“Asinine”

21 Apr

I was over at Al’s blog yesterday, where he’d provided a link to this video.  I watched most of it:

If you’re not able to make it through, don’t sweat it.  To save you the suspense, it culminates with a bunch of kids in faux hip-hop gear, wiggling around like they’re handicapped.  It’s, y’know, it’s cute or whatever.  I suppose they had fun making it.  Or, anyway, the kids did.

Carey and I have begun preemptive discussions about the sorts of material we do and don’t feel comfortable about in terms of the gnomes’ entertainment requirements.  As much as we want to avoid turning into a couple of squares, we’re more or less in agreement that TV really bites the big one, particularly in terms of what’s good for kids to watch.  And I’m not talking about Nurse Jackie or Private Practice or whatever people are DVRing these days… and I’m really not even talking about Tooty Ta either (at least that’s getting kids off the carpet and exercising.  Sort of).  But, rather, the Clockwork Orange barrage of rapid-cut colors and fevered images that seems to be in vogue for pre-school aged children.  The Yo Gabba Gabba, A.D.D.-inspired madness missiles that seem to be immediately addictive to every kid under 6.

Seriously, is there any hope for a child’s ability to calm down and focus if they’re being injected with visual Red Bull hours a day, every day?  Are the findings of this Baby Einstein study all that surprising?

Backing up a little, I realize I know far less about any of these matters than just about anyone reading this. I’m sure every other parent-to-be in the universe is just as idealistic as Carey and I are. Nobody plans on plopping their kids in front of TV for hours on end, but, I get it, life happens.

When I was a kid, You Can’t Do That On Television was the thing.  YouTube is a helpful reminder that the show was an inane mess, but, as an 8-year-old, I was mesmerized.  The honeymoon didn’t last, though.  Mom and Dad were not digging it and eventually told me it was BANNED from the Bear household.

I remember throwing a tantrum: “Why?? There’s no guns or fighting!  There’s no swearing!  No sex or adult situations!  It’s a show for kids, starring kids!  The most risque material in the whole program are booger references!  WHAT’S THE PROBLEM??”

Dad’s response, I’ll never forget:

“It’s asinine.”

And that was that.  For all I knew, it was a made-up word.  My 8-year-old brain pictured some non-violent, non-sexy, insidious influence that was so sneakily corrosive, it was like ACID-TIMES-NINE. It was ACID-NINE.

Carey’s parents were even more arbitrary. In her home, daytime soaps were ok for kids, but Diff’rent Strokes and Growing Pains were too “inappropriate”. She figured out quickly that “inappropriate” was parental code for “we’d rather watch something else”.

But, you know, maybe that’s all parents do anyhow. Really, what determines what’s ok for kids to watch other than their parents’ admittedly arbitrary sensibilities? What’s the gold standard?

Growing up in the Christian bubble, I heard the answer all the time and I knew kids whose parents even framed it and hung it above the TV. Phillipians 4:8:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Clears that right up. I guess.

Ultimately, it’s up to my wife and I and I’m sure it’s going to come down to a case-by-case.  I’ve never been in charge of someone else’s life before and I guess it’ll take a little getting used to.

So, what do you think?  If you have kids, what’s in and what’s out?  Where’s the line?  If you’re having kids in the future, what’s the plan?

Am I missing something important?  Is an attempt to control the viewing habits of children extremely stupid or foolish (i.e. ACID-NINE)?

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25 Responses to ““Asinine””

  1. Kendra April 21, 2011 at 5:36 pm #

    I was also confused about that word of our parents’ generation-“asinine.” And since we’re on the topic, the word “shenanigans” was confusing as well, especially since we had a neighbor named Shannon and for a while I thought our behavior had something to do with her. Anyway, I commend you for thinking about this topic early in the game. Call me Amish, but we don’t do TV. And it’s great. There’s still plenty of opportunities to plop the kids in front of a video on the portable DVD player we use in the car for long trips, but we are more selective in what they (and we) watch, we save sweet moolah, and we are supposedly more well-read because the TV is not always on. And I figure if you’re not sports-obsessed it’s totally do-able, because your favorite shows are probably online anyway. Kids definitely don’t NEED TV (even ADHD-inducing Sesame Street!), and adults probably don’t either. Good luck!

    • Jeremy April 28, 2011 at 7:17 pm #

      In our culture, TV-free is taking a cultural stand and, ey, I say hats off to you. Great programming, kid-friendly or not, are in such short supply that I can’t blame you.

      By the way, my wife was giggling in bed last night and when I asked her what was funny, she said, “that lady on your blog who thought ‘shenanigans’ was about her neighbor Shannon.”

  2. lauren April 21, 2011 at 6:34 pm #

    You ask how we decide what’s in and what’s out for the kids? I pretty much go by what irritates the crap out of me and what doesn’t. I.E.– Yo Gabba Gabba is O.U.T. In fact, when a commercial or something for that show will come on the girls will say “Mommy, close your eyes, you don’t like Gabba do you?” On the other hand, I find The Backyardigans to be adorable and funny (and, admittedly, I try to learn the choreography to their cute little dance numbers) so that is IN. I will also admit (you already knew this) that we are big Baby Einstein fans. And really, it has nothing to do with me thinking it’s making my kids any smarter. Nah, it’s just that, especially as babies, I have found that I need them to NOT need ME sometimes for a 1/2 hour so I can clean up, make dinner, etc. And when they’re 6 months old, you can’t reason that out with them. But that’s me. (And you see what wack-a-dos I’m raising, so you may want to take my 2 cents with a grain of salt.) 🙂 In the end, do what you’re comfortable with and don’t feel too guilty either way about it.

    • Jeremy April 28, 2011 at 7:19 pm #

      I suppose that’s all it is. TV probably doesn’t have to be a detriment, but, aside from a select few exceptions, parents that think it’s improving their kids’ IQ are living in a beautiful, Yo Gabba Gabba dream.

  3. Mike April 21, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

    I second the “whatever irritates us and what doesn’t” sentiment. We’ve actually gone more of the Disney movies route than TV, although I think our 3 kiddos are getting sick of them (finally). If they do watch TV, we prefer to do the commercial-free On Demand thing or DVR the kids show and fast forward through the commercials. Those tend to be the worst part of TV…

    • Jeremy April 28, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

      You’re totally right! The only thing more migraine-inspiring than kids TV are kids commercials. Even flipping through channels on a Saturday morning, I almost have to leave the room.

  4. Rochelle C. April 21, 2011 at 7:12 pm #

    I’m with Lauren, can’t stand Gaba Gaba. Although as my children get older, I find less and less on TV for them to watch. Right now there are only two shows I’ll allow my 10 year old to watch, Phineas and Ferb and Penguins of Madagascar. Both funny to my 10 year-old and to me, yet managing to be age appropriate (or maybe that just says something about my humor.I’d be interested on your opinion on those shows, but let’s face it . . . your babies aren’t gonna want to watch either of those. My poor 2-year-old. I think she could love Dora. However, I’m sick of Dora’s shouting nasality, and of Blue leaving clues everywhere. I think I’ve seen most of the episodes 10 times each. However, The Little Einsteins use good music. Real music and have one of the best theme songs on TV. But all of that is lost on her. She just loves her some red-headed Leo and Rocket. My middle child’s the one for which I feel sorry. He loved Tom and Jerry for a while, but if you want to know the definition of asinine, well you found it it in the classic, violent story of a cat vs. a mouse made for children. All that to say, good luck with your TV viewing restriction/non-restriction choices. Each child will probably like or want something different from the others, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to hone your values! Then you’ll be able to advise us! ;op

    • Jeremy April 28, 2011 at 7:21 pm #

      I remember what I liked as a kid and I’ve more or less resigned myself to having no faith whatsoever in children’s entertainment tastes.

  5. Magi Hemphill April 21, 2011 at 8:21 pm #

    My girls watched kid shows, Nature, etc. on PBS and they learned tons of good stuff…and we still watch PBS together: Masterpiece Theater, Nova, Nature, BBC, et al. Most of the kids in their gifted classes K thru college grew up watching PBS at home with their family.
    I also read a lot to them, took them to museums, theater, and made sure they had many types of art supplies…and time to play and explore and just be kids. Parents today worry too much about teaching their kids to “?”, when daily interaction, exploration and experimentation in a “daily life” kind of way work just fine.
    Oh, yeah, and just have fun!

    • Jeremy April 28, 2011 at 7:22 pm #

      Carey’s dream is to have Discovery be the most-watched channel in our home. Fingers crossed.

  6. StayatHomeTripletDad April 21, 2011 at 11:04 pm #

    #1… kill cable after they sleep through the night. I say that as my cable shows got me through those “challenging” evenings when it was just me and the Triplets.

    We ditched cable about 2 years ago and have not regretted it at all. The kids do watch about 1 hr a day every other day. Either a movie, G rated, or PBS. Leap Frog has a couple of good videos about learning letters and words. But the bottom line is that they are “treats” for them and us. I LOVE Netflix streaming.

    If they are watching TV we are almost always watching with them. That is about the only way we get “cuddle” time these days:)

    Ebb and flow buddy…. don’t be afraid to change your mind once you make a decision.

    Have fun and keep your mouth shut:) lol

    Al

    • Jeremy April 28, 2011 at 7:23 pm #

      Maybe streaming Netflix or similar is the way to go…

  7. Lorie (Martin) Nagy April 25, 2011 at 6:09 am #

    Amazing congratulations, first of all!! LOVE that you’re having triplets, in true Jeremy Bear fashion! Crazy times ahead for you. (Duh.some things really should go without saying.) I have to comment on the TV thing: 1. NOT stupid to control your kids’ TV watching. You and they will be better for it. 2. Any channel with commercials, just forget them. The programming is horrible and the commercials intolerable! 3. Stick with PBS or pre-screened, approved videos from the library. Kids actually learn a lot from PBS shows, without even knowing. It keeps them innocent longer, and (if you end up with boys–I have 3) staves off the “potty talk” a lot longer!!

    Go with your gut, when you get to the TV stage (you have about 2 years…) your kids will inevitably prefer playing with you or each other over TV anyway. I think it’s more challenging when they hit school age and want to watch things you’ve never heard of because friends at school watch it…NOT looking forward to those battles in my family. Best wishes and strong prayers for healthy babies, Jeremy!

    • Jessica and Jerry Renshaw April 25, 2011 at 11:07 am #

      >rapid-cut colors and fevered images<

      You are so right on, Jeremy. In my small book of haiku, Poems for Parents, my first entry is

      NEWBORN
      No wonder you cry:
      Just being alive is
      Sensory overload!

      Ever watched Babies? It's telling. In simple cultures, wide eyes take everything in, processing at their own speed. The kids are calm. In complicated cultures, parents are thrusting bright toys at them, teaching them assorted motor skills with all kinds of clapping and urging and singing and rocking–and with loud music and/or TV blaring in the background. All the babies can do is sit and cry (or bang their heads against the floor).

      How can such rapid eye movement not affect the brains of little children negatively? I'm convinced ADHD and Asperger's are the results. Okay, maybe Mr. Rogers went to the other extreme. But when I watch kids' movies, I get headaches. My eyeballs bounce around like neutrons and my brain synapses lock up like a sluggish computer asked to do too much at once. The Were Rabbit and Star Wars #3 actually put me to sleep because, I believe, of the inability to process so much at once.

      Don't get me started. Oh, so you already did. Thanks a lot.

      • Esther Hanes April 26, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

        I agree!

        • Jeremy April 28, 2011 at 7:26 pm #

          I can’t imagine that all that rapid-fire sensory info is doing anything other than damage. I look at my own ADHD sorts of tendencies and I wonder how much could have been avoided if I’d spent more time outside as a kid. It must be that x10 for kids now.

    • Jeremy April 28, 2011 at 7:25 pm #

      Thanks, Lorie! I hope you’re right about wanting to spend time with us and each other over TV.

  8. T & C Burns April 25, 2011 at 7:37 pm #

    Right now I’m introducing Turner to the Coen Bros. catalog. He really enjoyed Fargo, but he agreed with me that The Ladykillers was a reach.

    Everett prefers Elmore Leonard, particularly Get Shorty, but how could he not being our offspring.

    Sophie is completely wrapped up in the Twilight saga, not sure where that came from, Christie and I have done everything in our power to shift her over to True Blood.

    And Garrison is a stoic – he hasn’t moved too far past Schindler’s List, but he is currently enjoying Band of Brothers.

    Hope this helps! Our kids are ideally adjusted!

    • Jeremy April 28, 2011 at 7:29 pm #

      It sounds like you’re doing all you can, Burns. Ladykillers, on second viewing, has some serious merits, and I’d say it’s jumped ahead of Burn After Reading in the personal JB Coen list.

      Carey is hoping for a Wes Anderson-type brood. I think they’ll still need a little Oliver Stone, though. For edge.

  9. Jenny Lovette April 28, 2011 at 9:02 am #

    Hmmm…this is a GREAT and worthy question indeed. We are like your Amish friends and haven’t had TV in our home since we got married 5 years ago. We just got the internet 2 months ago so this has made it easier. But…we let Jada start watching videos (or rather she wanted to start) at around 18 months (she just turned 2). She LOVES them of course, as all kids do. We have had to start thinking about what is appropriate for her already. She especially loved the movie “Marley” (because of the dog). I say “loved” because we just banned it. But we decided that we needed take it off the list of “approved” videos because of a few scenes in it that are not appropriate for a child (ie. the ‘married’ couple trying to make a baby on their bed and some other lude things). We decided that if we don’t let her watch US make out on our bed (before we have sex) then why in the world would we let two complete unmarried strangers/actors watch it on the big screen??? This is our template…if we 1) don’t partake/approve in that activity or 2) we don’t let her watch us do that then we don’t let her watch it in a movie. She doesn’t understand yet…but when we saw her making Woody & Barbie kissing (with sound effects and everything) we knew she wasn’t far behind “getting it”!!! One thing I’ve learned…don’t underestimate your child! They know more than you think they do.

    • Jeremy April 28, 2011 at 7:31 pm #

      I’m curious about how much I’m going to start questioning my own viewing habits once kids are in the mix…

    • Jeremy April 28, 2011 at 7:32 pm #

      I like your “no kids watching us engage in foreplay” rule. I think we’ll institute the same in our home. Done!

      • Jenny Lovette April 29, 2011 at 11:15 am #

        lol…I know, I know. Sounds kinda ridiculous when you put it that way…but that’s what we do, watch other’s “pretend”. And I agree…it REALLY does challenge what you watch as their ultimate role model!

  10. lenarivers May 2, 2011 at 6:10 am #

    i want to make a suggestion, as a side which may not relate closely to the tv discussion. my suggestion is to read up on learning styles and the different kinds of intelligences, and stop thinking quite so intensely about ADHD. i’m working as a teacher/caregiver at a daycare that has mostly infants and young toddlers, and i’ve been able to get a lot of training in this area. there are a lot of children who are being diagnosed as ADD/ADHD, and put on medication, when there’s no trouble, really, they just are kinesthetic learners (for example). classrooms are designed only for visual and auditory learners, and the idea that one has to sit still and be quiet in order to learn is a myth. it’s just a convenience for teachers, often to the detriment of the child. sure, you want your child to be able to get along and be successful in school, but that sometimes means making adjustments and thinking outside the box.

    my point is, don’t panic about kids that have to be active, or who act “hyper”. that just may be the way they need to do things.

    and i’ve heard lots of parents say that their doctors’ rule is no more than, what?, 30 minutes of screen time per day. that Baby Einstein article is true. nothing can substitute actual personal face time and voice time when it comes to your children’s learning and intelligence. i just heard an expert talk about that.

    (btw, this is heather olah. i think my username will show up as something else.)

  11. Kitty May 6, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

    Just found you blog and thought I’d comment since: a. We have triplets and b. This is an issue for us as well. Our oldest was allowed the 1/2-hour screen time allotment so I could get a shower in and not be too concerned about her wanderings. Then the wee ones came and we’re up to one hour and, admittedly, it’s for sanity reasons. Again, so I can take a shower (and now that they are 3 so they don’t bicker) and then at night during our son’s breathing treatment. We do spend that time cuddling and it is nice. We also had to come to grips with the idea that our children need a break from us needing everything in their world to be a learning experience and that sometimes kids need a chance to wind down and not have US overstimulating them. We only allow what we have recorded and, if it’s a show where they learn a concept (it happens on curious George) we find ways to enhance what was learned. Regardless, don’t worry about it too much. You’ll have bigger issues to deal with.

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