I remember asking my kid, as she turned eight: “You are growing up now, and need to give a little more importance to your schoolwork than to television.” A perfectly reasonable request, I thought, till I heard her outraged response: “MORE importance? Not even EQUAL?”

Story of almost every mother’s life, right? The utter frustration and despair because your kid refuses to listen to reason, remaining glued to the idiot box, to the detriment of schoolwork, physical activity, family bonding and eyesight—sounds familiar?

So what do you do about this little introverted, stubborn sociopath you seem to be raising? First, you understand that TV is not all bad. Sure, there’s the bad, and the ugly side to television viewing, but there’s also a good side. And then, having understood this, you use television as a constructive tool to minimize the bad and the ugly, and maximize the good—a bit tricky, but definitely do-able with a little intelligence, and lots of tact and patience!


So, here they are, spelled out: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of TV:

The Good


1. Entertainment: A no-brainer, this. The entertainment aspect is the prime attraction of the mixed blessing called television, and inexpensive, effortless entertainment at that—available at the click of a button. Can’t get any better than this!  

2. Knowledge: There are innumerable channels with high quality educational content—news, National Geographic, Animal Planet, History, even cookery channels and Travel and Living—all great sources o knowledge, one way or the other!

3. Exposure: If harnessed correctly, television can actually be a great avenue of global exposure for your kid, right from the comfort of your living room. Not just knowledge-based programs and channels, even daily soaps and cartoons bring your kid into contact with a multitude of cultures and even a vast store of accidental knowledge. 


The Bad


1. Addiction And Anti-Social Behaviour: Television is addictive—no two ways about it. Once your kid develops the habit of watching it regularly, it is possible he might be willing to forego not only schoolwork, but also playtime and outings to catch his favourite programs. He no longer needs, or even wants the company of family or peers, which is a destructive tendency, to be avoided at all costs. 

2. Falling Standards Of Schoolwork: Falling standards of schoolwork is but a logical outcome if the kid is devoting all her time and attention to TV—after all it’s called ‘the idiot box’ for a reason! A couch potato with a dulled mind—a truly horrendous picture!

3. Harmful Rays and Failing Eyesight: Agreed that television sets nowadays have built-in safety features to filter out most harmful rays, but ‘most’ is not ‘all’ by any means. And even if these are safer than the TV sets of yore, eyestrain and bad eyesight often (though admittedly, not always) seem to go hand in hand with excessive television and screen time!


The Ugly


1. Inappropriate Content: To be in appropriate for kids, content doesn’t need to be obscene or X rated. If left consistently unsupervised, kids could end up watching soaps or movies, especially in the English language which often depict adult behavior considered inappropriate in our cultural context. The kids’ minds are not equipped with enough maturity to distinguish between various cultural settings and exposure to things such as public kissing or sexual promiscuity could be internalized, with harmful consequences.

2. Negative Behavioral Influences: Most modern television programming, including kids’ programs and cartoons, leaves much to be desired, especially in terms of cultural transmission.  While programs such as ‘Bigg Boss, ‘Moment of Truth’ and ‘Emotional Atyachar’ glorify and encourage voyeuristic and sick behavior, Indian soaps with their dramatization of family feuds and kitchen politics propagate petty and negative thinking. Even cartoon programs like Shin Chan, Oggy and the Cockroaches, Chota Bheem and Doraemon showcase bad attitudes, insolence and sometimes, even bad language!


So, it is ultimately upto you, as parents, which aspect of television viewing gains ascendancy in your kids’ lives. After all, nothing is good or bad in itself—it’s how you handle it that matters!