When someone asks is TV bad for kids I offer to introduce them to my son, Chase, who has an incredible vocabulary. Not only does he use sophisticated words for a 9-year old, but he uses them correctly. And how did he learn these words? That’s right – he watches TV. Add me to the list of advocates who believe television can be educational, helpful and nurturing to children’s intellect.
Yeah – I know – television is supposed to be the enemy of children, but hear me out here.
Take TV shows such as The Upside Down Show, a show that both of us loved when Chase was younger. It was a smart show and it didn’t talk down to kids – it used big, descriptive words that you don’t often find on a kid’s show. But I think he has benefited from other TV as well, because even your typical cartoon show can’t help but use some good words sometimes.
USA Today even published an article that adults can improve their vocabulary by watching certain shows, and if it may work for adults, why wouldn’t it work for children?
TV can also be used to teach kids to read. If you turn on the close captioning during your kid’s favorite cartoon show, they are reading the words as they hear them, and isn’t that really how we learn to read? (Unfortunately I thought of this after he learned how to read, but others have had the same idea.
I have another theory about kids watching TV – and you really have to stick with me here, because it involves Gilligan’s Island. Remember the episode where they discover a Japanese soldier who had no idea that World War II was over? Well, as stupid as it may sound, this gave me some insight into history. A Japanese soldier actually did surrender nearly 29 years following the end of Word War II. The show had prompted me to explore the factoid at my local library where I discovered Lieutenant Hirro Onada had been deployed to an island in the Philippines and continued to live in the jungle, eating coconuts and bananas while avoiding contact with the locals. While his sustenance consisted of far less than Mary Ann’s famous coconut cream pies, he lived honorably through the years awaiting further orders. He finally emerged from the jungle on March 19, 1972.
I don’t remember ever hearing about such things in school, and yet I found that TV would often fictionalize fascinating accounts of things that really happened. In the case of Gilligan’s Island, should I pay tribute to television producer Sherwood Schwartz? Or a condemnation of the public school system in my town? You decide.
I’m just saying that silly episodes such as these, at times, actually helped me to put some historical events into perspective, and at times made me curious to learn more about what the heck they were talking about. Sure, the Germans held Allied soldiers in camps during World War II but those camps were probably not super fun like on Hogan’s Heroes.
Another reason I am not worried about Chase watching TV is because I think he deserves to relax in front of a good cartoon now and then. And of course, it gives me an excuse to cuddle with my favorite person and watch SpongeBob (my favorite sponge), too.