Life with the TV: 21 tips for dealing with the thing
by Abdul Malik Mujahid
Not everything that comes through TV is bad. However, because the average child
between two and 11 years old watches over 27 hours of poorly supervised television
per week; because the only thing that kids do more than watch television is
sleep, and because most parents are unaware of the indecent liberties that television
takes with our children, you must control this 19 inch Shaytan, as a friend
of mine calls it.
1) Halal (permissible) and Haram (forbidden) on TV: TV programs include
stirring documentaries about history, science, and nature as well as excellent
dramatizations of classics. It also includes a lot of Haram in terms of violence,
sex, antifamily and anti-Islamic values in cartoons, sitcoms, talk shows and
films. It's the job of parents to observe Halal and Haram on TV programs and
guide their children. One rule you can use when teaching your kids the right
and wrong of television is the following: if it's Haram to do then, it's Haram
2) TV Rules for Children: A carefully programmed TV can be a beneficial
ally! Set clear rules for your children on how much TV they can watch, when
they can watch it, and which shows are permitted. Then stick to your policy
no matter how many tears and voices protest. You are the boss. You can unplug
the television whenever you want to.
3) Don't Just Allow "Watching TV": Allow children to watch
a particular program which you have approved, not just "watch TV."
4) No Channel Surfing: Channel surfing usually means watching the worst
of the shows which are on at any given moment. More stops at sex and violence
5) Homework First: Insist that homework and chores be done before TV is
turned on. (No this is not considered child abuse, not at least in Illinois
where I live.) Only one in ten parents require children to do homework first
at this moment.
6) Watch Together: Watch TV with your children. It will be lots of fun.
You might have some topics to talk about later. You may share some laughter
as well. If you cannot watch with them all the time, at least do it occasionally.
7) Talk to Children about the Programs: Talking to your children about
the programs they watched or you watched together will give you an opportunity
to debrief them about the rights and wrongs in them.
8) Never Use TV as Babysitter: No matter what, don't just train your
little Muslim to become an avid TV watcher by letting TV calm him down when
he is crying or when you want to do something else other than attend to the
baby. Also make this rule clear to the babysitters you hire as well. If you
have no choice but to subject you child to a daycare center, choose one which
does not use TV as its control mechanism. Seventy percent of daycare centers
use TV during a typical day.
9) A Smaller Screen is Better: A small-sized TV is better than a larger
size TV. The larger size encourages worse watching habits.
10) One TV is Better than Two: One TV placed in the living room will
help you keep an eye on what is being watched. A TV in your child's bedroom
is the worst thing. It is not that you don't trust your children. It is the
TV which you don't trust. The average household in America has 2.24 TVs in their
homes and 54 percent of kids in America have a TV in their bedrooms.
11) No Cable Channels: With a few exceptions, cable provides more of
the bad TV and adult-oriented programming. I was staying at a pious Muslim's
home as the TV brought a rush of his kids in the room I was staying in. To my
astonishment, they ignored their "uncle's" presence and protest as
they intensely watched a hot nude sex scene on some cable channel. Recently
in Florida, during the daytime, a cable company showed adult programs.
12) Encourage Commercial-Free
Channels: Public Television and other Commercial Free TV have more informative
programs. It is estimated that the average child sees 20,000 commercials per
year. Unlike adults, who often mute out commercials, or who get up and make
a mad dash for the bathroom during the 60 to 180 seconds, children like TV ads.
They like to be told what to lobby for...and lobby they do.
13) VCR & DVDs Give Parents More Control: VCR gives you control of TV time
and programs. Many parents watch programs through DVD and VCR more than television programs broadcast
scheduled times. Balance your TV consumption with dvds of good programming
offered by Muslims and non-Muslims. This will be more in your control and will
contribute to the learning process of children. Some of the good DVD programs
could be as good or better than anything on TV. Adam's
World for children ages two to nine is one such DVD series. hundreds and thousands
of children learn and have fun with Adam and Aneesah.
One day, I noticed Sister
Lonnie Ali (Champion Muhammad Ali's wife) had ordered another set of Adam's
World. Since I knew they had a complete set of Adam's World, I asked why she
was buying another one. She told me that Asad (their son) had watched Adam's
World so many times that all the tapes were worn out. She said he must have
watched each tape more than 100 times. His game at one point was to say the
dialogue before Adam said it.
14) TV Off Days: Some Muslims keep TV off all Ramadan. Every year there
is a campaign called TV Turn Off Week,
which encourages people to not watch TV for at least a week. You may want to
do the same for very personal reasons. Television can affect young children
in adverse ways: aggressive behavior, difficulty falling asleep, nightmares
and an insatiable appetite for advertised products. If your kids are showing
signs of this nature, eliminating TV for a week or so may help.
15) More Family Activities: TV takes away family time. Poorly managed
television wastes opportunities for kids to learn how to relate to other people
- including their parents and siblings. And relating with their families is
a desire of today's youth. In a nationwide, ethnically balanced survey of 750
ten to sixteen-year-olds, "three-quarters said that if they had a choice
between watching TV or spending time with their families, they'd opt for family
16) Buy a Movie Camera: Yes you read it correctly. Instead of children
being subject to TV, give them the tools to control TV. Empower them with technology.
Give them a gift of a video camera. Consumer
Reports has a lot of recommendations for good camcorders. Let your kids
write a script, shoot a video, edit it on their computer, and put it back on
VCR or incorporate it in a multimedia production (and send a copy to Sound Vision.
That little producer might have more talent than you think.)
17) Plan Your Time: If you develop the habit of developing a personal plan,
children are likely to follow you in the considerate use of their time. By developing
a plan for using your time, you will learn to place TV time in proper proportion
to other things in life which you want to achieve.
18) Start a TV Journal: To make good use of TV programs, ask children to
write a report about it. Have them answer questions like: who were the characters?
What was the plot? What was good? What was bad? What did the program try to
promote? Let them be the critic instead of simply being lost to agenda of television
19) Fight bad TV programs: Always protest wrong types of things inserted
by producers in what you and your children watch. If you don't protest and pursue
the matter, they will learn that they can get away with this and will do more
of it, not less. Call toll-free to record your dislike of a program: 1-800-TV-COUNTS
(operated by the Parents' Television Council,
a family oriented, non-Muslim group).
20) Stick to Your Guns: Your children will resist all rule-making efforts
to limit their TV time and program selection. Discuss your reasoning with them,
but stick to your guns. This is a decision about their growing up as Muslims.
More than 4,000 studies have proven that the behavior of children is affected
by their TV watching habits. You cannot let false images and wrong ideals distort
the future of your children. You must help tomorrow's Muslims today by being
reasonable, but firm. If you don't control TV, TV will control you, your pocket,
your children, and your worldview.
21) Children Follow You: The bottom line principle of parenting is that
children follow you. If you are a couch potato, and fail to practice what you
preach, don't expect your rules to have any value. Watch what you are watching
if you want anyone to follow your rules about TV. Whether you give prime time
to your family or to TV will determine the future direction of your life and
your children's life.
"O ye who believe! Why do you preach something you are not practicing?
It is of most distasteful in the sight of Allah that ye say that which ye do
not" (Quran: 61:2-3).