The ABCs of Television

At the risk of being called a bad parent, at last I have some praise for television. More specifically I have nothing but compliments for the ABC’s new digital channel ABC3.

But before I ladle out the praise I need to qualify it with a few facts.

I have two sons, aged ten and eight. They are healthy, active boys who enjoy sport and being outdoors. They also enjoy board games, reading and wrestling with their Dad. However, it is an unfortunate fact of modern city life that they have less backyard to explore than I did when I was a child.

We are fortunate to have an abundance of public open space around our home in which they can play, but there is always my innate conservative cautiousness about having such young children unsupervised in public areas. Rational or not, it is a very real concern for me and for many other parents.

Don’t get me wrong, I support children exploring their world and learning from their experiences free from direct adult supervision. However, in times past, supervision was often in the form of neighbourly interest in the welfare of all children. It was an era where families looked out for other families and parents were told when their children didn’t do the right thing.

In many suburbs, time seems to have moved past these ideals and all too often there is an unfortunate disconnect between one family and another. This means that children often have less ‘outside’ time than they would have had in generations past.

This is particularly noticeable during school holidays. With many families having both parents working just to pay the bills, school holidays add financial and supervisory pressures on many families.

My family is no different.

As my wife and I both work, school holidays mean that the television is on more than it otherwise would be.

Normally this would alarm me. Not because the children are watching television but because of the programs they might be watching. Outside of children’s viewing times, one can never really know what is suitable for children as the appropriate judgements vary from parent to parent.

Last month, our national broadcaster released a new digital channel specifically for children. It runs from early morning until mid evening and contains an assortment of cartoons, dramas and educational shows, all suitable for children.

Frankly, it is a godsend for parents. My children love the variety and range of shows presented and have taken a particular liking to the science shows. One might even describe them as educational – although don’t tell my sons that because they might stop watching!

To me, this is precisely what children’s television should be: local and international productions that showcase different cultures and different themes, educational and informative, in a child-friendly environment.

ABC3 is an excellent demonstration of what our national broadcaster should be doing – displaying balanced, appropriate and informative content for all Australians. Now if only we can get their other channels to follow suit we’d really be onto something.

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