Is American Idol for Kids?!

The lack of decent television for children reminds me of why I chose to raise my daughter "TV Free".

 In watching three minutes of American Idol, I am once again completely assured that my 7-year-old daughter is missing nothing but trash on mainstream television.

Last week, a friend at the gym asked me as we lifted weights if I had seen American Idol this week.

Rather than admitting that I live in a TV-free home, I just shook my head and said I hadn’t. My work-out buddy went on to fill me in on what I missed….Lady Gaga stripping down to lingerie and having mock-sex with a male stripper on top of a cliff while she sang a mercilessly unoriginal song called "At The Edge of Glory".

It should have been titled, “Over the Edge of Decency”….but I suppose that I am one of the few parents who completely disdain this type of family programming. 

After all, isn’t American Idol aiming to capture the family audience, including children?  The contestants are often tweens themselves!

My work-out buddy admitted that her kids, age 7 and 9, were watching this raunchy episode of American Idol and that she was scrambling for the remote control!

I think that by the time a parent reaches for the remote control, the content is pretty much imprinted on a child’s mind. Veering on the side of fanatical caution, I choose not to let my daughter watch ANY mainstream television, knowing that you simply cannot depend on a rating system that allows strip-shows on PG programming.

Television has gone downhill over the years, as we all well are aware.

When my daughter was in preschool, I treated her to PBS kids shows, which are pretty fantastic. However, it saddened me to realize that as she aged, educational programming that supported her budding academic mind and phonetic awareness, such as Sesame Street, would quickly be replaced by episodes of Survivor.

There is simply a televistic-cliff that literally forces parents and kids to dive from the safety of PBS's educational programming and hurtle down to the smut and squalor, dark and obnoxious entertainment of the for-profit media channels. 

To make it worse, most children are pretty hooked on television, be it educational or otherwise, by the time they are out of diapers.

The fact that the “healthy choices” of TV lose their appeal or appear babyish by the time kindergarten rolls around leaves parents in a black hole. The kids have been taught that television is a daily diversion, and that they have the right to watch!

Knowing that children soon equate “privileges” with “rights” if they are granted on a daily basis, I have always stuck by a "weekly movie privilege" in my house. 

Thus, the television is not on 8 hours a day, as in most homes, I do not have to monitor the 500 channels that my little one may be flipping through, and I don’t have to accept the trash and mental junk-food that school-aged children are being offered on mainstream TV.  It seemed like a no-win situation, so I never played the game!

Going to the library once a week to select a fantastic movie for movie night is a much loved trip my daughter and I take, and she will grow up being exposed to American Culture in small, weekly doses.

Even our movie choices can make me a little squeamish. .. But at least we have not invited a strip-teasing Lady Gaga to perform in our living room yet!

For all parents out there with very young children, I highly recommend that you make an informed decision on your future television-viewing habits….before you instill the “human right to watch” on a daily basis on your child.

Mainstream TV will let you down, and you will have nowhere to go but with it, if you do not ration your dosing of TV at a young age and stick to it.

I am certain I could never “get away” with such a miniscule TV allowance if I tried to introduce the concept to my 7-year-old.

It takes a complete lifestyle change to “resist television”, but I have never, ever regretted it!

Joan Panek June 12, 2011 at 01:46 PM
TV programming has gotten awful for children and adults, with a few exceptions. I have given up on it. There are many other places to buy or borrow viewing experiences for the family: borrow DVD's from the library, or go online and watch TV shows that you like there. Kids could try to get together and put on their own shows (it couldn't possibly be worse than what's on TV , and quite possibly much more entertaining.) Get involved in local puppet theatre, children's theatre, dance workshops. Take musical instrument lessons, art lessons. Buy a small telescope, a microscope, or a chemistry set and explore our universe. Take walks outside and discuss life and hopes and dreams. A girl can always decide to tart up her life later on if she so desires, but my hat is off to you for bucking the conventional "wisdom" of what is appropriate for children to watch on television. Our "culture" is very strong in pressing for popular conformity, but you can seek out other parents who are thinking along the same lines as you so that you and your daughter do not feel too out-of-it when those around you are gushing over the most recent goofiness on TV.
Jeannie Capone June 13, 2011 at 04:07 PM
Thanks a million for your kind and witty response, Joan! I am right on board with you, selective and intentionally viewing is the only way to go! We can pull up our content on a laptop and put it away just as quickly. In fact, people are often confused when they walk into my living room, which doesn't center around a tv!!! We have run into times where my kiddo feels frustrated that the rest of her peers watch SPongebob and the like, which she knows is not appropriate for her...but it's mostly exasperation, not jealousy! I just feel that it is so darn difficult to break bad habits, so i have little advice for parents who now are discovering how terrible TV is for their kids....
dylan harp January 18, 2013 at 02:12 AM
How old do you have to be


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