Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Letting the TV Baby-sit Your Child

(Letter to Jakarta Post 10 August 2006)

A front-page article in the Post (9 August) was about “Wanti” and her addiction to TV gossip shows, which were recently pronounced haram (forbidden) by Nadhlatul Ulama (NU). What struck me more, however, was not just Wanti’s addiction but another glaring fact that slipped quietly by and was easily missed: who looks after her children when she goes out?

According to the article, Wanti watched TV most of the day as her husband was at work and her seven year old son was at school. Her 18 month old daughter was left to flounder on the floor by herself, with cookies for breakfast (no time to cook – busy watching TV).

“By 6 p.m., Wanti had watched almost a dozen shows; the number would have been 15 but she went to a Koran recital for two hours and let Aldi watch cartoons.” So, who is looking after her seven year old son while she goes out? Is he at home alone? Is her husband there? I would hope that Wanti took her baby with her, but was anyone watching her son? The article makes no mention of other adults in the house. (Please let there be a loving grandmother there).

What about turning the TV off and spending time on the floor playing creative games with the children? What around reading with them to make them love books? What about just being a caring and attentive adult in their lives?

Why care about TV shows? Why doesn’t NU declare “bad parenting” to be haram instead? That could be followed up by free workshops in mosques all over the country to teach basic parenting skills like “paying attention to children”. That would surely have a much greater impact on Muslims and society in general than bothering with what people watch. Forget about TV shows. Put society’s focus back on how to be a good parent. Then TV gossip shows will disappear by themselves when parents are too busy playing to watch them anymore.

Gene Netto

Jakarta, Indonesia

10 August 2006

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