Kiddie Boob Tube

12 Aug


Letterbalm Boy's BedroomDear LetterBalm: We have two sons age 10 and 12. They want us to put a TV in their bedroom, and you know how persistent kids can be. We already have a TV in our family room and another in our living room. My wife says it’ll be all right if they had one in their room for the summer months. She says we can remove it when school starts. I think television in children’s rooms is a bad idea no matter what – too many distractions and abuse of sleep time. We’re having words over this, and I feel like a bad dad. What do I tell my wife and my boys?

— Dampening Dad

Hold that line, Papa. Television – and smartphones, iPads, tablets, Kindles and other e-devices – in kids’ rooms is a bad idea all around, even just for the summer. (Ask your wife if she wants to deal with the whining and moaning when the TV is removed when school starts.) Ms. L.B. points out that many medical and child psychology groups say that TV can foster snacking and a sedentary lifestyle which can lead to weight gain, sleep issues, inattention, problems at school, even a more likely tendency to take up smoking. Additionally, kids who watch a lot of television are more apt to become inured to violence or regard violence as a way to solve problems and may test poorly at school. You and your husband will have to contend with Hulu, YouTube, Roku, Netflix – this is a lot of influence that, when unchecked, can get insidious. Some litany, huh? So, you need to educate yourself and have a private talk, first, with your wife; then the two of you with your sons, along these lines:

[To your wife] Honey, I’ve been doing research about what happens to kids when TVs are in their bedrooms. The effects are horrifying. Sleep problems, comfort with violence, poor testing at school, weight gain and sedentary lifestyle – there’s a big list, and some of the best minds in child psychology and health have weighed in. Let’s go online and look at everything. I really think we have to present a strong united front to Jason and Kyle.

[To your sons] Boys, your mother and I have talked and we agree that a TV in your bedroom is not going to happen ever. We’ve already said that your bedroom is off-limits to all electronics, including cellphones. We know that this can seem unfair because some of your friends have TVs in their rooms, but this is the house rule for us. You’re welcome to watch TV in the family room as always, and we’ve always allowed you to make suggestions about what you want to see. We expect you to be mature about this and not grumble and complain. Sometimes rules can seem to be harsh, but we love you and want what’s best for you. Do you have anything you’d like to say?

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