel/show not exactly children’s programming or uplifting. Well, I hear it constantly, including in this thread. How often do we hear TV is a waste of time, unless, of course, it’s a three and a half hour sporting event in the middle of a Saturday afternoon which one would assume is valuable family time?

    How do we honestly expect our kids to react to these attitudes? The implicit message is TV is horrible stuff except for what mom and daddy really enjoy, so that’s why we have these rules kids, so you can be protected from this, but mother and daddy can keep on enjoying it. When on occasion children grow up and become rebellious, I believe it’s not because of strict rules, but because they can sniff out the hypocrisy behind the rules.

    And what about this idea that TV is a suitable carrot or reward? How can you use TV as a motivational tool to get rooms cleaned at the same time you condemn it? Too many parents adopt the attitude of put your toys away and as a special treat I’ll let you watch something I call garbage for half an hour. Be good and you can enjoy more of this vile filth. Is that the message we want kids to hear?

    For better or worse, the truth is that most parents in this country, including members of the church, and people who’ve posted on this thread really, really enjoy TV. They enjoy watching it by the millions, but what they enjoy even more is holding it responsible for a multitude of problems in our society.

    Everyone needs to realize TV is a form of media, like print or the internet, it can be good or bad, divisive or unifying, and used for both evil or good purposes. In fact, if I said I killed two hours today observing people snipe back and forth over an issue, I could just as easily be talking about Springer and Oprah or blogging.

    But TV is different in one crucial aspect. We can all determine what kind of TV we receive by using a voting machine called a remote control. We do have choices and that’s why I’m afraid I have to conclude by saying we get the TV we deserve and until we place the blame where it belongs, with ourselves, our kids are likely to remain confused.

  53. Brian G
    Good point. My daughter is in first grade and apparently she has learned about healthy food at school. So now she thinks that sugar is bad for you. I’m not a health food nut, but I think I do an ok job feeding my kids balanced diet. I have had to clarify this for my daughter and make it clear to my daughter that “too much” sugar is bad for you, but have some sugar is totally fine.
    That’s how TV is in a good vs. evil view if you aren’t talking about content. Watching too much (as the average child does right now) is bad for you. It is bad for the brain (attention span, active vs. passive), for the body–it burns less calories than sleeping.
    As for content, it becomes more and more difficult to moniter TV commercials pop up and you can be quite surprised with what they are showing. And many children’s shows contain so many bad examples, it is frustrating.
    But it is not all bad. Just today my 5 year old used the words “defeat” and “stabilize” appropriately in sentences (this is the son with a speech disorder whose language is behind). I guarantee he didn’t pick up those words from me.
    Much of what parents think is educational, really isn’t. I would far rather my children play outside than watch TV. But these days you can’t send your children outside to play and not let them back in the house until lunch. Children’s physical safety is so paramount in our culture (we are obsessed with car seats and choke hazards) and there is only so much a parent can worry about at the same time. When a kid is watching he or she isn’t being kidnapped.
    I was raised in a strict TV house. My husband was parked in front of the TV his entire life. We compromise in the middle because neither of us can really understand each other on this issue but we thinking fighting about it would be more harmful. And being in the middle when it comes to being strict or lax, is the best way to go. I remember reading LDS research saying that the super strict rules or the lack of rules contribute to kids going down the wrong path. Being in the middle when it comes to rules is the best for raising straight and narrow children.
    I believe it. Kids need rules. They need a safe world. They need to understand their world. And need to know you care. But they need to understand their rules. The rules need to make sense and be livable. While my TV rules might have been strict, my parents overall rules were what I felt were reasonable and I understood the rules and genuinely tried to live them. So when I went to college, I didn’t really care about TV. I didn’t really like it because it felt kind of addicting because it never ended and I found that annoying.

  54. We had a father in my ward when I was in graduate school. The guy was literally a genius who had graduated from college while still a teenager. He read Greek (in fact he carried his Greek Bible to church instead of his KJV). He worked as an administrative law judge. However, he had no common sense whatsoever.

    During the time I was in the ward, I saw his family fall apart around him. First his wife started having some doubts about things so he was coming to church without her. But then his children began to have issues. His policy was that he wasn’t going to “force the Church” on them. They were to be exposed to the Church, but ultimately they had to choose for themselves. The oldest daughter was in the young women’s Beehive class that my wife was over. She stopped coming to church. When the YW leaders went by to visit her she told them that she had decided to become a Druid instead.

    By the time I left the ward, the entire family was inactive, including the father.

    While I feel that it is important for children to be given opportunities to make their own decision, they also need parameters within which to choose. D&C 68:24 gives fairly explicit instructions that parents are to teach their children. Specifically they are to teach them, “the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands …” While the participation in media outlets like TV may not be mentioned explicitly in this verse, I feel it is still covered. As parents, we have a responsibility to teach children right from wrong. To show them the path that they should follow and encourage them to walk that path. It is ultimately up to the child to decide, but we need to give them every opportunity for success.

  55. I have been reflecting on some of the rules my parents had for us when we were growing up.

    While my parents were fairly liberal in terms of our TV viewing rules, I do remember certain shows that we simply did not watch, at least not when we were younger. Honestly I am not sure if some of the shows were off limits because of content, because they were on after our bedtime (more on that in a minute), or because they were on on Monday evenings and conflicted with Family Home Evening.

    Bedtimes were fairly strictly enforced. When I was younger we went to bed at 8:00pm (or possibly earlier). During the summer months, we had a later bedtime (9:00), but when school started again, we went to bed earlier again. I remember complaining that none of my friends had such an early bedtime … but my complaints fell on deaf ears.

    They also had rules that on Sundays we couldn’t play with our friends and that we had to stay in our yard. When we were found splashing in the gutter in front of our house with our church socks on, my brother and I were no longer allowed to play in the front yard on Sundays. Again, none of my friends’ parents had rules about playing with friends on Sundays. But it only took my friends’ calling the house a couple of times on Sundays to learn about our rules … and they stopped calling.

    When we went to a friend’s house to play, we were expected to tell them where we were going and when we would be back (sometimes one or both of these was dictated to us). If for some reason we were going to be late, we were to call and let them know.

    During the summer months we would spend time each morning doing math exercises (that is until I passed my mom’s math level) and were expected to read a certain number of books and report on them. We were also expected to give my mom 1 hour of yard work (usually weeding) before we could play with friends. I would go out in the cool of the morning and get the weeding done. My brother would sit in his room most of the day whining. 🙂

    Now, by high school, most of the rules were relaxed considerably, yet some things were simply understood. While “playing with friends” no longer had the appeal it once did, the concept still applied even though there was no specific rule. My school night “bed time” was 10:00 — but that just meant that I went to my room at 10:00. They had given me my own B&W TV that I kept in my room and knew that I would stay up to watch the 10:00 news.

    A summary of the relationship that I had with my parents by high school is that they trusted me implicitly. If I told them I would be home by a given time, I would be home by that time or I’d call to let them know that there was a problem. I wouldn’t think of lying to them. I might not have always told them EVERYTHING I was doing, but I kept them well informed. By the time I went off to college, there wasn’t much in the way of living by my own rules that I felt a need to get out of my system — much different that some of the fellows that lived in my dorm at BYU.

    It has therefore been interesting to watch my in-laws. My in-laws start work at 6:00 am, so they are up by 4:00 am each day. That means they go to bed early. Where my parents would stay up until I got home, my brothers and sisters in law come and go when they want. Heck, my 17-18 year old brother-in-law worked at a fast food joint and would often close, arriving home at 2:00-3:00 in the morning! Of the six kids in their family, one is completely inactive (offended by a bishop when she was a teenager), and two have gotten their girlfriends pregnant and had to get married. But it isn’t as much the curfews and such. It is an attitude that the kids need to make their own decisions. While I agree, I also believe children need some boundaries to learn the principals by which they can run their own lives and make those decisions.

    So, bring on the bedtimes. Bring on the curfews. Bring on the rules about media. Let’s make the kids work around the house. How else are we going to train them to be responsible and productive citizens some day? How else are they supposed to learn to make good moral decisions?

  56. Which shows do you guys work on?

    I love TV.

    But–there is a family in our ward that has the greatest kids and they haven’t had TV for years. They don’t seem unhappy or deprived and they are very well behaved kids. Makes me wish I could go back.

  57. Brian G, you make some good points about TV, but I feel you may be just a bit too close to this subject to be objective. Nobody is blaming TV itself. It is a means of communication — just like the internet or the telephone — that can be put to positive or negative uses. So, you may hear people saying, “the internet is horrible.” I come from a time when my mom said, “the telephone is horrible.” The reason she said the telephone is horrible is that I would come home from school and sit for two hours talking to my girlfriend. The medium itself was not bad — it certainly can be pretty useful if you need to call 911. So, to be clear, the issue is not that TV is horrible or garbage or bad or makes us all fat. The issue is *how it is used.* That is the exact purpose of this thread — to discuss how it is used. So, I agree with you that the responsibility is 100 percent with parents to determine how the phone is used or the internet is used or the TV is used. That’s why I started out this post talking about my rules — I accept 100 percent parent responsibility and am putting my money where my mouth is by actually doing it. You should be celebrating the fact that I am taking responsibility rather than placing it on the shoulder of TV executives.

    Having said that, I would love to talk to you about changing some of the garbage programming that is on TV. And Chad Too too. Can you do anything about that?

  58. I have lived in Utah since I was 11 years old and was raised in a fairly conservative home. In our home, a parental lock was on the T.V., we did not watch rated R movies, we drank only decaffeinated soda, we did not cook with alcohol, we could not listen to certain types of music on Sunday, we read our scriptures every day etc, etc. If a local leader and/or general authority – it didn’t matter – offered any sort of counsel, we would automatically strive to live by it in the fullest way possible.

    I do not condemn this way of living. I simply provide this information to explain my next point. Since “growing up” and “moving out”, I feel that I have finally made certain decisions for myself. I watch rated R movies sometimes, I drink Coke on occasion, I’ve been known to cook with alcohol, I listen to whatever I feel appropriate on Sunday (much larger selection than ever before), and I read my scriptures when I feel the need, but certainly not every day. Although I am appreciative toward my parents and the fact that I grew up in the Church, I can’t help but admit that I have felt liberated ever since I had the power to make my own decisions.

    I too am probably not being “objective”… But I’d love to find a way to raise my kids without them constantly looking forward to the day when they can leave their padded cell. Why can’t we live more by “guidelines” (both for parents and kids) and less by “rules” (usually only for kids, which distills a feeling of hypocricy), as it joked about in “Pirates of the Caribbean?”

  59. Our toddler is already addicted to Baby Einstein, Bach, Shakespeare, etc. I must admit that I find it strangely hypnotic myself. I guess we have precious little time to come up with our family solution to the problems presented by media in the home. To rephrase a point implicit in some of the comments above: hard and fast rules are tempting, but I believe we should be suspicious of them to the extent that they are parenting short cuts that alleviate the burden of addressing a child’s individual needs. I will set some strict rules regarding obviously harmful things, but at the margins I am prepared to be flexible.

    It strikes me as interesting that no one has mentioned perhaps the most insidious thing about TV. TV is often nothing more than a matrix for the real “active ingredients” being broadcast: endless inducements to consume things you and your family probably do not need. This may explain the mindless, morally ambiguous, overly sexualized nature of much programming. Good consumers do not think, they definitely do not consider the moral dimensions of consumption, and they are self indulgent (i.e., always a little aroused). The declining standards on TV over time may be the result of dulling consumers’ sensitivities. Perhaps TV has to go lower and lower to achieve the same effect in consumers. Obvious questions of sex and violence aside (of course I will do all I can to spare my children from inappropriate exposure to such things!), I don’t want my children being trained to be the ideal consumer in whatever demographic they find themselves. Other than an absolute ban, time limits are probably a good way to avoid this aspect of TV. Technology like TiVo probably helps too. (Although I suspect TV is desperate to get around technology that permits consumers to spit out the active ingredients! I wonder if we won’t see much more product placements and bands across the bottom or top of the screen, etc. in the future.) Anyway, even if you take out the commercials, you still have a lot of mindless drivel calculated to put you or your children in “consumer” mode.

    Another insidious thing about TV is the political messages subtly written into many shows. When I turn on the TV, it is usually because I am too tired to do anything else. In these moments, I do not want to be preached to or socialized to the most current political correctness. Due to annoyance with this alone, I have almost completely given up TV.

    Brian G: (No. 56, regarding condemnation of your profession over the pulpit). Are the condemnations of TV unfair? Do they mischaracterize TV in some way? I think that perhaps they are too general–too sweeping in a way that fails to acknowledge much good on TV. My favorite show of all time (Northern Exposure) is source of joy in my life. And I have good memories of watching Little House on the Prairie with my family as a child. But there is certainly some truth in the condemnations. And you don’t have to wonder how lawyers would feel. Both ancient scripture and modern prophets have many unflattering things to say about lawyers. I would be the first to acknowledge that evil lawyers deserve condemnation. I try to be virtuous and don’t take the condemnation of sin that pops up from time to time in my profession too personally.

  60. I was blessed (hah!) by having a divorced family — so I got some of both rule styles. At my dad’s house, my bedtime was very very early(i.e. when I was 7 and under, my bedtime was theoretically 6pm — then it was *very firmly* 8pm until I was 11.) I had not a list of things I couldn’t watch, but rather a list of things I could watch (Perry Mason, Wild Wild West, Murder She Wrote, Star Trek, Jeopardy! and 60 Minutes.) Moreover, my grandmother thought the Rules were stupid; every morning I was dropped off at her house before school, and was secretly permitted to watch TV. They once got into a screaming match because she let me eat some Oreo cookies.

    Meanwhile, at my mom’s house, my bedtime was 8pm until I was 7, and then 9pm until I was 12 (then there was no bedtime — I’ve been going to bed between 1am and 4am almost every night since my 13th birthday.) There were no restrictions on what I could watch or when — there was a rebellious period where late night Showtime movies seemed very interesting to me, and I successfully memorized almost every moment of all of the episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

    Ironically, my dad’s an atheist, and my mom’s a Mormon. ^_^

    Anyway, both methods stank. Though I bet more problems, overall, came from the constant “oh, in this house the rules are TOTALLY different” thing (and the competition between my parents,) neither the “you can’t cross the street by yourself until you’re 12, and don’t even THINK about seeing Terminator 2 with your friends” rule set nor the “here’s a housekey — you’re six now, so we can trust you — and I do hope that the family viewing of Robocop last night wasn’t completely scarring for you, sweetheart,” rule set was especially helpful. Neither helped me prepare for anything approaching a normal grown-up relationship with the media, and neither helped me rid myself of some bad habits.

    For what it’s worth now, after years and years of devouring almost anything (I have never been able stand “girly” TV shows — like on Lifetime and Oxygen — and you couldn’t pay me to watch South Park, Oprah, Jerry Springer, or any soap opera,) I just don’t think enough of what is on TV is very interesting. It’s on almost all the time, but I’m usually paying only a minimal amount of attention to it. I set out to watch about 5 hours of broadcast programming per week (Stargate SG-1, Battlestar Galactica, Stargate Atlantis, West Wing, and Lost,) though I’ll sit through reruns of West Wing, Star Trek, etc. any day.

    I’m not willing to set myself up as someone with a normal relationship with the media, in any case, as I’m getting ready to leave for a six week line-up, for the last Star Wars prequel, in Hollywood. I’ve not yet had the courage to ask any of my parents what they think of it. ^_^

  61. Geoff, I must admit that I’m lazy to do more than skim the preceding comments, so I hope this isn’t echoing something that’s already been dealt with, but. . .

    To let you know where I’m coming from, I am one of the most anti-rules people I know. So my issue with your rules is just that they’re so strict and iron-clad. But that’s an argument we can save for another time. To tell the truth, if we were to avoid the whole “rules” thing and we substituted “we almost never. . .” for “no. . .”, I actually wouldn’t have much problem with those practices. My own home probably won’t be extremely different when my kids are all 9 and younger.

    But I wonder, do you intend to be so strict when they get into high school? I mean, you’ve got a rather sizeable buffer in many of your rules between what you’ll allow and what’s actually harmful, don’t you? Surely there is regular TV out there that won’t damage your kids; might you at least make some case-by-case exceptions as your kids start to worry about fitting in with their friends by having seen at least some of the same TV shows? Same with PG13 movies — they’re not all harmful, are they? At a certain age, they can probably handle the occasional game of Mario Cart without degenerating into ambition-less video game addicts, right?

    I guess I’m asking if you ever intend to let the line that marks which decisions your kids can make for themselves drift any closer to shrinking your protective barrier. I have to say that if those rules were given to teenagers, they’d seem like they were designed not for protection — they’re more than what’s necessary for that — but to make them seem weird to their high school friends.

  62. Chad Too —

    I wasn’t trying to imply that you were hiding the fact that you work in television. Rather, I was hoping that by reminding people of that fact I could give other commenters one more reason to think twice about what they wrote (not speaking of anyone in particular).

  63. I don’t buy the “your kids are just going to rebel when they’re teenagers” argument in the case of kids who grow up without TV. Although I have a largely TV-free home, we don’t have a rule regarding TV per se — we just don’t watch TV on a regular basis. As a result, our kids (7, 4, and 2) have discovered lots of other ways to entertain themselves. They gladly watch tv and movies when we let them, but I’m guessing that at this point if we were to let them watch tv whenever they wanted, they wouldn’t be watching all that much. They have plenty of fun playing together, drawing, reading, or doing whatever it is they do to entertain themselves without the benefit of tv. Since they have ability to entertain themselves already, introducing tv as another option doesn’t seem like it’s that much of a threat.

  64. A big pet peeve — when our kids go to friends’ houses and they spend the time watching tv or movies together. Not that we’re necessarily opposed to the content (although occasionally our kids see stuff that’s too scary for them), but because it completely defeats the purpose of getting together with friends, at least at that age.

  65. Logan, I kind of answer your question farther up on this thread. But to summarize, I will certainly loosen up some rules as my kids become teenagers. Curfews will become later and media use will become less restricted in some ways. Each child is an individual and will need rules that accommodate for their strengths, problems, concerns, shortcomings, etc. For example, my oldest daughter would watch TV and play video games all day long if I let her. But it would affect her grades and her health and her well-being as a person. But, for example, if she’s 14 years old and wants to watch a certain program every day at 5 p.m., and it seems really important to her, and the program is harmless, of course that’s not an issue. But the point is that I am trying to create a household where she doesn’t think of that. I want her to think about using her time to read the “The Grapes of Wrath” or “The Age of Innocence” or “The Great Gatsby” or perhaps even maybe chapter 32 of Alma. And, yes, she will make her own decisions as she grows older, but she is mostly likely to eventually try to be like the person I am in at least some ways (which means she may spend some time on religious-themed blogs). In the end, aren’t we all like our parents in many ways, regardless of how much we promise when we are 19 years old that we will never be like them? If you play the piano in your home rather than watch TV, then your kids are more likely to follow that example. If you play tennis and ride horses, and go hiking, and, yes, go to church for many hours on Sunday, same thing.

    So, when I imagine my children 20 years from now, I also think about their personal habits. I hope they are coming home to a home where good books are read, where the scriptures are appreciated for the marvels they are, where the piano or the guitar or the drums are being played, where Saturday is a day to be outside enjoying the world, not sitting in front of a screen. Not to mention all of the personal habits related to the Church. Whether or not they are like that depends at least in part on what kind of example I am for them.

  66. I can respect that, Geoff. And I certainly don’t want to be in the practice of telling other people how to raise their kids — which it seems like you put a lot of love and effort into doing.

    Still, I’m a little confused how it follows from “my oldest daughter would watch TV and play video games all day long if I let her” to therefore, “no TV or video games.” Isn’t that a pretty large buffer between what is allowed and what is harmful? I also don’t understand how in one paragraph it sounds like you have very little faith in your oldest daughter being able to make good choices (she’d do nothing but watch TV and video games, you say) then in the next she all of a sudden makes nothing but good choices when she’s older. Considering your current setup, is that really going to happen because of “what kind of example [you are] for them”, or because of the way you’ve conditioned her?

    Please understand I mean these questions in the most respectful way possible. I really don’t mean to attack you and I appreciate you going to the effort to respond to me if you did in fact mention it earlier.

  67. Still, I’m a little confused how it follows from “my oldest daughter would watch TV and play video games all day long if I let her” to therefore, “no TV or video games.” Isn’t that a pretty large buffer between what is allowed and what is harmful? I also don’t understand how in one paragraph it sounds like you have very little faith in your oldest daughter being able to make good choices (she’d do nothing but watch TV and video games, you say) then in the next she all of a sudden makes nothing but good choices when she’s older. Considering your current setup, is that really going to happen because of “what kind of example [you are] for them”, or because of the way you’ve conditioned her?

    I’m going to bring up the junk food analogy again. If you feed your kids junk food from age 1, with no regard for healthy foods, not even th food pyramid, they are going to grow up eating junk food all the time. If you raise your children giving them more healthy choices, plus limited junk food, you help them learn to ENJOY healthy food and help them develop habits that don’t include eating pure junk all the time.
    If a kid grows up always having the choice to drink water or pop, which is he going to choose. But if a kid is told “You can have water or milk at dinner” he happily chooses between water and milk.
    My kids get to drink pop. They get icecream. They eat candy and plenty of junk food. But I don’t want them to eat only junk food. There is no way I would let them choose their own food and drink 24/7. They might only choose rice krispie treats, rootbeer, and chips. What kind of a parent lets a child with too little knowledge make those decisions. Of course the older a child is, the more choices they get to make on their own. I will have no control over what food they buy with their own money or what they eat away from home. But I can do my best to make them try broccoli–maybe one day they won’t mind. And they like foods that are mixed together now (they used to only do separate chicken) and so they eat chicken enchiladas and other casseroles.
    It is common for parents who enjoy playing sports, camping, or playing instruments to teach these enjoyments to their children and make it more likely that their children will enjoy these things lifelong.

  68. Logan, it is human nature to want to do certain things if you are left alone and have no rules. If I didn’t have to work, I probably wouldn’t, but I do so I get up and put on a suit and tie and go to work every day. It is part of my job to make her do things she might not otherwise not want to do. Usually, kids internalize as they grow up that they have to do things they may not want to do and they can’t do things they would like to do. In the famous words of the Rolling Stones (which I sing to my girls several times a week), “you cain’t always get what you want!” So, yes, my daughter would watch TV all day and play video games all day if I let her do it. she is only 9 years old. Pretty soon she would get bored and do something else, but in the meantime what happens to her grades, her piano playing, etc? But I am happy to report that she is a completely normal kid with normal friends. She seems to fit in socially quite well and seems to know all of the important social references to hit TV shows. So, I don’t think I have retarded her social skills too badly. But she is the only one of her classmates who also knows who Enoch is. And she is the only one who knows who Alma the Younger is. And she is the only one who knows how to change diagonals on a trotting horse. So, it appears it is possible to be a good parent and restrict your kids’ TV access. In my case, it is necessary to help raise a truly well-rounded kid.

    Logan, I appreciate the respectful way you have phrased your questions.

  69. In the original post, one of the rules was “No music with bad lyrics”. I’m in full agreement with this, but am curious about the practicalities. How do you, as parents, monitior the lyrics of your children’s (especially your teen’s) music?

    Post answers here as well as in emails to me.


  70. Much of this discussion (it seems to me) points to a deeper question about how we affect our children and how we can positively affect their character. I wonder a lot about the differences between my own approach and the Savior’s approach. He seemed very hostile to many of the rules of his day (see Matthew 23:33). In fact, he cared much more about appropriate practice: live the teachings and you will grow closer to Him, but you must do so for the right reasons because hypocrisy will get you nothing (Moroni 7:6).

    The hope that parents have seems to be that if we can make our children do good, they will come to understand the value of doing good. I hope that’s true and when Christ says that if “any man will will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine” I find that both comforting and justifying of the rules I impose on my children. But, pretty clearly, the Savior was not a fan of all rules. And we do well to ask ourselves if we are closer to the model of John 7:17 or the model criticized in Matthew 23:33.

    Sometimes I wish we had not only the record of the Savior’s ministry, but also a better glimpse into how HE would raise children.

  71. JCP,

    Your yearning for a better glimpse of the Savior’s parenting skills initially caught me off guard. Dagnabbit, he( or she)’s right, I thought. Isn’t it remarkable. This is one task that so many of us struggle with and wish we had more concrete guidance on, and yet the Savior wasn’t even a parent, at least as far as the record in the scriptures goes. But then I caught myself. Of course he was a parent. He is the Father of my Salvation. He is our Father in incredibly significant ways. The scriptures are nothing but a record of His dealings with his children. Studying His interactions with us will yield a rich supply of insight into our own parent-child relationships, even if they sometimes require somewhat more extrapolation than we might wish for.

  72. “Never, ever talk that way about television!”

    I was raised by tv. (My family is not LDS.) All the games I played as a child were tv shows. I Dream of Jeanie, Little House on the Prairie, Eight is Enough, Dukes of Hazard (on my Big Wheel). When I would walk my friend home in the evening, or she would walk me home, we had cheers every night we’d do, depending on what shows were on that night. Tuesday were, “Happy Days! Laverne and Shirley! Three’s Company!”

    But I wasn’t allowed to watch Three’s Company. Not because it was about a man living with two women, but because he was pretending to be gay. Ironic when not one, but two of my brothers, later came out of the closet. My mom wouldn’t let me watch Three’s Company, and my dad wouldn’t let me watch soap operas. (My mom would let me though.)

    When my kids were toddlers, we couldn’t afford cable, and they only watched PBS. I was happy for this because I didn’t want them seeing all the commercials for toys I couldn’t afford! Now that they’re older (15, 13 and 10), my daughter is pretty much a tv junkie. She usually only watches kids’ channels. If it started to cause problems I’d limit her time, but it never has for her. She does well in school, she’s healthy, and she has lots of friends.

    I happen to have pretty incredible kids, though. They have their own standards they adhere to and sometimes force me to as well. 🙂

    There was an LDS boy in our old neighborhood who didn’t have a tv, and all he wanted to do when he came over was watch tv. He’d want to come in and watch it even when my kids were outside playing.

  73. MDS:

    A good point. I find the extrapolation pretty unsatisfying though (but that could well be my own inability to extrapolate or interpret). Knowing how God has dealt with the Israelites or the Nephites has not given me that much insight into issues I face with my girls. Maybe I’m not looking in the right places. I find that the scriptures are less of a source on this topic than the words of the recent prophets.

    Perhaps this is why they teach about family so often: not merely because it is an important subject, but because it is a place where the scriptures will give us less concrete, practical guidance.

  74. Having said that, I would love to talk to you about changing some of the garbage programming that is on TV. And Chad Too too. Can you do anything about that?

    Yes, and you can too.
    Watch the good stuff. Seriously.

    The success or failure of any given program is based on how many people watch it. There are two basic ways that is calculated.

    Rating is a percentage of all the TV’s in the country that were tuned a particular program. A 5 rating for “I Love Lucy” means 5% of the TV’s in the country were on and tuned to the program.

    Share is the percentage of TV’s that were tuned to a particular program from among only the TV’s that were on at the time. Hence, “I Love Lucy” might be reported as having a 5 rating/8 share. Five-percent of the total TV’s in the market were tuned to it, but eight-percent of the people who were actually wawtching TV at the time saw Lucy do some ‘splaining.

    There are legitimate arguments about the sampling procedures (neither rating nor share records whether or not the viewer liked the program, just that they viewed it, etc.) but basically it means that if you don’t get the eyeballs, your show gets cancelled. If you do get the eyeballs, you stay on the air.

    I don’t dispute there’s a lot of garbage on the air (though I reject the over-broad brush Geoff paints with). What keeps the trash on the air is that people watch it. If the ratings/shares drop, the show will get the ax, garbage or not.

    Under the rules of this game, programmers are going to schedule shows they think have the best success of gathering eyeballs. I don’t believe they all are deliberately out to undercut your morals, but if those are the programs that get viewers, those shows will stay and copycat programs will pop up trying to capitalize on the popularity.

    Those who address the garbage-on-TV problem by tuning out hit the the good programs with a double whammy. First, because their TV is off, it doesn’t calculate in the formula for determining share. The bad programs will have a higher share simply because there are fewer TV’s on watching other things. Second, those who do try to create more wholesome programming suffer because with your TV off, it means you’re not watching their program. They lose both rating and share. Low rating and low share = *cack*.

    I understand time restraints in the house. I just spent from the moment I got home until bedtime helping my eight-year-old with his homework and preparing a small speech he’s delivering to our county commission tomorrow (::gratutitous bragging mode off::) There was no time for TV tonight. So be it.

    Except for some cartoons, my son doesn’t watch frivolous TV. Last night we watched a 30-minute program on the DIY channel where a luthier (I had to look it up, it’s a person who makes lutes and stringed instruments of that ilk) took us from start-to-finish in hand-crafting a dulcimer. We recently watched a special about the making of a man-made island off the coast of Osaka where a new international airport was built (and all that it takes to keep the island from taking the airport back into the sea). A Discovery Channel special about Yellowstone Park has sparked an interest and we’re planning a vacation there next year.

    My son loves American Idol. He cried for an hour when Clay Aiken lost. If you want to call it trash, fine. We’ve had great discussions in our home, though, because of American Idol. We’ve discussed how important honesty is; that some of these people had friends who weren’t willing to be honest or else those friends would have discouraged them from trying out. We’ve discussed how sometimes the people who are most talented lose out because they aren’t popular and how that is unfair but still a reality in this world. Life lessons are everywhere and I take advantage of them.

    My point is this. If you want quality programming, the rules of the game mean you’ve got to support it or else the stuff that makes money despite your disdain grows and multiplies. Find programs that support your role as parent, enrich your children’s lives, and drive them to further information in books, magazines, and the internet. Help them learn to choose wisely. Television can be the positive influence in your family, it just has to be used effectively.

  75. Geoff:

    I think Chad Too’s measured comments prove that you can work in television and have an objective opinion. Saying otherwise is a little like saying you can’t have an objective opinion on Mormonism and be a member of the Church.

    In addition to Chad Too’s advice I would add that one way to improve programming is to encourage youth that are interested in the media to pursue careers in such fields if they want to. One side effect of ignoring the positive aspects of TV and other forms of popular culture and focusing unobjectively on the negative is that it discourages young LDS people from growing up and pursuing careers where they can be in a position to influence our popular culture in a positive way. If you grow up in a cultural environment where TV and movies are portrayed as something that is at best valueless and at worst worthy of fear it is unlikely you’ll pursue a career path in that area, or if you do, you’ll do so with guilt and trepidation.

    It’s a shame because what the entertainment industry needs most is talented, creative people dedicated to make better projects more suitable for families and grounded in strong values. Members of the church could and should contribute more, but many shy away from entertainment careers, not I believe because they aren’t creative or talented or interested in those fields, but more often than not because they’ve been conditioned to believe those careers to be necessarily wicked or incapable of providing a stable livelihood for a family. There’s no question that an entertainment career can be challenging, particularly at the beginning, but by demonizing popular culture and completely isolating ourselves from media we essentially forfeit a fight for better material.

    Another point worth making is that no matter how many quality shows get outstanding ratings, and no matter how many LDS people fight the good fight and make better films and shows, much of TV will always be mediocre. Whether it’s TV, music, or literature culture simply works that way. Not all the hymns in the hymn book are great. Not all General Conference talks are amazing. Not all blog threads are fascinating. You simply can’t please all of the people all of the time. And, I might add, there’s no reason why you should have to.

  76. Sarah: When you’re waiting in line outside Grauman’s give my wife and I a call and we’ll come by with a hot meal for you. We’re always willing to support a Star Wars fan.

  77. Brian,
    I just wrote a post that spawned from this discussion. It comes from Geoff’s earlier use of the phrase “being in the world but not of it”. I think you’re right, though. I think we need to be right in the middle of “the world” so that we can influence it, not merely dwell on the earth.

  78. The only tvs that are counted in the rating system are Neilson families, though, right? My in-laws were a Neilson family for awhile, and they were very conscious of it. They’d program their vcrs and turn tvs on in other rooms where no one was watching (I think, maybe I’m misremembering) to boost the shows they thought were worthwhile.

    I should’ve added that my daughter has discovered a lot of career choices from television she wouldn’t otherwise have known about at her age, including working with abused animals (she loves Animal Planet), working as a metal sculptor, building motorcycles or painting cars (we all love the Discovery channel). We also watch a lot of Nova-type programming. She loves to ask her math and science teachers if they’ve ever heard of string theory. (Because they usually haven’t.)

  79. Logan, Brian G and Rusty have brought up some excellent thoughts that have really added to the debate. They may have even convinced me to let my kids occasionally watch educational programs on TV. I still won’t let them zone out in front of the Disney Channel for an hour each day, but perhaps the occasional educational program wouldn’t be a bad thing. Right now, we are watching all of the great musicals and movies that are available during our free time (“Annie Get Your Gun” has to be one of the greatest musicals ever, and my kids LOVED it). But thanks for very thoughtful and enlightening comments. Rusty, nice blog also.

  80. Hey, Geoff, I’m glad to hear it. I’ve also appreciated understanding more deeply your reasoning for doing some of the things you do. I feel like we’re limited some by the medium of blogging in getting to some of the deeper issues, but maybe if we ever attend a blorgy together we can talk more.

    And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being too busy watching great musicals to watch much else on TV. Great, great stuff there.

  81. “The Music Man” is a big hit around our house. That and “Auntie Mame” (the play with Rosalind Russell, not the abysmal musical with Lucille Ball).

  82. I was raised on musicals–film productions, stage productions on film, I love them all. Rogers and Hammerstein, Meredith Willson, Stephen Sondheim … these were household names to us. Names synonymous with genious!

    My only regret: I was slow to realize that musical refernces (“you know, that reminds me of a line from Brigadoon …”) were extremely suspect to the average teenage man. Eventually I learned to turn quickly to girls, sports, cars, or rock ‘n roll, much safer common ground, if my conversants were not musical-savy.

  83. I grew up in a home with no television at all. It didn’t bother me much at the time, and I think all the reading I did instead really benefited me. We do have a television now, and I have it on a fair bit in the evenings when my husband is working–although I rarely sit in front of it and watch. My children watch some PBS and occasionally a library video, but I haven’t formulated any systematized rules about it; they rarely watch more than thirty minutes a day, I’d guess, and many days it’s not on at all. I almost never watch television with my children; if it’s on, I’m forthrightly using it as a babysitter. All this just to try not to sound like a preachy prude for linking to the following article, which shows a link between television viewing in very young children (the Baby Einstein crowd) and ADHD in later childhood. I think it’s safe to say that there *is* something inherently bad about television viewing for very young children–a phenomenon that was virtually unheard of before ten years ago–entirely apart from content.

  84. I’ve spent a lot of time reading these remarks about the media and its negative and sometimes positive impact on our children’s developement. I am not the perfect dad, but I know at least one thing about the parenting style of the only perfect father there ever was. He didnt put the Tree of Knowledge outside the garden gates (or in the closet until his children were asleep). The “R-rated” Tree was used to teach his children that everyone will have limits as part of their mortal experiences. Now, he didn’t put a whole orchard of these trees spread throughout the garden either. It’s important to have our children be exposed and immunized to the world in increments before they are thrust out of our homes. And even after they leave the home they were nurtured in, our children will need some other instructions to help them survive the storms, trials, and snares that are sure to come their way (pornography, gambling, drugs, etc.). Genesis was suficient for this analogy and I’m well aware that the BOM has other examples that parallel this one.

    Please forgive me if I sound authoratative or self-riteous (I’m far from either). I regret to say that I have yet to meet anyone who has ever achieved such a story-book scenario even though I’ve been in the church my whole life (35 years). I must admit that some SEEMED to come pretty close though. I guess I just want to get my own opinion out there too.
    -Amon Johnson

  85. I think its rediculous! You can only keep the media away from your children for so long, and once they get a taste of it, they wont want to stop. They’ll want more and more. I know from experience, I had a best friend whos parents were like you. They had dish, but when it was time to go to her house and watch tv everything was blocked except the gospel music channel, BYUTV, and a few select other staions that we were only alowed to watch if there was adults there. Also we couldnt watch anything that wasnt rated G or PG and no internet without a younger sibling sitting there watching our every move. She was a good kid all thoughout high school, but the day they sent her to college was the day her life went down the hole. She started out just going to the parties on campus every now and then on thursday nights and having a drink or 2, but then she started going every thursday night, made excuses for not going to church on Wed night, and also made excuses for not being able to come home on the weekends because she had “homework” she had to get done or a huge test on Monday morning. Well turns out she didnt have homework or a test, and this reflected at the end of her first semester with all incomplete’s on her report card. Her parents were so upset and didnt know what to do, so they pulled her out of school and brought her back home. They had no idea what she was doing. To this day she still isnt like her old self. She still parties all the time and has been to rehab for alcohol twice. She blames her parents for sheltering her for her entire life, and they blame themselves as well. They say if they could take it all back, they would in a heartbeat. Watching their daughter go though this really hit home for them, and made them lighten up her 3 younger siblings. They still monitor, to an extent, what they watch on tv and do on the internet, but as far as only have 5 channels to watch on tv, thats out the window. I wonder everyday what it would be like to hang out with my bestfriend again but I really dont think I’ll ever know. She’s gone beyond being helped, unless she of course turns to God. At this point I think thats the only hope she has. So im begging you guys, not just for me, but for you and your kids sake, dont be so strict, let them make thier own decesions on what to watch, if they dont learn whats out there now what are they gonna do when they get out in the world and find it on their own?

  86. Sam, I totally agree with you. I am showing my kids x-rated movies only from now on so they can be prepared for the things of the world. Thanks for helping me reform.

    But more seriously, I just don’t buy the argument that the way you prevent kids from not rebelling is by not being strict with them. The role of a parent is to set up rules for the household. Kids must conform to the rules. If they rebel later on in life when they are older, the fault is on them, not on the parent.

  87. Geoff I agree with you mostly. We have parental locks on the tv. The only shows that can be viewed with out a parent are family rated.
    #1 not so much. There are some great cartoons out there.
    #2 Yeah, but we make exceptions for say Harry Potter.
    #3 I had this rule once and then Wii came out and I like that you have to move to play it. I agree computers and video games zap imagination.
    #5 we do this too
    #6 ditto
    #7 ditto except for the occasional sport program for DH Mike

    What is hard when you have little kids, medium kids, teens and young adults. You want them at your house with their friends. What may be okay for a teen is not for a toddler. So you have to give a little sometimes.

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