Television Black-Out Time
Barrington H. Brennen, 1995, 1999,
2013 graphics added
Question: Dear Sir: Last week you talked
about having television black-out time in your home. How can I implement this
Last week we explored the relationship between television and sexual feelings in
children. I said that our children are spending too much time watching
television. I further argued that the television has left generations of our
children illiterate, bored, and unimaginative. This brought into focus the
concept of television black-out. I call on all who read this article to consider
one of the following television black-out times. However, before you continue,
take a piece of plan paper and write the words, "Television Black-Out Time," in
bold letters and stick it on your TV screen for all to see
(Click on graphics to enlarge and to print for your home)
TYPES OF TELEVISION BLACK-OUT TIMES
1. Marriage Black-out. During the first year of
marriage, it is ideal that a couple does not own a television. They should spend
time interacting, bonding, spending time together, growing as friends and
lovers. Television has a subtle way of attracting us from valuable functions and
events in our lives. Sometimes we find excuses to watch a show because it is so
educational or meaningful, but in reality it does not add anything to the
healthy development of a young marriage. A solid foundation must be laid early
in the marriage for intimacy, friendship, and sharing. The couple must enjoy
spending time together before they spend time in front of the television.
2. Childhood Black-out. It is important for parents to
understand the powerful effects of television on the minds of their developing
children. Do not place your young infant in front of the television alone while
you do something else. Ideally, it would be best to avoid having a television in
the home. Because of the addictive, luring, and tempting nature of television, I
am suggesting that parents with young children do not have television in the
home during the first six to ten years of the child’s life. Children also need
to learn how to play and interact, communicate, and develop self-government.
Great harm is done when, from birth, television becomes a normal part of a child’s
life. It does not matter how educational the television program is, whether it
is Sesame Street or Barney. Parental involvement cannot be compared to any
information or knowledge gained from television watching.
3. Crisis Black-Out. Often a parent may need to take away
the privilege of television viewing because of disobedience or poor academic
performance. Sometimes families would find it most helpful when there are
serious family conflicts and crises to keep the television off. Often the
television is used as "coverall." It gives one the feeling that the
pain is over, but when the television is turned off the pain surfaces. Keeping
the television off forces the family to deal with the situation.
4. Scheduled Black-out. As the family begins to grow,
the parents may want to purchase a television. This is fine. However, the
television should not be treated like the refrigerator - it is only useful when
it is on. Television viewing in the Bahamas has increased in the last decade. In
1983 I conducted a survey of 380 students. The results showed that our children
were watching an average of 2.3 hours of televison a day. As mentioned last week
my latest research indicates that our children are now watching about 3.8 hours
of television a day, and some up to 6 and 8 hours per day. It is imperative that
parents take the bull by the horn and begin scheduling when and what their
children will watch on television.
GUIDELINES FOR CHILDREN TELEVISION VIEWING
Here are some suggestions:
Do not let your children watch
television during the school week (Mondays - Thursdays). Let them focus on the
school work and play. Neither should the parents sit and watch television in the
presence of the children and expect the children to be disinterested. Remember
that children learn best by example during these early years. My preliminary
findings on the effects of television on the development of children indicates
that the less television watched by children the better their social and
academic performance. (Council for Family Research, 1998). Generally, children
who do not watch television between Mondays and Thursdays are less aggressive,
more sociable and cooperative in school.
Preselect television programs that
are uplifting for the children. Soap operas, violent pictures, pictures
containing vulgar language or scenes, rude comedies, etc., should not be seen by
At no time should a parent allow a child to sit and watch televison for indefinite periods. One hour of television viewing for children
less than ten years of age provides a heavy dosage of information to process.
Secondly, the danger of your child developing an unreal view of the world and
his or her surrounding is seriously increased. During holiday times our children
spend too much time watching televison. Even teenagers and adults should not
develop the habit of watching more than 2 to 3 hours of television without
taking a significant break. Parents should decide that the television will be on
only for specific hours at a time and only at certain times of the day. Again,
it is better for your child to learn how to entertain him or herself than to be
Do not have a television in your child’s room. It is ideal
that a home should have no more than 1 or 2 televisions. Make television viewing
family time. Too many televisions in the home robs the family of valuable
togetherness. It also creates a problem for problem management time and programing of the television.
Do not train your child to fall asleep with
the television on. This helps to create indiscipline behavior in the child.
Secondly, while sleeping, unwanted subliminal messages may still enter the
subconscious, leaving the child vulnerable to literally anything.
WHAT TO DO?
I am sure you are wondering when could a couple have a television if not
during the first year of marriage and not during the early years of children.
This brings up the very important point of family planning. Couples should not
rush into having children. They should wait about 2 years before giving birth to
their first child. This would give lots of time for growth and doing the things
they want to do. They would have had at least one year of television viewing.
When the child comes along, the parents would have developed a wise way to use
the television, avoiding the children’s involvement, or perhaps putting it
away until later years. I encourage every Bahamian to reexamine the role
television plays in his life. Declare in your home a television black-out week
or month and spend time having fun together.
Back to School with no Television