Is some TV better than none?

Everyone talks about the dangers of too much TV on a kid, but is there such a thing as too little?

We’re a little eccentric in our family of four, I admit, but we’re not anti-screen. We have a Wii, a Nintendo, iPods, a DS or two, Netflix. But we also read compulsively, spend unhealthy hours online, and play card games instead of turning on the big plasma thing we have in the living room.

I used to depend upon the TV as a babysitter. I’m not ashamed or proud of this; it was necessary. Unhappy four year old + Dragon Tales =  another day of life. Listening to Max and Emmy’s theme song every evening at 5:30 was a high price, but one I was willing to pay.

The adults stopped watching their own TV shows, not that we ever watched many. Then the oldest son declared at eight or so that TV sucked. Today, the seven year old in the house still likes TV, but only to watch Mythbusters via Netflix/Wii. She’ll leave the room if anything other than nature/science documentaries comes on screen.

So, here we are in the heaving bosom of a mainstream demographic – a family of four in California with two grade-school children – and we don’t have a flying fig what’s going on in broadcast pop culture.

Naturally, being a mother, I worry. Maybe, I think as I watch my 1st grader explain Paleolithic botany to the teens at the pool, maybe no-TV is bad for their social development. My kids know too much about explosives and particle physics to relate to other children. We all know how kids are never, ever cruel about people who are different than they are.

It’s the perfect lesson in reverse psychology. Driven to desperation by the exhaustion of being a stay-at-home mother, I pushed TV on my children from a young age. Therefore, they’ve learned to associate the noisy, colorful box with maternal deprivation. My son has rejected its siren call in his mature older years (5th grade) in favor of learning fun stuff in his room, like building his own circuit boards with parts cannibalized from broken toys and random household objects. My daughter is too picky to tolerate anything she can’t control with the remote. Anything without a pause button is unthinkable.

So we carry on not knowing who – Snookie? – is, or any star under 35. When journalists begin a piece with “Unless you’ve been living in a cave,” I prick up my ears and concentrate extra hard. If it’s current events or political commentary, I’m reasonably well-informed. But if it’s something that happens on 9pm every Wednesday night on channel 7 . . . not a clue.

I hope the other kids don’t make fun of me.