Would you allow TV in your kids’ bedrooms?

Two moms debate whether it's appropriate (and good parenting) to allow a TV in your child's bedroom. What do you think?

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“Yes, there are worse things than a child having their own TV.”

by Helen Racanelli, mother of one

We’ve all let our fear of allowing TV in the bedroom take over our good sense. It’s not a monster out to get our kids; it’s an electronic device as commonplace in homes as a toaster. Obviously, toddlers who can’t work a remote don’t need their own private flat screen, but with school-aged kids, I don’t see the harm. So if my five-year-old son ever asks for a TV in his room, he can have one.

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From what I’ve seen, a big reason most kids want a traditional TV away from Mom and Dad is to play video games, which, if you ask me, seems like a much safer pastime than going online (a.k.a. the land of cyberbullying and sexy selfies). If my son does want to watch cartoons or sports, he won’t be lured by a predator via the TV. And why should you suffer? While the kids are jumping and screeching in a Wii Just Dance marathon, you could be happily watching HGTV in another room.

Plus, it’s healthy for kids to have a little privacy. They need alone time, too. Communication is the key; ask them to discuss what shows they’re watching. Teach them what’s not appropriate. I’ve never been worried our son will abandon Peg + Cat (his current fave show) to change over to the doom and gloom of the 6 p.m. news. We purposefully only have basic cable, so the pickings are limited.

Of course, I’ve seen the recent studies about the correlation between obesity and bedroom televisions—go ahead and flog me with a hundred statistical papers. But let’s not give the boob tube more life-wrecking credit than it deserves. In my household, we grown ups practise what we preach about physical activity, nutrition, education and spending time outdoors. I’m confident my kid will grow up holding these things to heart, even if there are televisions in every room.

So if your offspring really want their own TV, I bet, dear parent, that you’re capable of monitoring their screen time and the shows they’re watching. Where I wish you better luck, however, is controlling what goes on in your kids’ Internet-connected mobile devices, where it’s harder to keep children safe and the stakes are much higher.

“No, bedrooms are for sleeping.”

Maureen Turner, mother / stepmother of four

I like to know what my kids, who range in age from four to 14, are watching, so we have one TV—and it’s in our TV room. You’re probably wondering how it’s even possible for six people to share one screen. I’m not going to say there aren’t arguments, but at least I know what they’re watching.

My kids and I have very different ideas of what shows are appropriate (if it were up to me, Treehouse TV would get top billing in our household). As they get older, I’m often met with “but so-and-so watches it!” when I play bad cop and ban a certain program. You can’t tell me any parent in her right mind allows an 11-year-old to tune into Game of Thrones, so I can only assume the kids viewing those shows are the ones with TVs in their bedrooms, where Mom and Dad can’t see them.

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If a mature topic arises, I want to be there to discuss the issue with my kids. I’ve stopped shows to talk about racism, sex and drugs, and sometimes just to point out that most of what we see on TV isn’t real, so there is no need to be afraid of vampires, ghosts or the Kardashians.

Besides wanting to monitor what they watch, I’ve set limits for the amount of screen time my kids are allowed per week—it varies based on their behaviour and whether the dishwasher has been emptied. TVs in their bedrooms would make it harder for me to keep track of that time, and it would make it easier for them if they were tempted to sneak in an episode of Phineas and Ferb without earning it. Besides, do you know what bedrooms are for? Sleeping! My kids would probably disagree with me on that, too. But a recent study reported by the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics linked more TV viewing with kids sleeping less. So there’s more at stake than some parents might realize.

Keeping the TV in our family room also means we’re spending time together rather than separating to watch our own show lineups. Every week, we gather for family Survivor night, where we munch on chips and speculate about which contestant will be voted off the island next. I can’t tell you how much I love those nights, and I worry they wouldn’t happen if my kids had the option to retreat to their own TV.

A version of this article appeared in our July 2013 issue with the headline “Would you allow TV in your kids’ bedrooms?” p. 90.

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