Strangers in Your Kid’s Bedroom

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

I’m sure I’ll make a bunch of people angry, but I’m sorry. That’s about the only word I can think of to describe what I think about parents who let their kids have televisions in their bedroom.

With our blue collar jobs being outsourced overseas, the main thing that keeps America humming along as a world leader is our ingenuity, inventiveness, and imagination (all of which flourishes under capitalism, by the way.) Manufacturing and factory jobs are going the way of the dinosaur, and they’re being replaced by an economy of ideas and technology.

Television is a passive, mind-numbing medium. When a strong imagination and the ability to think creatively are the most important tools our kids need to succeed in life, I can’t think of one good reason to let a child have a TV in their bedroom.

Especially with all of the junk that floods the airwaves these days.


And it makes for stupid kids, too. From the New York Times:

According to a recent study of almost 400 third graders that was published in The Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, about 70% of the group had a television in their bedroom. The data indicated that the children with their own TV scored significantly and consistently lower on math, reading and language-arts tests. In a similar study of 80 children in Buffalo, N.Y., the presence of a television in the bedroom increased average viewing time by nearly nine hours a week, from 21 to 30 hours.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those people who think TV is the devil. It certainly has is place in our lives. I’m just not sure that our children’s bedrooms is that place. Can we shield our kids from everything harmful in this world? Absolutely not. But should we allow complete strangers into our kid’s bedroom to teach them a thing or two about “life?”

I know that there are at least 52 productive alternatives to TV. I’d bet there are countless more things that would be just as fun and serve our children better than sitting in their bedroom watching the boob tube. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I believe an imagination is a terrible thing to waste. You might be the “meanest” parent on the block, but the gift of letting your child stretch his or her imagination is one they will thank you for later.

So, what say you?

Do you agree that it's stupid to let kids have TVs in their bedroom?
View Results
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  1. I couldn’t agree more with this. In fact, I keep it out of my bedroom as well. Sometimes I struggle with my kids still wanting to watch it more than I’d like, and that’s without it in their bedroom. I can only think it would be more if they had tv’s in their bedroom, and I’d have less control over “what” they were watching.

    Great blog you have here!


  2. Hear, hear!

    I’ve never been a fan of t.v. in ANYONES bedroom. It’s all so alienating…bedrooms should have book shelves!

  3. My sister and I don’t watch TV. But I have more television sets then anyone in the house, (including three in my bedroom). The reason? For watching DVDs and playing video games. That’s it. Of those, only one is in regular use. The one we watch movies on together.

    Speaking of DVD watching, Oh how I miss our gatherings with friends to watch a DVD for an evening of fun, discussion, and best of all, food! It was a good use of a television set.

    At any rate, I don’t like the idea of children watching television, at least not extensively, and only certain things. Certainly not surfing. But then when I was a kid I watched the home improvement shows and PBS mostly. (You know, with like that Sears guy… Bob….V-something…) Quite frankly I’m not crazy about television watching at all now… I’ve always had a thing for educational programming however…

    I agree!

  4. Since my childhood isn’t that far away I remember myself as often wanting to have my very own TV in my bedroom. I grew up with a sister and tha whole family had to share one TV – that caused some trouble of course. But looking back I’m very grateful that my parents didn’t yield to us. They also restricted the time we were allowed to watch TV – not more than one hour or one particular show per schoolday.

    Nowadays I feel as watching TV quite often and it feels like wasting too much time in front of this stupid box. But I hardly can beat the mentioned 30 hours.

  5. Great feedback, folks! I especially like the line from Maria, “Bedrooms should have book shelves!”

  6. I like TV and I watch plenty of it, but kids don’t have the cognitive or emotional development to make good choices about what to watch and how to interpret it.

    Parents need to play that governance role when TV is on, and the only way to do that is have the TV in a room where everyone shares.

  7. “Bedrooms should have book shelves”

    Well said, Maria!

    But what do you guys think of having a computer / video game console in your kid’s bedroom? Is it the same as having a TV in the room? Better? Worse?

  8. To me, I think of video games & computers on the same level at TVs, at least when it comes to the bedroom. They’re still very alienating, and can serve as an open door to a whole lot of unwanted “rifraff” — especially the internet. I just don’t see much redeeming value in having any of that stuff in the bedroom.

  9. Hi. I know I’m a bit late to the conversation, but after reading this, and seeing the results of the poll; I had to chime in.

    Let’s use a little critical thinking on this:

    The “study” would seem to say, as you do, that even having a TV in a child’s room “makes them stupid.” Yet, it actually says nothing of the sort.

    First off, as we all know, “correlation does not equal causation.” There could be a milion other things that these kids have in common. We don’t know though, because the study says nothing about it.

    Secondly, take a look at the statistic again. Around 70% performed under 30%. That’s about right. Think about it. They don’t say that 70% performed under national averages, nor that the children were doing badly in school. They say that 30% of the kids involved in the study did better than 70% of the other kids. That’s honestly what you’d expect in any given set of children.

    Ah… BUT… that 70% all had TVs in their room! Yes, yes they did. What this indicates to me is that the caregivers of the other 30% took a more active roll in their kids lives. the caregivers of the 30% group probably kept TVs out of the rooms intentionally, which can certainly imply that they actually think a great deal about their children’s welfare. That is: they are attentive.

    The TVs had nothing to do with the performance of the kids, but I think it’s a fair bet to say that the participation of caregivers in the children’s lives had everything to do with their performance. I can’t *know* because I have not done a study myself, and the study doesn’t talk about other factors in the kids’ lives, but I’d bet that the kids at the *top* of the 70% group also have more attentive caregivers.

    Now, my daughter does not have a TV in her room. This is mainly because of our finances, however. I control how much TV she watches, and TBH, she watches a lot. It doesn’t seem to hurt anything. She’s doing incredibly well in school, which is impressive even more when you consider that she has certain delays associated with developmental and medical conditions.

    Also, I had a TV in my room from the age of six all the way through college. As a kid, I can remember often going to sleep watching late night movies on UHF and watching cartoons both immediately before and immediately after school. I wasn’t *always* at the top of my class, it’s true. But I was up there more often than most of my peers.

    At any rate…

    I also have to criticize you for advocating getting away from the stresses of being a grown up, then turning around and quoting specious statistics designed to stress parents out.

    And the point of the post being getting out and doing things with your kids seems a bit tainted by the NYT quote. All one really needs to say is, “Going out and doing things with your kids is a hell of a lot more fun than watching them watch the tube.”

  10. I completely disagree, all though not in an angry sense. I had a huge book shelf in my room my whole life, and I have read many many books all threw out my younger years into my now (sort of) adult years (Im 22). But Ive also had a tv in my bedroom since the day I was born (no joke, shared one with my sister, had an Atari too!). I got satellite television when I was 10, and I got my first computer in my room when I was 13. All threw out high school I had high speed internet access and a wireless laptop that I used at my private high school which had wireless internet.

    All that being said, I am currently an interaction designer for a media broadcasting company. I come up with designs for websites, applications, and games so that they are easy to use for whatever the demographic may be. My history of being exposed to everything has given me this ability. I even wrote my senior thesis about the design of video games and the human being’s desire for a state of flow. I consider myself to be extremely creative, and I owe alot of that to my exposure to all kinds of art and information in my early years.

    My point here is that you are all missing the point. Video games, music, television… these are not the problem. Getting kids to read a book and become interested in things isn’t that hard, just do it yourself! My dad read every night before bed, so guess what, I wanted to read too. My dad likes video games and worships film, so guess what, me too!

    Were all products of our environments, so of course if you just give a kid a bunch of books and a tv, and everyone else is just watching tv… thats what they are going to do. What do you expect? You just leave your kids alone all day in a room with nothing but a tv, there not going to get anything good out of it. It’s the parents job to show the child the thrills of the book, or the tv, or anything really. You really think that having the tv in the bedroom is going to stop a child from going out and riding a bike? The only thing thats going to stop that from happening is if parents don’t spend time teaching the child to ride and most importantly riding with them, and even including friends.

    If you are so worried about your kids not getting anything good out of the television, watch it with them. Set parental controls. Encourage educational television mixed with mindless entertainment (its all ok in stride). Just because its mindless doesn’t mean the child will be. I watched my first slasher movie when I was 7, and I have never even been in a fist fight, let alone killed someone.

    (I scaled this comment down immensely, but I think the point is still pretty clear. Having a television in a child’s bedroom may waste there time… but it might also provide them with a real interest. The real point here is to just listen to your child and do what’s best for him/her. It would be pretty stupid to take a television away from a child who has a real interest in the art of film making… or video game design :)

  11. (Didn’t see Andy’s comment before me… I completely agree with him, and disagree with the others)

  12. Andy and Tim,

    Thanks for the insightful comments! I would just like to reiterate that I have nothing against TVs or TV watching. I think that, especially at young ages, much more can be gained when parents are watching it WITH their kids. I would hazard a guess that most kids with TVs in their rooms are not watching them with a caregiver. I agree with you both that ultimately, it comes down to the parents. And the ones who abdicate their responsibilities to the TV, the ones who aren’t being attentive as they could and should be…well, those are the ones who really bother me.

  13. Cathy Kubitz says:

    Autisim and ADD/ADHD are on the rise in our country and believe it or not, there are new studies that indicate a possible link between these learning disabilities and ever increasing length of tv viewing by younger children. It is recommended by many professionals for children to not view tv or play video games just prior to bedtime as it stimulates the brain and violence often triggers nightmares, etc. Let’s face it, tv programs definitely have more sex, murder, alcohol and drug use in them today than they did 10, 20 or 30 years ago.

    There is a time and place for electronics with parental supervision…anything to excess is a bad thing. I would encourage all parents to view their children’s programs keeping in mind the moral and social attitudes they would like their children to emulate. Unfortunately, the tv, computer, video games and the I-pod have become this generations babysitters. With child molesters/stalkers becoming more prevalent, it is necessary to have internet access where it can be monitored by a parent. Children are trusting and innocent which makes them vulnerable to those who would take advantage of them.

    By the way, have you noticed the trend in adult sleep disorders and that the recommendation is usually to get rid of the tv, etc. from the bedroom? People are creatures of habit and if we use the bedroom for activities other than sleep or intimacy, those two basic human needs suffer. Reader’s Digest recently reported that people driving “sleep deprived” is as dangerous as DUI because of the delayed response time.

    No, I’m not a Doctor or a counselor but I do read a lot and I also have a child with a learning disability. Yes, I got some of this information from the tv. I believe all things in moderation make for a healthy life….
    God Bless:-)

  14. I agree with the original post. Kids are bombarded with media from every angle these days and a place of refuge is in order! (whether they realize it or not). Along those same lines, kids must be encouraged to play!- Not video games, but real creative playtime.
    As a mom I struggle to not allow my daughter too much TV time. We typically only watch a few movies over the weekend and no actual television. It too easily becomes a crutch. When she ian’t having to think about what show she might be missing, she is all the more ready to run and play outside.
    I also work for a swingset company that puts alot of emphasis on imaginative outside play. I mean who among us doesn’t have some childhood memories that involve a swingset! Providing tools for creative play encourages kids to make their own fun rather than depend on an electric box to provide it to them.
    CedarWorks swingsets are designed with keeping kids’ imaginations alive. We want our kids to have those same fun times to remember when they are grown. They certainly won’t look back and think “Man! I remember watching Spongebob episode 29- that was a good day!”

    Check out some real toys on our site and see what childhood memories should be made of.

    Liz R.

  15. Jillian says:

    I never had a TV in my room when I was a kid, and I had PLENTY of things to do. My Lego table came to life, my G.I. Joe’s had adventures, and my Barbie’s went about everyday things. I don’t regret not having a TV in my room at all, because I wouldn’t trade that special time with my toys for anything. Anything!

  16. Kathryn says:

    Just wanted to chime in with a slightly different point of view. We are a one-TV family, and a one-computer family, too. Quite the oddity in this country, to say the least! And let me tell you, we hear about it from our teenagers almost every day!!

    I disagree to some extent with how much media is viewed being the problem. I think it is WHAT and HOW it is viewed that is the real crisis. TV and computers in bedrooms remove individuals from the family experience, thus quite possibly altering the media experience by offering no alternate points of view; thus, media becomes the teacher and values giver to the viewer. But – add a parent to prompt discussion during commercial breaks, and media becomes a learning tool for the parent-teacher.

  17. Kathryn, you make a great point there. I think many parents forget how important of a role they have as “teacher.” For better or worse, since the TV is in many ways a mirror of our society, using the TV as a teaching tool is a great way to help our children be better equipped to navigate the things they’ll encounter in the real world.

    But I’m still against the idea of having in the kid’s bedroom (as it sounds like you are too.)

  18. WOW! I think Tim doest protest too much! How about a walk in the park,a boot to a soccer ball. WHAT happen to slides, sandboxes,swings? At 54 I still love trying to flip a swing over as do my 20 year old and 15 year old. My kids are always amazed at how much others watch TV. They have spent their lives outside. As for me there is nothing more than I love doing is sitting in the sun watching my daughter run the pitch.

  19. The issue here has nothing to do with TV. Parents are the issue, I guess it is easier to blame a TV, or any other media that our children are are exposed too. Parent’s are responsible for their childen’s growtht and development. TV or no TV…life is too short to be sitting in front of a computer debating something so trivial.

  20. Hard to argue with that, Stew.

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