Role of Television in our Home Educating Lives
by Beverley Paine, June 2005
Without realising the ultimate impact, we naturally sheltered our children from the effects of watching too much television. We never wanted to totally ban the television, and valued it as a resource for education and entertainment purposes. Worried about the power of advertising we preferred to watch non-commercial channels or videos, and became adept at channel-switching to avoid the adverts. 'Junk' shows, especially children's programming, that encouraged 'fads' were avoided. And we taught our children the golden rule in their toddler years: when "you've finished watching the show, turn the telly off".
Television can suck precious hours of daylight into a meaningless black hole, devoid of the healthy satisfaction that comes from 'real' play. Worse, watching television can be addictive: like the empty calories in sugar, we end up craving the 'hit', that quick fix of excitement. Without the beneficial effects physical exercise that would normally accompany playful activity, the stress hormones released have nothing to do, except damage our children's growing bodies, in the same way the unused energy from sugar does.
Limited, and largely supervised, television viewing can be beneficial to learning to live simply by helping our children become "media literate." Whether we like it or not, our children are prime marketing targets. Helping our children deconstruct the programs and adverts they watch to work out how they are being manipulated to think and act in a particular way empowers them to make intelligent decisions about media and other products. We need to become critical viewers. When I watch any program I immediately start to look for bias: how the 'facts' are presented to elicit emotional responses from the viewer with the purpose of persuading me to a particular point of view.
It took me a while to wake up to the ways in which marketing manipulates childhood to sell - anything and everything. Marketing aimed at young children, through direct advertising or through media such as movies, television, pop culture and magazines, is disturbing. Limiting our children's exposure is one remedy; another is to join a group such as Commercial Alert, www.commercialalert.org , which aims to ban or limit such exploitation.
Luckily, as home educators, we aren't faced with the increasing pressure placed on school communities to raise much needed funds by advertising commercial products. We aren't totally immune, however. Every where I look companies are jumping on the 'clean and green' bandwagon, or producing educational materials on just about any subject with their logo and colours dominantly displayed. Images like this may seem innocent, but the effect can last a generation or more. It's easy to dupe people into believing that because an idea is worthwhile and valuable, the company promoting it is too. We need to consider every purchase we make as an ethical investment in our children's future.
Modelling media awareness by talking about these issues, and then acting by setting appropriate examples our children can emulate, is a powerful way of protecting them from commercial exploitation.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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