That is so often the question.
It was my question, when my kids were younger and I'd watched a few too many "Barney" episodes. I also read a book with lots of articulate information about what TV does to our brains. But very shortly after that, due to an article by Sandra Dodd in a homeschooling magazine, I found myself researching unschooling, reading constantly on the old Unschooling Discussion email list, and I was introduced to a radically different way to view television. It was talked about as being just one more resource in the unschooled child's diverse world of resources. Parents talked about what had been sparked in their children as a result of seeing some TV show - not brain dead zombie behavior but rather a journey of connections that started with the excitement they'd felt while seeing an animal or hearing a song or experiencing humor in a new way.
I decided to trust my kids. They weren't the kids from that anti-TV book's studies who used TV after hours of schooling as a means to check out. I watched shows with them and we often talked about what we saw, whether it be commercials (some of which we loved) or kids being rude to one another.
Over the past decade, I've watched my kids be inspired by what they've seen on TV. Jesse loves to recap a show in its entirety and then give commentary about why it was great, or ridiculous.
Plus, they watch about as much TV as I did growing up. Not so much. I was allowed very limited TV, so watched as much as possible, fighting with my brother (while my mother was at work) over whether we got to watch "The Brady Bunch" or "Hogan's Heroes". Because my kids can watch when they want, they don't have a sense of scarcity about it. There are days when it isn't even turned on (until Nicolas or I turn it on at night :).
I'm writing about this because of my recent relapse into the consideration of no TV. This was provoked by being in a peaceful, always filled with good music, TV-free environment in Montana and by the violent (inner) reaction I was starting to have to the Sponge Bob theme music; my kids' primary choice for what seemed like the past six months.
I included them in the discussion of whether we should take a TV-break (or Cartoon Network break). I proposed different scenarios, most of which they were surprisingly open to trying. We were discussing the possibility of going several months without, with lots of netflix and TV from the computer as an alternative, when suddenly, almost mid-discussion, my show entered the dialogue. Jesse mentioned that while I'd been in Montana, So You Think You Can Dance had restarted.
So You Think You Can Dance?
"Well, how about we just watch one episode of it and see how important it is to us?" I asked.
I watched the shows I'd missed (we love TiVo). They watched with me. Jesse started choreographing dances again in his room. Gillen asked about my old life as a dancer. We got passionately involved with the dancers' auditions. Jesse said that he wanted to try a hip-hop class. The biggest factor - we get break-dancing-in-the-living-room and dancing-on-the-couch intense joy from watching this show!
The decision is definitely to TV. Here's to hoping that our lives continue to be full and interesting as a result of all types of input and exploration, including TV.