Recently, we finally broke down and got cable T.V. My husband found a great deal, so we decided to take the plunge, even though we’d been hesitant about jumping into the 200+ channel pool.
What I didn’t count on was the lure of Sponge Bob. Or Lilo & Stitch. Or Special Agent Oso.
My son has officially become a T.V. addict, and it’s scaring me. I’m ready to stage an intervention: “Alex Honey, we love you, but your addiction is preventing you from living your life. When was the last time you rode your bike? Drew a picture? Combed your hair?” My son now quotes Phineas and Ferb on a regular basis. And don’t get me going on Sponge Bob –it makes him manic, I swear. (To be honest, I get a little slap happy whenever I watch. And even more alarmingly, I caught myself laughing like Sponge Bob at a party recently and had to pretend-cough to get out of it.) As for my husband Joe, a few weeks ago I woke to find him in the guest room at 2 a.m., watching an info-mercial with a giddy, expectant look on his face. “Look– we can grow tomatoes upside down on our porch,” he shouted with glee, when I asked him what was going on. In short, in one month, Cable T.V. has taken over our lives.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m actually not anti-television. I think it has its place, as long as the shows our kids are watching aren’t violent and don’t promote snotty behavior. (In fact, recently another study came out that warned against the dangers of kids watching violent T.V. Kids who watch it tend to engage in more violent behavior, according to the researchers.) I also know people who were never allowed to watch television as kids who have grown up to be certified T.V. junkies. So, I’m pretty much in the “everything in moderation” camp here.
I think that since we lived without T.V. for so long, (we’ve never gotten any T.V. reception out where we live, and the digital converter box didn’t help after we set it up) I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of shows…and promotions. My son gets frantic any time a new toy comes on the screen, and insists he has to have it, whether it’s the tomato grower that grows upside-down tomatoes (just like his daddy!) or the remote control car that can do flips. He has grown so attached to T.V., in fact, that he has developed ways of putting on his clothing so he doesn’t have to miss anything. What really gets me, though, is that blank T.V. stare. The other day at dinner, he even said, “Look Mommy, here’s my T.V. face!” and went right into slack-jawed zombie mode over his pasta.
That’s when I knew this had to stop.
So here’s my dilemma: I know that doctors recommend 2 hours of screen time a day, but boy, I’ll bet we surpass that most days, if I count in PBSkids.org, video games, and now, the dreaded cable. I’m trying a new “No T.V. after dinner rule” but I’ve caught my son sneaking into the guest room to watch behind my back. He got a consequence for it, but I’m starting to think I’d rather pay the cable company their extortion money to take down the dish on our roof just to have peace and quiet back again.
What do you think? Parents, how do you handle this in your house? Clearly, we’re out of control and we need help.
About Elisabeth Wilkins
Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.