Logic and Parenting

TV and violence and such
Joyce Fetteroll
at UnschoolingBasics

[Joyce (indented) responding to unnamed poster (in boldface):]

Again, it's hard to talk about this since there are many forms of media exposure

Not among unschoolers. And it's really only helpful to discuss the effects on unschoolers because it isolates what are truly the effects of TV from the effects of parenting and schooling.
the stresses peculiar to two-income or single-parent families have swallowed up most of what used to be family time. Our kids have no time left to grow up fully human, and only thin- soil wastelands to do it in.
In unschooling families TV doesn't take from family time. It's just another activity among many activities.

Which is why it isn't useful to use examples from families that aren't unschooling.

Kids in families who aren't unschooling watch TV for different reasons than unschooling kids do. As a schooled child I watched a lot of TV. It was relaxing after the social pressures of school. As an introvert I needed a lot of depressurizing after being forced into being social 6 hours a day. As a child of traditional parenting, my parents welcomed the TV and friends and toys as a way to keep us entertained. While we did things together (vacations, skiing, card games), there wasn't a true connection. I don't think they really knew us. Their main concern was that we were being molded into decent adults.

And the effect of TV even with all that negative stuff? I learned a lot about a lot of things. I'm fairly knowledgeable about classic movies. I'm literate in 60's & 70's "junk" TV (Lost in Space, Gilligan's Island, Brady Bunch 😉 . And now, though I love TV, I have a hard time fitting in all the stuff I would like to watch because there are just too many other things I want to do.

None of the pressures of 2-parent familes and so on has anything to do with unschooling or mindful parenting.

As I see it, there are *two* things that steal kids childhoods.
But how many unschooling kids have you met?

While I think the arguments against TV sound plausible, what you're telling us is theory and data points that make the point the authors want to make.

What are the real effects on real children who are growing up unschoolers.

*That's* what you need to ask. Because everything else is honestly irrelevant.

For most younger children, if they witnessed just one graphic murder in their living room between two visitors, one might expect that child might need a lifetime of therapy; why should we expect it to be any different just because those two people are living in a box in the living room?
Again while it sounds like a plausible argument, does it happen with real unschoolers? How many unschooled children with free access to TV have been disturbed to the point of needing a lifetime of therapy (or honestly even traumatized at all) by something on TV? How many unschooled children have been traumatized by other pretending?

That's what you need to ask.

It's not that sensitive unschooled children won't come across something that scares them (in books, in puppet shows, at circuses, on TV). What blocks clear thinking is holding TV up as something far more likely to be harmful than anything else they'll see. In unschooling homes, TV is just another aspect in kids lives. When parents know their kids, they *help* them avoid what bothers them (in any media), they help them find ways to be more powerful than an object.

As an example, my daughter doesn't like moving skeletons. I would read at ScreenIt.com to see if there was anything in a movie that might bother her and tell her about it to help her make an informed decision. She decided to go to one of the Lord of the Ring movies despite the fact there were dead faces floating in one scene of the movie. I was able to warn her it was coming up and she closed her eyes and was fine with the rest of the movie.

That's one strategy to be more powerful than a media.

I don't like books and movies where the main character dies. I find that disturbing. I've learned to check the last few pages of books that look like they might do that to see if the character survives.

Another strategy so that *I* have the power, not the media.

That's just part of unschooling.

my reaction when I see video for murder and mayhem now is visceral and unpleasant in a way I had become desensitized to
Again, it's a plausible argument that seeing pretend violence desensitizes people to real violence. It's even more plausible because of the violent society we live in and that violent people are drawn to violent media.

But, if that is so, then shouldn't unschoolers who have unlimited access to TV and violent video games be violent? Shouldn't unschoolers be even more violent than ghetto kids who are at least protected from TV during the day by school?

Obviously you've never been to an unschooling conference! While it isn't safe to make generalized statements about how an individual unschooled child will behave (not all of them have been unschooled their whole lives and various other reasons) but *on the whole* they are kinder, more respectful, more honest than your average batch of schooled kids.

Which says a lot about the effects of school and traditional parenting. Unschooling parents just don't see the negative effects of TV and TV violence that everyone claims must be true. And if TV isn't having the impact on unschooling families then it isn't the TV that's causing what people fear it's causing. It's the combination of school, traditional parenting and the reasons kids who are being raised under those are watching TV.

And parents also model that desensitization to young children watching violent things together.
You state that as a fact. What evidence do you have that it happens in unschooling families.

Two of our favorite shows were Buffy and Xena. (And if you saw my daughter and her friends whacking each other in the video game Super Smash Brothers you'd rate that even higher in terms of violence.) And yet the most violent thing she's probably ever done is repeatedly pick up a cat who doesn't like held.

When pretend violence exists without the other issues (parenting, school, neglect) it just doesn't have the effect that people fear it will.

For kids who are respected and loved, all sorts of aspects of life that they wouldn't want in their lives can be interesting to visit through fantasy. When you know you'd have to give up the things you value in life to have the "fun" of a violent life as well as the real life consequences, why would anyone choose it? It's only the kids who are growing up severely lacking in love, understanding, support, respect that see violence as a means to something better.

I know this is a complex topic
Only when it's mixed in with traditional parenting, school, disconnection.

In unschooling families it's simple: we help our kids explore what interests them in ways that are safe. And the side effects are that they find being loved and trusted and accepted for who they are is a whole lot more attractive than hatefulness and meanness. When their lives are full to overflowing with love, they don't need violence to get something they're lacking. All they need is to ask and they have a parent who will help them get it.

It's really that simple! Not complex at all.

Some violent play for kids might be good
Again, stated as though it were a fact.

What is the reality of unschooled parents? What are the experiences of unschooling parents (who are deeply connected with their children, it should go without saying as part of unschooling) whose children are allowed unlimited (violent) play, unlimited (violent) TV, unlimited (violent) video games? Do we see negative effects?

No, we see kids who are growing up joyfully and exploring aspects of life through pretend that they have no interest in including in their life. When kids are full, there's no reason to be using violence to get something. All they need do is ask.

Does anyone here advocate young children should be driving *real* motor vehicles just because they have an interest in them?
There's a huge disconnect in the clarity of your thinking if you see similarities between driving a car and watching a TV. A 3 yo isn't capable of the physical and mental skills of driving a car. (But a parent *can* hold a child on his lap in an empty parking lot and let a child steer. And a parent can do that until the child has gotten his fill.) But a mindfully parenting 3 yo is perfectly capable of watching TV when parents are aware of a particular child's sensitivities so can *help* him find ways to find what he wants and avoid what he doesn't want.
Parents can take steps to ensure their kids TV (if they have one) is more like a toy than a power tool they are not ready for.
That statement might make sense if it could be shown that in unschooling, mindfully parenting homes that the effects of TV were as dangerous as those of power tools.

The reality is that it just isn't. TV is no worse than any other media children can use in a mindful home.

* Children and youth see, on average, about 2,000 beer and wine ads on TV each year.
Sounds scary.

What are the effects in an unschooling home?

My 15 yo daughter can drink alcohol at home. Occasionally if we have a fruity wine, she'll have some. 99.9% she drinks Gatorade or Coke or juice or anything else but.

* Kids see favorite characters smoking, drinking, and involved in sexual situations and other risky behaviors in the shows and movies they watch on TV.
Which suggests unschooled kids who have the opportunity to see way more of that should be smoking like chimneys, having sex as soon as possible and doing all sorts of risky things.

Are they?

And if they aren't and other kids are, doesn't that loudly say that it's something *other than* TV that's behind it?

* Kids who spend more time watching TV (both with and without parent and siblings present) spend less time interacting with family members.
In unschooling families?

And what criteria did the use to define "interacting" for the study?

My daughter and I have done a great deal of interacting as a direct result of TV. It's tied into her other interests in story telling. Without TV she wouldn't have the huge collection of comics she's written. Without TV we wouldn't have discovered manga. Without TV we wouldn't being going to Anime conventions together (I even dress up).

* Excessive TV viewing can contribute to poor grades, sleep problems, behavior problems, obesity, and risky behavior
Really look at that statement presented as fact. You are *telling* us that our kids have sleep problems, behavior problems, are fat and are engaging in risky behaviors. You are assuming we are incapable of noticing and taking action.

I'm not saying that in an angry way. I'm saying that in a way that says "Do you believe that could be true in the unschooling families you're writing to?" If so then you should get far far away from us. We obviously are so totally unaware of the effects our life style is having on our kids that we are menace to society.

Again, not at all angry because the reality is so far from your supposed truth. What you state as truth doesn't even make sense in an unschooling family.

Most children's programming does not teach what parents say they want their children to learn; many shows are filled with stereotypes, violent solutions to problems, and mean behavior.
Are unschooling parents depending on TV to teach their children anything?

Are we so unaware of what our children are learning that we can't see a connection between one aspect of their lives and another?

Really I've never met people who are more aware and sensitive to their children's developing view of the world.

Obviously, parents can take steps to deal with those issues—but they need to acknowledge them first.
Um, so you're saying we're unaware of why our children are turning out as they are?

Again, not angry. Again, you can feel that statement has validity because you've never been to an unschooling conference, haven't met scores of kids who are growing up in homes where they have free access to what interests them.

Still, a lot of that advice revolves around knowing what your kid is up to and commenting on it,
While true, a conventional parent will take something different from that statement than an unschooling parent. Conventional parents view the world through a lens of shaping and protecting their children. Mindful parents view the world through the lens of walking along side their kids helping them explore what interests them. The two world views are very very different.
And kids do need to learn how to handle media in this society; I just don't think the answer is as easy as let the kids decide.
What experience do you have with children who have been mindfully parented who are able to decide?

But you *are* speaking to hundreds of families who have been living this life for *years*. Your statements are telling us a truth that isn't our reality.

You'll learn a *whole* lot more about the effects of TV on kids by asking questions of us than by throwing "facts" at us that relate to schooled and conventionally parented kids.

(that was Joyce Fetteroll, responding to a male poster whose identity has been obscured because he's probably changed his mind and is off watching TV with his kids or something)

"On candy and other limits"
Joyce Fetteroll
at UnschoolingDiscussion

[Joyce (indented) responding to unnamed skeptic (in boldface):]

I just have to add my two cents prefacing my comments by declaring my bias as a person who leans toward obsessive complusive ie "addictive" behavior.

I don't think decisions made in response to obsessive compulsive behavior are a good model to offer to others to make sound decisions from.
I do limit my kids' sugar consumption for multiple reasons, not the least of which is a family history of diabetes/ late onset which is directly related to over intake of refined carbohydrates and insulin resistence....
I see a number of flaws in your reasoning. I suspect that you don't want them pointed out and just want it known that you don't agree with what's being said because you have reasons that make sense to you.

But, this is a discussion list and the purpose of the list is to hold ideas up to examination and to help people make rational decisions. If anyone doesn't want their ideas examined, its best not to post them.

Here's what I see:

If your kids are overweight then you're offering general advice based on a nongeneral situation. (There *are* other options besides control even for special circumstances.)

If your kids are not overweight, then you are imposing a solution to a problem that you only fear may exist in the future.

If by late onset diabetes you mean type 2, the connection isn't directly to sugar but to being overweight. The problem is taking in too many calories and not expending enough and becoming overweight. Being overweight doesn't cause type 2 diabetes, e.g. all overweight people become diabetic, but being overweight seems to be a factor.

My kids recognize that when they do eat a ton of sugar (say after a birthday party or what have you) they feel physically ill and grumpy... My seven year old naturally doesn't care for refined sugar, he will choose an apple over birthday cake every time. Our family candy rule is three pieces per day after a healthy meal... (and they are welcome to throw away and try again if they hate something, so it's actually three...).
If they aren't drawn to sugar, then why limit it?
They are nine and seven and they have no problem with limits.on TV, movies, computer time, candy consumption, etc.
If by "no problem" you mean they don't complain, depending on personality and family atmosphere, some kids will learn that complaining isn't worth the effort.

If by "no problem" you mean that without limits they choose the way you would choose for them, then why have limits?

(I'd be concerned, though, if my daughter were making the same decisions I would. It would suggest to me that she was memorizing rules rather than learning what's right for her by experimentation. We try to help people see that children will choose what's right for *them*, though, not choose what we'd choose for them. They *will* choose differently. But they won't eat nothing but sugar and fat, and won't do nothing but watch TV and play video games.)

Some people, such as those who are naturally drawn to rules, who live under limitations accept the rules and stick to them. They live in fear and the rules are like talismans that will keep the boogeyman away. What happens when they are faced with new situations that they don't have rules in place for? People often extrapolate from the nonsense and extend the rules. But rational thought would reveal shoddy foundations for decision making.

If the reasons behind rules make sense, then there isn't a reason to make a rule. But people who follow rules aren't learning how to make decisions. They are only learning to follow someone else's rules.

If the reasons behind rules are nonsense, then people memorize nonsense and use that as a foundation for decision making.

If your kids have memorized that too much sugar will cause diabetes so it's good to avoid sugar, they've memorized nonsense and are basing decisions on nonsense.

If they recognize that sugar will make them feel yucky, then, without rules, they are free to decide each time if the future yucky feeling is worth it or not. They'll be listening to their bodies, not a rule they've memorized.

They are nine and seven and they have no problem with limits on TV, movies, computer time, candy consumption, etc.
If they are memorizing rules that say any time beyond x spent on TV, movies, computer is damaging, then they're memorizing your responses to your fears not listening to their bodies or coming to rational decisions through trial and error about what's right for their unique selves.


JOYCE, again, responding to someone who wrote:

There is too much research, scientific and unscientific that shows tv can and does have detrimental effects though—vision included.

While I'm a big fan of science and have a sciency degree, in terms of helping children I trust the real life experiences of unschoolers far more than I trust scientific studies done on (schooled) children (often with an eye towards getting kids to perform better in school!)

There have been several responses that are counter to your studies. If you choose out of fear to listen to the studies over the voices of unschooling experience that is your choice but limiting kids because of what a parent fears might happen is not going to help anyone unschool.

Do ask what people's experiences are on the list. Do collect your own data and weigh it and assess it! 🙂 But offering a fear over experience as the basis of decision making isn't going to be helpful to unschooling.

Joyce responds to someone justifying limitations on TV (from the Always Learning list, 2006):

I personally prefer that my kids not watch tv for hours, so we set  limits.

Not we. Your husband and you.
I don't think it's a big deal.
Then why have a rule?
I don't believe that after two hours (or however short or long) of tv that suggesting to my kids that they might want to find something else to do is belittling or undermining their trust - that is just silly.
And if after what you felt was too short of a time reading a really  good book your husband suggested it would be better to find something  else to do, how would you feel?

First, it means he's watching you and judging how you're using your  time and you aren't meeting his standards of acceptability.  Personally it would make me feel pretty icky to know my husband was  watching me and checking his watch and waiting for me to do something  he thought was better. :-/

Second, it means he thinks your judgement of how you spend your time  isn't as good as his.

Kids shouldn't be *left* to drift to the TV for two hours. But if TV is  what they want to do of all the options available to them then it  will help unschooling to give them the freedom to do so.

*BUT* the other options better be appealing *to them*! Offering to do  things with them is better than sending them off to play. (If they  preferred to play, they'd already be doing that.) Offering to go  places that they enjoy or you're certain they'll enjoy, bring kids  in, take them to other kids' houses is better too.

But to be a real choice, they need the freedom to say "no thanks."

It's one issue and it need not be made into such a huge deal.
To the makers of the rules, it doesn't need to be a big deal.
Freedom and empowerment is found in a variety of ways and tv, or  lack of tv is barely a taste of what freedom or empowerment completely, or  even partly is.
The discussion really isn't about TV. It's about the freedom to  explore in a rich supportive environment in ways that *children* find  meaningful. It means being their partners in helping them get what  they want. It means offering options that appeal *to them*.
There is much more out there that is far, far more important than missing a few tv shows bc mom suggests another activity.
They aren't missing shows if they're choosing to do something that  appeals to them more. They're making a choice to do something else.

(Also there are VCRs and TiVo to record. I found that when my  daughter knew she could watch something anytime—rather than the  specific time the station put a show on—that she often chose not  to watch. What sometimes keeps kids glued to the TV is fear of  missing something new or a favorite episode.)

And if you're making them turn the TV off, to do something else, it  shows a lack of respect for their feelings. How would you feel if  your husband shut the TV off and told you to do something else when  you were watching something you enjoyed? What if he shrugged your  protest off because he didn't think your protest was important since  you'd already been watching (in his estimation) "too much"?

I'm sure that isn't the point, but maybe someday I'll get it!!  [wink]
And your husband is out with his buddies and says "Yeah, my wife gets  upset when I send her off to do something other than read that silly  book she bought. Maybe someday I'll get it!!" [wink]

Joyce's 2014 response to a mom explaining that she controlled food and was right to do that

I am a nutritionist with many many MANY hours spent researching the very real impact of poor diet on the human existence.

Take the following questions not as an indication of me being insulted by you questioning the beliefs here. Take them as an indication that your thoughts aren't quite as clear as you think they are!

So why are radical unschoolers making such seemingly wrong choices for their families?

Is it that we can see how unhealthy our kids are but believe it's better for learning to be nice and feed them the junk food they prefer?

Or that we feed them the junk food they prefer but don't notice they're unhealthy?

Or that the health effects are so subtle that people get used to the feeling so we're ignorant? Or the bad health effects won't show up for years and years. So it's better to be safe now than sorry later?

Which do you think might be true? Or is there some other idea that would make us believe we're right when you're certain we're wrong? What scenario would create such a situation that of a group of people act against what you're certain is truth?

How are the questions you're asking about food any different than the very similar ones that professional educators and relatives ask about homeschooling and unschooling?

Most educators are just as positive that letting kids watch cartoons and play video games as much as they want will be detrimental to the kids' mental growth. They're certain kids need professional educators to feed them the right knowledge in the right way.

For the educators to be right that means the unschooling parents are either uncaring, ignorant or too attached to their philosophy to care that they're damaging their kids.

How can they both be right?

Does an educator's certainty and "many many MANY hours" of study make her right? Or is it that the educator has studied a narrow piece of the world so thoroughly that she doesn't realize it doesn't reflect the world beyond the narrow piece?

What advice might you give the educator who knew the very real impact of poor learning on the human existence if she wanted to understand why unschoolers were making such wrong choices for their kids?

here, on Facebook, June 18, 2014

What do you "have to" do?

Rules vs. Principles

How important is it?

more TV debate

other parenting considerations

Transcript of Joyce Fetteroll's presentation at the 2002 Live & Learn Conference

"Always say yes. Or some form of yes."
After Years of people only reading the title and not the article,
Joyce changed it on her page to "Say Yes More."

Joyfully Rejoycing (Joyce's website)