Q: Our family does not have a TV or video game system in our house since my husband and I don't approve of the shows and games that are out there. Some of my friends tell us that the kids will feel left out of social groups since they won't know about the shows and characters their friends talk about.  What do you think?
TV-Free Family in Burlington, VT

A: Dear TV-Free Family,

There are not a lot of families that go without TV these days, so your friends are likely just shocked that it is actually possible to live without one! Research has not shown any negative effects of growing up without a TV. But here are some things to know about the challenges your kids may experience. 

Kids talk a lot about media, even from a very young age. These conversations give them a chance to move beyond the "it's-all-about-me" conversation that kids eventually grow out of. Media is a shared cultural experience they can connect with other kids over. Obviously there are lots of other things for kids to discuss, so it might be worthwhile to help your children identify other topics to connect over such as sports teams, books, music, and dance.

Other challenges arise from the sheer fact that we live in such a media-saturated world. That is to say, at some point, your children will be exposed to movies and TV and if, like many of my patients who grew up without TVs, they don’t learn how to manage their media time, they may arrive at college and spend 16 hours a day using what has become "forbidden fruit." Therefore, I think it is essential to teach them how to live with and use media in healthy ways—perhaps even more important than it is to ban TV from the house altogether.

To help teach them how to use media in healthy ways, find some kind of media that are acceptable to you (such as a specific movie or sports event) and watch them alongside your kids. Then have a conversation where you can help them work through any questions or reactions they might have. Using this approach, you can give them the skills they need to expand their worlds through media and to protect themselves from harm.

Enjoy your media and use them wisely,
The Mediatrician

5 Responses to “If my kids grow up without TV, will they feel left out?”

  1. BMS

    We don’t own a TV either (ours died when the kids were small, and since we rarely watched it, we didn’t replace it). We found that having a few selected points of common ground with peers was good enough. Our kids were rail fans at an early age. A few Thomas the Tank Engine videos gave them something that they would have in common with other preschoolers. When they got to grade school, we let them see the original Star Wars movie. Relatively benign, gives them something to talk about with the other boys. They don’t know about everything everyone else knows about (neither do I), but they are not outcasts either. We also are big into documentaries and old black and white movies – but treated as once a week special family time, not a daily diet.

  2. children's sandals

    We have a TV but it’s not connected to cables, we only watch DVDs. That way we control what our kids watch, it’s really simple. There are also great educational stuff online and with time not wasted on flipping through channels they get to do more sports and READ. :)


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