TV for Teens

Recently I have started to teach a Social Studies path class at our local Waldorf-inspired high school – sometimes when I am away from teaching for a time I forget how much I enjoy it! Thirteen squirrley, enthusiastic and friendly 14 year olds can fill up a class room with very little effort!
Anyway… I had an interesting experience the other morning talking to them about the media images of Hurricane Katrina – and quickly realized that almost all of them came from TV-free households! This was interesting – how to teach a currents events class, how to talk about the huge impact of the media on American society when these kids had no or little experience of this!
We were also TV free until my youngest turned 8. By that time, all interest in "the box" had faded – and at 12 and 14 they have no interest in television (now videos – that’s another story!). I watch sometimes – I like to keep up with what most of America is talking about – and I have a love/hate relationship with the Jim Lehrer Report on public television. As we have no cable or satellite TV, viewing is pretty limited for us anyway. As a family we have watched the Olympics and a few other things (though the images that stayed with us from the Olympics had more to do with commercials than sports…!). And as the full scale of Hurricane Katrina became known, I encouraged my teen to watch the news with me – his brother wasn’t particularly interested and not really ready for it and so stayed away.
So I wonder if those of us who are TV free might need to revisit the TV question with older children. Certainly, one could argue that TV news is so biased, so virtual nonsense, that if one actually wants to learn something, newspapers and the internet are a far better resource (both of which, incidentally, my son  and my students all have access to). And I agree – I do not watch television news to become savvy about what is really happening in the world. I watch TV because I  want to know how my fellow countrymen, by and large, learn about what is happening in this country and abroad – I want to know about disinformation and about bias. And I think that by 14 years of age, teens also need to wake up to the reality of what is around them and to be able to see our American media for what it is.

Posted on September 16, 2005 in Family Life and Parenting

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