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WHAT'S ON YOUR MIND?

Screen Junkie

38 comments | September 18th, 2012

(by Mir from WouldaShoulda)

Kids today, man, there is no end to the ways we're screwing them up. And no sooner have you hit upon yet another thing that's wrong than someone comes along to talk about the "good old days" when kids could pretty much do whatever they wanted as long as they showed up back at home for meals and remembered to wash their hands. Apparently back in the good old days, kids played outside, worked out their differences without parental involvement, and were everything from more creative to more robust overall.

Me, I didn't have that sort of upbringing. We lived on the outskirts of town, and didn't really have a neighborhood. I read a lot of books. I also watched a lot of television. Okay, let's be perfectly honest here—I watched an obscene amount of television. It wasn't unusual for me to get home from school and turn on the television and watch for a couple of hours, then eat dinner in front of it, then watch a favorite show (or two) before bed. And back then we didn't have DVRs or even, for most of my childhood, VCRs, so that meant if you wanted to watch cartoons you got up on Saturday morning to watch them. I not only got up early to watch cartoons, I watched them while munching on Count Chocula or Cookie Crisp. We had 13 channels and I could always find something to watch (unlike now, when we have 200+ channels and nothing's on).

As a parent myself, now, I'm supposed to tell you how awful it was that I was allowed to rot my brain and my teeth that way. (Actually my teeth are fine. Hooray for fluoridated water, I guess.) Nowadays we have countless studies and media outlets available to explain to us how a childhood such as mine should've yielded an adult who could barely dress herself, much less capable of independent and productive thought. And yet… here I am. I'm wearing pants and everything.

It's a conundrum for me, because I truly do believe there's a "better" way now that we know more. I limit my kids' screen time (or course nowadays there's many more screens to worry about—everything from television to computers to video games and even e-readers), and when they do settle down in front of the TV, there's a lot more in the way of educational programming than I remember from when I was a kid. With the DVR there's no need to get up early to watch cartoons, of course, though sometimes my son gets up early on a Saturday just so that he can enjoy a show or two while everyone else is asleep. Still, he's more likely to be caught munching on homemade granola than the sugar cereals of my youth while he's doing it.

So many of the shows and convenience foods that make up the memories of my youth are things my kids will never experience. They'll never watch reruns of "Welcome Back Kotter" while eating Spaghetti-Os. And that's a good thing, I guess? Instead they'll (much less frequently) maybe have memories of watching "Mythbusters" while eating homemade pizza. Maybe they'll remember that fondly; maybe they won't remember it at all.

Does that make me a hypocrite when I try to convince my kids to go outside and play instead of vegetating in front of a screen, or insist they eat a balanced meal instead of junk? Or can I reassure myself that it's all about moderation? It's hard to know. As I started thinking about this and I know I'm forgetting some of the shows I used to watch religiously, but the number that I can remember is still sort of embarrassing. I'm pretty sure I've seen every episode of "The Brady Bunch" multiple times. I loved "Good Times" and "One Day At a Time" and "Three's Company" and countless others. I'm almost amazed I ever did anything other than watch television.

So I try to do "better" by my kids, and encourage them not to zone out as often as I used to. It works, sometimes. Not always. And it's hard for me to worry about it too much, because I turned out okay, I think. And despite being a semi-productive member of society, flopping on the couch in front of some mindless Prime-Time programming is still my favorite way to decompress.

Do you worry about the television you and/or your kids watch? Should I be worried that I could've won a Nobel Prize by now if only I hadn't sacrificed all of those brain cells to 70s sitcoms? And will you tell me your favorite show from childhood if you were a junkie like me?

(get more Mir here)
 

38 comments

  • Vanity Be Thy Name

    Posted on September 18, 2012

    Friday’s 8-8:30 Brady Bunch and 8:30-9:00 the Partridge Family. Best hour of my childhood week, besides the Mike Douglas Show after school.

    My kids get 45 min – 1 hour of screen time a day. Doesn’t matter what screens it is, it all adds up and it all counts. We’re pretty restrictive about what they can watch, even still.

    There are times when I think we’re crossing the line between protecting and sheltering but so be it.

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  • Lola

    Posted on September 18, 2012

    I’ll admit that I have used a screen, any screen, as a baby sitter. Sometimes it’s not about the kids zoning out it’s about giving myself the space to zone out.

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  • Megan

    Posted on September 18, 2012

    I was allowed to watch PBS only, and then only very, very rarely. What’s more, we had an ancient – ANCIENT – black and white telly so when I watched Wizard of Oz as a kid I never knew that Oz was in glorious technocolour.

    And you know what? It sucked. I missed a lot of the cultural stuff that the kids around me were learning. I couldn’t share that with them. And since it was classical music only in my house I didn’t know what was ‘cool’ for music either. And as the books I read (and I read them by the dozen, gulped them down – no telly after all!) were all British and usually dated from before 1960 I couldn’t even talk about books with the nerdier kids.

    I know my parents did it with the best of intentions but it made me in every way the odd one out and I grew up very isolated. In some ways I never really learned how to connect with kids my age (there were other things in that, natch, but lack of cultural stuff was a major part).

    So I wouldn’t feel TOO badly if you let your kids have some screen-time. It has more positive benefits than you know.

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    • Angela

      Posted on September 25, 2012

      OMG did Megan live at my house?? Lol, I thought it was just me! My parents were so much like that, I was “sheltered” from as much social pop culture as they could possibly weed out. I got grounded if they caught me listening to rock music. And yes, I was the odd child who didn’t know how to relate to the other kids and usually felt left out. I think my favorite TV show was Bugs Bunny.

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  • Rosie

    Posted on September 18, 2012

    You had 13 channels??!! We had six. Five, in bad weather. And I watched a LOT of TV.

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  • Kelly D

    Posted on September 18, 2012

    I kind of think the kids get so much during the day at school that it is okay to let them zone out some. We try to limit it, but there are days when we just all need that time to zone out. Plus, the things they learn from their shows? Some of them really are educational.

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  • Cheryl

    Posted on September 18, 2012

    My parents didn’t have a television in our house until I was 14, and it affected me a lot because I didn’t have the same frame of reference as my peers. Because of that, I try to allow my kids about 8-14 hours of television time per week if they have their chores and homework finished. That said, if they haven’t moved for too long and are vegetating I’ll send them into the backyard. “You need more vitamin D” is a phrase that causes them to groan, but allows us to find a balance that works.

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  • patty

    Posted on September 18, 2012

    I too watched plenty of tv growing up, fairly unsupervised and with few limitations (I remember my mom not letting me watch Alien when they rented it).

    I think there’s some benefit to the veg out factor for the kiddies. School is more rigorous than when I was a kid. And…my kids don’t come home on a bus mid-afternoon with hours to spare before dinner and bed. With two working parents, they are in after-school care with no television and we all don’t get into the house until almost 6 pm. They are exhausted and ready to sit on the couch while dinner gets to the table. Dinner is a lot nicer if everyone is calm and has had a moment to decompress.

    I don’t worry too much about quantity, there simply aren’t as many hours in a day as I had at the same age. I just am a bit more careful about the content.

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  • Cheryl

    Posted on September 18, 2012

    You had 13 channels!! Rosie had 6!! We had TWO. Well, grew to three, but that was a French channel, so……

    But, the Saturday morning cartoons were amazing – we got up early and watched till noon. And, we munched on the sugary cereals too.

    During the week, not so much TV happened though. We were the kids out on our bikes, coming home in time for dinner and then taking off again. Had to be home by dark.

    Our kids grew up with the 200+ channels, and all the other screens. We limited their time, and sent them outdoors to play. Fortunately we lived in areas where other parents believed in this type of parenting too, so they always had someone to play with. They were both voracious readers too – so outside time also consisted of a book and a popsicle under the big trees in the back yard.

    We grew up just fine, our kids grew up just fine……but will be interesting to see what their parenting choices will be, when that day comes!!

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  • Susan M.

    Posted on September 18, 2012

    Here’s two tales–My sister and I both had a boy and a girl within a year of each other. Sister was uber protective of what they watched and I was more liberal. She screened all movies and TV shows first before they were allowed to view and I watched Beavis and Butthead with my two.
    So how did they turn out? My two kids who weren’t sheltered seem to be normal adults. My son has a Master’s Degree in psychology and works with school age children. My daughter is a military wife who doesn’t work and is still caught up in TV and movies. She has no children yet, and is a responsible adult, supports her soldier in all things.

    My sister’s children are adults as well, and her son quit college and works for the power company in customer service. He seems to be doing well, and is a loner by choice, and very technical minded.

    Her daughter is a day care worker, recently married, and after marriage she called my daughter several times to get advise on how to have sex with her husband. (She was too embarrassed to ask her mom). This only concludes me to believe that being sheltered didn’t prepare her for some of the worldly experiences everyone must face.

    All in all they are all great young people, and Julie (sister’s daughter) never saw an R movie until she was 22. In this day and age that is either very odd, or commendable. You decide.

    All seem to be making their way in life,

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  • Em

    Posted on September 18, 2012

    I am still a sitcom junkie. In fact, I use it as a sleeping aid. I wish I was kidding. If it weren’t for nick at nite, I doubt I would sleep. The shows I remember most watching (in repeats. I believe some were before my time) all seemed to have social “messages” that went way over my head. Three’s Company, All in the Family, Mary Tyler Moore, The Jeffersons, Good Times (still one of my favorite theme songs to blow my husband away for knowing every word). Speaking of TV theme songs, they are my ring tones and I try to personalize them to the caller. I am so cool, you don’t even understand.

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  • My Kids Mom

    Posted on September 18, 2012

    I was limited to PBS as a kid, but snuck in more when I was the first one home in the afternoons. I was a bit out-of-it on 70′s&80′s cultural trivia but didn’t care then or now. Now as a parent I have pretty much tv-free kids myself. They use a computer for some games, but we don’t have any gaming systems hand-held or otherwise. I make sure they do something educational on the computer first each time. And yet, when they go to bed at night I turn on the tube. Almost every night. Inconsistent is my name.

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  • Alice

    Posted on September 18, 2012

    I was another TV junkie kid, and I’ve lived to tell the tale. (I adored the daily reruns of the Partridge Family and Star Trek TNG, so I’ve lived to tell a very geeky tale, but still.) As a childless woman who works with a lot of high school and college kids, the main red flags that I’ve seen have to do with whether screen time is wholly replacing other, important things.

    For me, I got to lean how to deal with boredom (there were enough long car rides and time spent waiting to be picked up that I had to learn to fill), I moved my body, since my parents awesomely drove me to things like karate and swimming lessons, and I was bookish enough and competitive enough so that I did the studying thing, too. I didn’t get much practice at how to decompress without being lulled into an escapist haze, but I think that’s really the only downside I experienced.

    For the kids I work with, many of them do a fair bit of voluntary unplugging when they’ve got other, more appealing options around (college = lots and lots of variety within walking distance). So long as they developed enough basic skills so that they *can* go out and do these things now that they’ve got a lot more options, there’s not a lot of difference that I can see. (Save that some of the ones who came from a *very* regulated life with their parents can have a bit of a rough time adjusting to the responsibilities of being their own taskmaster, but that’s a bigger question.)

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  • suburbancorrespondent

    Posted on September 18, 2012

    I loved the Saturday night line-up in the ’70′s – Bob Newhart, Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore, All in the Family. Never missed it.

    It really is about moderation and about making sure your child is doing other things, also. Balance, people, that’s the name of the game. I know the parents of some reluctant readers who “pay” them for pages read with screen minutes. Hey, whatever works! What you don’t want is to raise a child who has NO IDEA how to amuse him/herself aside from using a screen. That’s sad. And most kids do have to be taught to self-regulate – screen time can be very addictive, even for adults. As with any other addiction, it can cheat you of what is going on in the rest of your life.

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  • Ann

    Posted on September 18, 2012

    We had 3 or sometimes 4 channels, and I still managed to spend as much time as possible on my ass in front of it. No one thought it would damage us, but Mom and Dad did shoo us out of the house as often as possible, claiming the fresh air would be good for us.

    Looking back now, I think they just wanted to get their freak on.

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  • Bobbie

    Posted on September 18, 2012

    My sister had her three kids before I had either of mine. I can remember talking about how much TV she would allow her kids to watch, and I still remember (20 years later) her saying, “I’d pay my kids to watch TV.”

    And she’s got two lawyers and an almost Ph.D.

    My own kids watched plenty of TV, but played sports, ran around outside, etc. Whatever works for you.

    I myself watch entirely too much television.

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  • Rachel

    Posted on September 18, 2012

    Hmmmm. I do remember watching tv – some but not lots. Right now I have 4 boys and zero tv’s. I never set out to be a weird mom… I just don’t want one dominating my living room and it just never gets high enough on the list to actually go out and purchase. (Like, I’d have to research and stuff…) While my kids sometimes complain, it doesn’t seem to be that big of an issue. (We do have an ancient VCR and a couple of DVD players and the occasional YouTube or Hulu.though. Can’t avoid the whole world).

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  • Brigid

    Posted on September 18, 2012

    Three words: Murder, She Wrote LOVED it. Still do. I also loved Magnum PI, Greatest American Superhero (a favorite of my grandmother’s too), Riptide, Simon and Simon… I could go in. And yes, I can limit my kids TV time all I want, but no one better tell me I can’t veg out in front of Law and Order reruns.
    The first show the whole family liked was Perry Mason. And I distinctly remember my brother and I watching The Lone Ranger and The Cisco Kid while eating mustard sandwiches (hiding the loaf of bread and jar of mustard from my parents behind the couch until the coast was clear to sneak it back into the kitchen.)

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  • Mom - o'- Three

    Posted on September 18, 2012

    Our access to TV was pretty unrestricted when I was a kid, and I turned out just fine. I never remember my parents telling my siblings and I not to watch a particular show; however, I certainly tell my daughter to change the channel when I see something I don’t like. There’s a palpable rudeness found on kids’ TV today. Compared to my childhood, I do think there’s a lot more to be cautious of, so I do monitor what they’re watching. I’m so busy that I rarely watch TV myself, but occasionally I’ve flipped through the channels late and night and have been shocked by some of the things I’ve seen. I do not believe in putting TVs in a child’s room. We only have one television in our house (as was the case when I was a kid) and it works fine for us. My siblings and I had to play a game of junk-in-a-poke when we disagreed about what to watch. My kids don’t do that, but they never really argue about TV shows, thankfully. If you look on your TV’s channel guide, you can certainly find some of those oldies but goodies. We’ve recently been recording and watching Andy Griffith shows with our kids. Now THAT was great TV, and my kids love it!

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  • Mame

    Posted on September 18, 2012

    My parents were very strict about limiting TV. They called it the Boob Tube and the Idiots Lantern. The more they restricted it, the more interested I was. Not that I was allowed to see them often, I recall liking, My Little Margie, Father Knows Best, Make Room for Daddy, The Roaring Twenties, Seventy Seven Sunset Strip, the Million Dollar Movie, The Alan Burke Show, Joe Franklin and Jack Parr. The last four I would slip downstairs after the rest of the family was asleep. It was lovely. I have televisions all over my house. When I’m home alone I’ve been known to turn them all on to the same show, so that I can move about the house doing chores without missing anything. My children were allowed to watch TV. It wasn’t unlimited but I was certainly lenient compared to my parents. They weren’t allowed to stay inside watching TV when their friends were playing outdoors. Time with real people is always more important than TV. As adults my two sons and one daughter rarely watch TV.

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  • Ursula K

    Posted on September 18, 2012

    My sister and I recited the entire Brady Bunch Grand Canyon episode when our parents took us to actually see the Grand Canyon one summer. We thought it was great. My parents, not so much.

    My TV was very limited when I was a kid. My mother thought there was something wrong with you if you watched TV during the day. I can’t shake that. Never seen Oprah as a result. But, I love TV at night after everyone is asleep. The trashier the better. I do limit my kids screen time a lot, so I am a hypocrite about this, but it’s not the first time. :)

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  • Frank

    Posted on September 19, 2012

    I was really lucky growing up. There were kids in my neighborhood my age that enjoyed playing outside so I never ‘missed’ not watching TV when out playing. That said, I was a sitcom and cartoon junkie, with some action mixed in. Hardcore fan of Tom n Jerry, Looney Tunes, and Tex Avery. Also MASH and Hogans Heroes. And to top it off, Dukes of Hazzard, ST:TNG, Miami Vice, Battlestar Galactica(TOS) and Buck Rogers. I am not perfect, but I think I turned out OK.
    Today my 6 year old watches a lot of TV… part of the problem is that there are no kids his age nearby. Plus theres a busy road close by where people are incredibly stupid when driving… he is almost to the point where I can trust him to NOT go near that road, so i could let him just play outside without ‘strict’ supervision. that said, he has learned a LOT from Disney and Nick without having to argue show limitations(Kids show where a character is a person dressed as a french tickler?? no thanks). plus he has recently discovered how its made, how it Works, how do they do that… So I think he’s OK for now.
    Guess it depends on a lot of things. Trust your judgment.. you know your kids better than anyone, including ‘experts’.

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  • Arnebya

    Posted on September 19, 2012

    Oh boy. I still catch a Three’s Company episode on TV Land or Nick at Nite and crack up, usually because I remember the episode, even most of the words. I’d have to say that one of my all-time favorite shows was Good Times (my father detested it. “What the hell is good? They can’t get out of the ghetto! They aren’t having any good times.” Ah, memories). I quoted it just the other day because it’s that branded in my brain. I love that my kids watch and enjoy The Cosby Show (it gives their dad and I reason to re-watch the shows too even though it irks them that we know all the words). I adored Alice and still find myself saying in a perfect Barbarino voice, “Gimme drugs, gimme drugs.” This is usually during silly conversations with my husband about life sucking and realizing that maybe crackheads have it better.

    I’m concerned about my kids’ screen time, yes. They aren’t allowed to use the computer Mondays and Wednesdays except for homework. On Tuesdays and Thursdays they get 30 minutes apiece, 10 of which have to be educational. They have one iPod Touch between them and each has a DSi. We don’t live in a kid-filled neighborhood so their outdoor time is limited unless we visit family (though sometimes I do just make them go out into the yard and do…something).

    I should have no brain cells left with the amount of TV I watched as a child. I think I may be so much stricter on them because I think there are too-mature themes in way too much of the stuff that’s geared toward their age group. Now, though? For me? I have virtually no show on TV that has gotten and held my attention. Not one (not to the point of purposely remembering when it’s on or actually setting the DVR to record it).

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  • Brigitte

    Posted on September 19, 2012

    FAVORITE show? I think I watched every show we could get on our two black & white channels, and I think I loved every one of them.

    I still watch a lot of shows, with or without my daughter, but I’m lucky that she’s naturally energetic and active, with a good imagination. If she wasn’t, I might have to minit her (and therefore MY) television viewing. :-O

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  • Brigitte

    Posted on September 19, 2012

    Oops, I meant LIMIT her television viewing (look what all that TV did to me . . . )

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  • Celeste

    Posted on September 19, 2012

    There just wasn’t that much on when I was a child. 4 or 6 channels at best. I just didn’t find it that exciting. My mother wouldn’t let us watch certain things because they were too violent. Like the Untouchables. However, the news was the most violent thing on the air during the late 60s, and everything in the house stopped for the news. And she thought the Tom Jones show was too sexy for us to see LOL.

    I try to make sure my kids don’t watch too much crap. There’s some really awful stuff on these days. But they are teenagers and it just gets harder.

    I’ve never been big on limiting tv time (unless it interferes with sleep and homework), because I think that only makes it more attractive. Content, yes, but the amount of time? Nah.

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  • Korinthia

    Posted on September 19, 2012

    I watched a lot of TV as a kid. Now I watch a lot of TV on my computer while I work. My kids watch a lot of TV, but it’s better than most of what I watched. I would worry about it if they were dull, out of shape, unimaginative, or boorish, but they are none of those things.

    Favorite show was reruns of the Twilight Zone.

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  • JMH

    Posted on September 19, 2012

    Some of my favorite memories growing up revolve around TV…like when The Wizard of Oz or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was on ONCE a year…those were big nights in our house! My mom would make popcorn, or sometimes we would even get M&M’s, to snack on…we would all get into our PJ’s and curl up on the couch and watch the movie. I loved that and looked forward to those special evenings each year

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  • Teri

    Posted on September 20, 2012

    I love watching TV! I was not allowed All in the Family. It was my parents only restriction to TV. But I also had a great group of friends in the neighborhood so I was always outside playing in the evening and weekends. As a latch-key kid, I would watch a couple of hours of TV after school before my parents got home from work, then I could go out and play. My favorite memories are of my dad waking me up on Saturday mornings, carrying me into the living room with my blanket and pillow and turning on the TV so we could watch cartoons. His favorite was the Roadrunner. Then he would let me help him make biscuits for breakfast, all while my mom slept in.

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    • Liza

      Posted on September 20, 2012

      All in the Family was one of my restrictions too! I think my parents must not have gotten Norman Lear’s sense of satire.

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      • Sheila

        Posted on September 21, 2012

        Yes! My parents let us watch an obscene amount of TV, but All in the Family was verboten. They could watch it, though. (I used to wonder what they were laughing at.) My favorite morning show was Fury (“Here in the Wild West of today, hard-riding men still battle the open range for a living…”), my favorite after-school show was The Banana Splitz, and my favorite evening show was Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom on Sunday nights. I also used to watch Wheel of Fortune every night at 6:30 with my dad.

        The main benefit I have derived from watching hours of television is that I am AWESOME at bar trivia.

        Now we don’t have cable and my kids think they are absolutely the saddest of sad sack kids, growing up without it.

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  • Liza

    Posted on September 20, 2012

    There were lots of rules in my house, but they weren’t enforced. :) However, we did have dinner together at the table, with the tv off, 99% of my childhood life.

    I was “allowed” an hour a day, and most days, I watched at least an hour before my parents got home, and another hour after. We also had 5 channels, plus a fuzzy Christian station that I never recall watching.

    The BEST for me was the ~year when The Muppets were on at 6:30 and Facts of Life followed them at 7. (Central Time) On Thursday nights, my sister and I were allowed to set our places at the coffee table in the den, and eat dinner while watching TV. It was Such! A! Thrill! And our parents stayed in the kitchen, eating at the table! Independence! Puppets! 22 minutes of adolescent angst! Sitting on the floor!

    I get excited just thinking about it.

    And I am slacker mom who allows much access to TV and other game-related screens, although not until homework is done.

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  • Patti

    Posted on September 20, 2012

    I never had much interest in TV at all until my early 40s. It had very negative conotations for me. When I was a kid, we played outside as often as we were allowed, the point of which was getting as far away from my mother as possible, especially when she was in one of her moods. In fact, I remember being chastised quite often for not wanting to sit in the living room in the evening to watch TV with the family. I preferred reading or drawing in my room. Not at age 14 – at age 8 or 9. Either I’m a natural loner, or it just gave me the chance to escape an abusive parent for a time of quiet. Looking back now, I’m surprised they would worry about it at all – they had two other kids in the living room. When I did go sit with everyone, there was constant shushing. My parents always ended up yelling. Not much fun. My mother was an obsessive soap opera viewer. Woe betide anyone who came inside crying, with a cut knee, when she was watching “Days of our Lives” or “One Life to Live!”. She would make the cut knee the least of your worries, and we learned that early on.

    Now I’m always looking for my next favorite show. (This year’s was Game of Thrones)

    I’ve allowed my daughter an hour of TV a day for most of her life. Except when we are watching a movie, or she is at a friend’s. Or she is sick. Or it’s one of those cold, rainy weekends and there is nothing else to do. I couldn’t police it always, just sought for some balance that made sense to me. She is about to turn 18, and has already watched Game of Thrones with me. I feel a bit guilty about that, but not a whole lot.

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  • Lisa

    Posted on January 20, 2013

    I watched an astonishing amount of TV growing up – bad sitcoms, Days of Our Lives in the summer, Dallas on Friday nights, MTV, Miss America pageants, everything. Hours a day. National Merit Scholar, Phi Beta Kappa, BA in 3 years, 2 graduate degrees.

    I’m not super happy about the amount of TV my kids watch, but as long as they spend some time reading and doing creative activities, I’m hard pressed to get too upset about it.

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