Keeping Your Kid Away From TV Could Hurt Them More Than you Know

little-girl-watching-tv“We don’t really go online,” a mom told me recently. It’s not entirely surprising, considering we live in a rural area, where Internet access is still woefully behind the rest of the industrialized world. And yet, I could sense in her look and in the way she spat the words at me more techno-phobia than lack of availability.

Rather than get locked in a debate over gadgets and the Internet and our kids, I let it go. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and wondering if I shouldn’t have spoken up.

Not about her choices, but about the way they can affect her kids.

I didn’t for the simple reason that I know what it’s like to have someone tell you how to raise your kids. It’s rude, and it shouldn’t be done. And I will never pretend to know better than any other parent how to raise their kids.

What I do know is what it’s like to be raised in a world devoid of the current connection to pop culture.

I grew up without television in the ’80s, when being TV-free was not the hot parenting trend it is today among a set that also tends to eschew all sorts of gadgetry for their kids, under the guise of raising smarter, more engaged children. Certainly there’s some merit to avoiding screens. Pediatricians have long warned parents not to park baby in front of the idiot box and walk away. Nor should any kid — of any age — spend every day staring at a cellphone, iPad, or XBox. It’s bad for their eyes, their necks, their waistlines, and their social skills.

But cutting it out completely hurts kids too.

I know this from experience.

Growing up TV-free, I was surrounded by kids who would prattle on to one another regularly about things of which I knew nothing. I couldn’t take part in conversations about cartoons (in elementary school)  or sitcoms (in high school) because I had no reference point. I was completely cut off from pop culture, in an area where your knowledge about such matters is currency on the popularity marketplace.

I didn’t know what toys to want, because I didn’t see the commercials. I didn’t know what catchphrases to drop, because I didn’t see the shows. I didn’t even know what songs to sing, because I didn’t see the videos (yes, I’m so old, I was alive when people still watched music videos on television).

As if being the short, chunky, geeky girl who’d skipped a grade wasn’t enough to make me the bullies’ target, the fact that I couldn’t speak their language surely didn’t help.

Am I saying that if I’d had television I would have been the Queen Bee? Of course not. But nobody wants to be that guy at the party who doesn’t get the joke everyone’s laughing at. That was my childhood.

And I can’t do that to my kid.

Letting her binge on some Netflix may horrify other parents, but in moderation (like everything in life), connecting kids to the TV shows of the moment is giving them an icebreaker. It’s letting them be a part of the conversation.

Because no one wants to be left behind.

 

Have you “liked” Inside Out Motherhood on Facebook yet?

 

Disclaimer: This post was written for Netflix.  As a member of the Netflix Stream Team, I receive a free Netflix subscription, however all opinions expressed above are my own.

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