You’ve got two choices: First, you can let your kids watch whatever they want, whenever they want. Second, you can try to ban them from TV altogether. The first option just feels like bad parenting. The second option, in reality, is quite impossible.
It’s time to find a third option. Here are a few candidates:
Make Sure There Is Always Something Wholesome to Watch
There is always something wholesome to watch. The problem is, you may not have access to it with your current content package. A television is like the internet. It is a conduit of information and entertainment. Information is not bad. It just may not be age appropriate. Kids are information sponges. They need a steady supply of appropriate information. Therefore, your TV has to be a conduit for appropriate information, and plenty of it.
If there really is nothing wholesome to watch when your kids are watching TV, then you need more content options. That means more channels. Conservative states like Oklahoma and Utah will have different entertainment needs than states like Oregon and California.
You might need to opt for a bigger content package to accommodate more family friendly channels. Local Oklahoma DIRECTV, for example, offers a minimum of 100 channels. And it goes up from there, depending on the package. If you want to make sure there is always something good to watch, choose your content options accordingly.
Have Only Curated Content Options in the Home
If you have no TV in the home, they will just get it from some place else. Did you know that almost any smartphone can be used as a TV? One option is to pay only for services that cater to a certain type of programming. There are some that would pay extra for a package that only had TV-Land and the Hallmark channel.
While that package does not exist, The cable and satellite companies are now offering family-friendly content packages that limit you to channels such as Disney CW, and the Science Channel, along with local networks. Choose carefully, though. Some packages will not include popular options like Discovery, Animal Planet, Food Network, and the Travel Channel. It is always tricky when you let someone do the curating for you. But until content options are completely à la carte, this is the best we can do with the major providers.
There are Netflix-style packages for kids on the Internet. These are paid services that you will have to research carefully. The problem is, once you get kids used to getting their entertainment from the Internet, you open up an even bigger world of issues than what you were trying to escape.
Teach Your Kids How to Contextualize Content
Rather than trying to restrict TV content, teach your kids how to contextualize it. The best way to do that is to watch TV with them. Don’t turn it into some kind of punishment. Let them watch what they like, then talk about it together. When you do that, it doesn’t really matter what they watch, because you are doing it together. And you can use any content as a springboard to teach the lessons that are important to you.
Action movies, scary movies, sexy movies, funny movies: they all have their place in life. They may be too young to understand a lot of it. But they are likely going to see them anyway, with or without you. If they see it with you, then you get to shape the message. Also, by watching their shows with them, you might discover that you have less to fear from TV than you thought.
You can’t ban television. Nor can you leave it plugged into 500 channels to raise your kids for you. But there are plenty of good alternatives between those extremes. With a little bit of specialized parenting, you can make the TV an ally rather than an enemy.