Should Toddlers Be Held Captive For BC Ferries’ TVs?

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I have a few questions for BC Ferries, our not-really-crown corporation.

  1. Does BC Ferries get paid to show TV to toddlers?
  2. Is there some reason why there is a TV in the playground rooms on some BC Ferries?
  3. Should toddlers have to be subjected to TV for most of a 90 minute voyage to or from Vancouver Island?

I’ve already gone into some depth about how the BC Liberal government has privatized BC Ferries, yet remained its sole shareholder, and what I think of the corporate welfare scam of BC Ferries advertising on the bottom of the scoreboard at Canucks games.

But while it is nice for most passengers that BC Ferries has provided little playgrounds for kiddies [in part to ensure they don’t run amok through the whole ferry bugging anyone who doesn’t happen to choose to sit near them], why are there large TVs with blaring sound in the playground rooms?

I find the noise quite loud and I’m used to spending most of the voyage with the half dozen or so toddlers in those rooms. So when I get on the ferry, I typically turn off the TV. Sometimes the switch on those new HD TVs is hard to find. Other times I just unplug the cable. But I haven’t figured out how to disconnect the sound, which gets piped through ceiling speakers. I figure I’d need a ladder for that.

On one voyage I asked a crew member walking by why the TV had to be so loud. He popped his head in and expressed equal disgust at the barrage of noise. He said he’d look into it. I expected his lack of return indicated there was nothing he could do about it.

So why is there TV? To entertain the kids, I guess. Unless BC Ferries is getting paid by Treehouse or someone to play it.

Is TV good for little kids? No. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises no TV for kids under two.

Again, why does BC Ferries put a TV in a room with playground equipment designed to keep kids active. After all, kids want to move around and play, but they will embrace the obese zombie lifestyle if you give them a TV.

I watched a debate in Twitter a couple weeks ago about this very thing.

One person apparently had been confronted, “yelled at,” by staff after turning off a BC Ferries TV. She asked the Twitterverse and BC Ferries quite pointedly whether it actually was corporate policy that the TVs must be on in the playground rooms. Now remember, corporate policies are merely arbitrary rules corporations develop to allow staff to sound like it’s an official policy why something can’t be. Is corporate policy the Lord Jehovah’s commandment such that I can’t return this can of soup on the 15th day because the policy is a 14 day return policy? You’d think.

Anyway, BC Ferries Twitter spinner replied with this gem of a circular argument:

TV service is provided for customers in various areas of the vessel. Therefore, passengers expect this service to be available.

This essentially means that BC Ferries decided [for whatever reasons] to put TVs in places. Since they did that, people now expect that, so their hands are tied and they can’t take them away. That’s just foolish for the playground rooms and for other places on the ferries.

The principled traveler replied in Twitter that if it is corporate policy, she felt that to be disrespectful of parents.

Frankly, I find it quite disrespectful to me, an adult, that there are so many loud TVs in so many places on BC Ferries. Whatever happened to a reasonably media-free voyage? What about the often majority of passengers trying hard to avoid the blaring TV stuck near them? Is BC Ferries being paid to show a certain channel on its TVs?

BC Ferries replied to her accusation of disrespect like a good Orwellian bureaucracy:

This amenity is provided in a public space. Note of your concern has been frwd to our Customer Relations department.

I won’t spend an hour explaining how the use of the word “public” is a bother, considering that BC Ferries is a private corporation that used to be a publicly-owned crown corporation that now has one share owned by an arm of the BC government which is democratically empowered to act on behalf of the BC public citizenry. There is no public space on a ferry. There is no public space in a shopping mall. But I’ll let that go.

Claiming that the TV is an amenity, not a threat to the development of toddlers [and others] for instance, means the public shouldn’t complain about something being given to us. Then having the concern forwarded to customer relations is a hearty attempt at handling the situation.

The BC Ferries Twitter spinner chose not to reply to this tweet about the American Academy of Pediatrics:

@BCFerries You don’t care about AAP rec of ZERO TV for kids under 2? #fail

The last thing BC Ferries wants to get into is a debate about whether TV is bad for toddlers when they have TVs in the toddler area. Just ignore the tweet and it will go away. Or will it.

Regardless of the confusion about the public-private nature of BC Ferries, we all still own them, albeit quite indirectly. We have some say over whether they create a two-tiered seating area by cordoning off one section for people who wish to pay $12 to experience the elite accommodations of the Seawest Lounge. We get to decide whether they will pollute our supernatural trip through BC coastal waters with so many TVs, usually in the areas of the ship with the most seats.

In short, we still have some sway, even if BC Ferries wishes to insist they’re a private corporation. We still own that corporation.

So I have these questions for BC Ferries, the ones above and these ones:

  1. Has BC Ferries done any research about whether it is good for the kinds of children who are in their playground rooms to be subjected to TVs?
  2. Has BC Ferries explored policy options about whether parents should have the right to not have TV on in places where their toddlers will spend much of the voyage?
  3. Does BC Ferries follow up with complaints/concerns in an effort to manage the conflict or to actually address substantive issues?
  4. Should parents have the right determine what influences their toddlers?

In the end, we can let ourselves be handled, or we can demand that we have the latitude to parent our children without being mollified with circular arguments from bureaucracies that are supposed to serve us.

In the end, I’m optimistic. The crew member I spoke with one of the times I turned off the playground TVs didn’t yell at me, but was on my side. I think common sense will prevail here, but like justice, we won’t get it unless we fight for it.

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Stephen Elliott-Buckley

Post-partisan eco-socialist. at Politics, Re-Spun
Stephen Elliott-Buckley is a husband, father, professor, speaker, consultant, former suburban Vancouver high school English and Social Studies teacher who changed careers because the BC Liberal Party has been working hard to ruin public education. He has various English and Political Science degrees and has been writing political, social and economic editorials since November 2002. Stephen is in Twitter, Miro and iTunes, and the email thing, and at his website,

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9 thoughts on “Should Toddlers Be Held Captive For BC Ferries’ TVs?”

  1. Yes, absolutely yes. Bolt kiddie chairs to the deck and chain the little buggers into them, forcing the wee shits to gaze into the tube for the entire voyage. Equip the chairs with electrodes to jolt the future crop of JDs immediately their eyes stray from the set. Better yet, let them watch nothing but reruns of Sarah Palin rallies. If nothing else that will imbue them with a deep and lasting appreciation of everything that’s good about BC Ferries.

  2. Which is all why I do not take my little ones into the lounge, and the rest of the passengers get to enjoy their “energy”.

    Maybe that is the ticket? Get all those without kids to ask why there is no place for the kids to play?

  3. One simply cannot start bombarding the young mind with state and corporate propaganda soon enough. It’s much like religion, you know? No victim too young!

    Go BabyTV, Go!

    Brought to the world by no less a reputable source than FOX, no less.

    They bring all the information one needs to know, from cradle to grave, to be a real solid citizen for the regime, I guess.

  4. Wow, at what point did our society as a whole determine that someone else is responsible for raising our kids.

    Here’s a tip people, MIND YOUR CHILDREN. If you don’t want them to watch TV then don’t dump them in the children’s play area and then complain about it.

    How about sitting and reading your child a book? Walking them on the outer deck and talking about the nature around you.

    If you spent as much energy on entertaining your children while on the ferry as you do complaining about the stupid TV in the play area we’d ALL be better off.

    It’s ninety minutes for goodness sake, can you not go that long without shoving your kids in the play area.

    1. Great advice! But it misses the point entirely.

      Why is there a TV blasting in a designated child’s playroom on the ferry in the first place?

      The children’s play area is there for a few purposes: to release energy, to allow children to interact, and to keep the noise contained generally.

    2. thanks for your feedback, but i think there are broader issues going on here so i don’t think it’s safe for you to presume all parents are looking for ways of avoiding minding their children.

      toddlers are kids around 8-20 months who are learning to walk. things they like to do: practice standing, crawl and climb over things, practice their gross motor skills, interact with accessible physical objects that are bigger than them.

      the playground rooms on the ferries are great for that, except for the blaring tvs that encourage the kids to sit and stare at the corner of the ceiling.

      i don’t see parents dumping kids in the playground room. parents are in their with their kids, not dumping their kids off so they can go off to the pub for a pint or something, then having enough gall to complain about a tv in the playground room.

      parents are doing a pretty good job of actually doing the job of raising kids, which is why i’m opposing the ferries’ desire to force tv on the toddlers. in this article i’m actually doing what you suggest: not sub-contracting the ferries to raise kids.

      then there’s the research on how bad tv is for kids under 2. this is responsible parenting and advocacy.

      and while there’s nothing wrong with reading and walking the deck, that is really very hard with kids who are 8-20 months for instance since they can’t go for long walks or spend 90 minutes reading stories. their attention span is that of, well, toddlers. lots of activities, lots of physical movement, like on a playground structure.

      and parents’ jobs are not to entertain kids, but to provide opportunities to learn and grow through play and other activities. kids need to do this on their own some of the time so they can interact with their world. other times they need to interact with parents and others. the bc ferries playground rooms are great for that. except for the tvs.

      so in the end, i don’t know, did you think parents merely drop off the kids in the playground room and leave? there are no doors on those rooms and it would be more than a bit of a crime to abandon one’s child unsupervised in a public place.

      and lastly, do you have kids…toddlers even?

  5. Nice shot at the end there, and yes I do have children and they all start off as toddlers.

    To quote you “and while there’s nothing wrong with reading and walking the deck, that is really very hard with kids who are 8-20 months for instance since they can’t go for long walks or spend 90 minutes reading stories.”

    If raising your children is ‘really very hard’ perhaps the issue isn’t with the televisions.

    I am not presuming, “all parents are looking for ways of avoiding minding their children.” I think that a few people feel that it’s their right as a parent to expect the whole world will do what THEY think is right.

    You control what your children can and will do when they are under two. I have travelled the ferry with my little ones many times, they are generally more excited to be ON the ferry than they are interested in the playroom. We have lots of little games we play to keep them entertained.

    If you don’t want your kids to watch tv then entertain them yourself for 90 minutes. If that’s too hard and too long, I wonder what you do with the remaining 22.5 hours of the day.

    To each their own. If you spent as much time and energy helping people, volunteering in your community etc than spreading rhetoric that you won’t care about once your kids aren’t toddlers – that you could really do some good and help some families that need it.

    I suspect that, from your other postings, that you think you are facilitating change with your words and that arenas such as this are far too tempting for you.

    The fact that you won’t be able to stop yourself from responding to this says it all.

    1. So, Educated. You said all you had to say about bad parents. You haven’t commented on TVs in the playrooms. Do you think they should be there or do you agree that they’re bad? You’re a parent after all.

  6. Educated, perhaps. With an ability to see how the state shapes public opinion from out of the cradle, hardly. Bringing the issue of propaganda and its most used medium, the TV set, to other peoples attention is a positive contribution. Of course, and despite this, pouring sense into their heads isn’t quite so easy.

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