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    Redeeming the Time

    June 15, 2006 by Brandy Vencel

    This post is a bit of a follow-up to The Media-Free Childhood. It would probably be best to read that post first because it explained a bit about our family’s journey to a quieter life that is devoid of much {not all} electronic media. For instance, our children do not watch television or play video games, and we do not expect this to change anytime soon.

    One thing that I didn’t really bring up in regard to television {I use TV as the biggest example because I think it is the most common form of media for children aged 0-4 to be exposed to…and my children are aged 1 and 4} is the idea that there are limited hours in a day. We all know this, for this is why efficiency has become such a virtue in our culture. But the hours in the life of my children are limited even more than my own.

    I sleep about eight hours a day, or at least I try to. {Sometimes, I wish it were more!} In contrast, E. sleeps about 12 hours a day, and A. sleeps a whopping average of 16 hours a day. While I am left with 16 hours in my day to expend, E. has only 12 and A. has only 8.

    Why is this important? While I certainly don’t believe that because I have more time, I am granted license to waste more of it, it’s a basic law of economics that the more scarce something is, the more value it has.

    In the past, when Si and I have debated television’s relationship to our family, we have often come back to the fact that if the children were to watch something, there would be something else they didn’t do. After all, they have full days, and when we “add” an activity {of any kind}, there is something else we are subtracting, even if it is only “free play time.” Because the amount of available time is static, there is a necessary give-and-take when considering activities.

    So when we discuss television, there isn’t any activity within the children’s day to which TV watching seems superior. We would “lose” in the trade-off if we substituted TV for something else {in our opinion} because the other activities are better {i.e., more educational, more interactive, more important, etc.}. So in one sense, we look at the situation and say that even if we thought TV was “good” we would still believe the other activities to be better. And choosing what is best is our goal.

     

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    4 Comments

  • Reply Kimbrah June 18, 2006 at 2:36 am

    Brandy-

    I did not get a judgemental feeling from either of your posts at all. I really appreciate your views. I guess I already do feel a bit guilty on my own about letting the kids watch TV because it was not what I had planned on doing at all. I was at my wits end one day with deadlines to meet and I called my stepmom to ask for advice and she suggested putting on a movie for them. I didn’t want to commit to something that long, so I switched on PBS instead. It worked!

    At first I had to fight Karlos to only get him to watch the amount I want him to watch. It is still a fight, but one that I always win. I have actually found it easier to check out DVDs of our favorite PBS shows from the library (they’re FREE, Yay!). They are each about 45 minutes long which is about perfect, then we can move on with our day. And I really think that Barney has helped Karlos to learn things because he really likes to sing and dance and Barney is just the right format to get the messages across to him. I think that since he is used to getting to watch TV, I might still let him watch it a few times a week, but I plan on occupying them with more Mommy-led activities. I think it is really important to talk to him about what he sees on TV, too.

    Okay, this is turning into a novel, so I will stop here. Did I mention that I really enjoy reading your blog? Because I do!

  • Reply Brandy June 17, 2006 at 9:16 pm

    Kimbrah,

    I almost forgot! I meant to mention my opinion that this whole topic isn’t perfectly cut and dry. For instance, you say that PBS helps you get your (professional)work done. And I would say that if PBS allows you to get your work done faster, then you are probably spending more time with your children by using it for a little bit, than fighting with them and ending up with work taking over your day. Working at home (for a paycheck) is a tricky balance, and I don’t want to in any way belittle the fact that PBS has helped you. There are exceptions to every rule. My hope was to flesh out our reasons for following a certain “rule,” not to make people feel guilty about exceptions. At least, I hope you didn’t feel guilty. 🙂

  • Reply Brandy June 17, 2006 at 9:05 pm

    Kimbrah,

    I feel like I must eat my words a bit as today my husband lugged the TV into the living room in order to watch the World Cup with E.! 🙂 I’m glad I didn’t say something I’d really regret, like, “TV is evil and sinful” or something! 🙂

    The interesting thing about the Postman book is that he talks about the dangers of the form of media rather than the content of the media. This was a new idea to us. So, if one were to view sports-watching through the lens of Postman, one would say that soccer is the “best” sport to watch (televised, anyhow) for one reason: 45 minutes uninterrupted by commercials. It allows the mind to follow the game without distraction, to think in a linear manner about the game. Commercials distract us with so many images that we learn not to think in straight lines….Postman says all of this so much better than I do, of course. 🙂

    Of course, live is always superior to televised, but we aren’t all rich enough to have tickets to such a game!

    Oh! Also, I thought I’d just take this opportunity to say that not allowing our children to be exposed to much electronic media right now doesn’t necessarily mean that the same will be true of them in 10 years. Though I doubt that TV will be much of a mainstay, and videogames won’t be around either, Si and I love movies, and will probably enjoy a number of them with our older children. We just want to make sure that their early childhood provides many opportunities for them to be firmly grounded in reality. After all, half of what we find funny and entertaining is caused by something being unreal. Grounding our children in reality will help them appreciate unreality in the form of humor when the time comes.

  • Reply Kimbrah June 17, 2006 at 1:10 pm

    I like your thoughts on this. It makes more sense to me now why you guys have chosen to go that route. When I go back to being only a stay at home mom and not an stay at home working mom I think I will be moving more in this direction.

    I am afraid it has been very easy for me to use PBS shows like Barney and Zoboomafoo to babysit my kids while I get my endless paperwork or phonecalls made for work. It has been really hard to balance both. It seems like when I am on the phone for work, the kids take that chance to run crazy throughout the house, dump out ALL of their toys or stand at my feet and whine about what snack they want at that particular time. It’s easy to train the almost 3 year old in phone manners and behavior, but next to impossible with the one year old. So rather than coming across as unprofessional on the phone, I try to divert their attention with a little bit of PBS and make all my important calls in the morning while they are occupied. This still gives me time to train them when I get calls throughout the rest of the day that I haven’t planned, but gives me sanity when I am making the calls I have to make.

    But if I was only a stay at home mom, you are right. There are very limited hours in the day for my kids and there are very limited years left of their childhood to enjoy. Great couple of posts Brandy!

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