TV viewing is a hot button issue in the unschooling world. Extremists on both sides of the argument throw out statistics, science and anecdotal stories to support their view and it makes it confusing for some to know what to believe. I choose to believe what I see happening with my own children, right before my eyes.
I have seen TV suck Jace in at times, I myself have been sucked in by TV at times. It can be numbing and a completely passive experience that results in hours upon hours of energy zapping, mindless viewing. The natural response of some parents when they see this happening is to limit the time spent in front of the TV. Other parents believe that lack creates desire and that if children are just allowed to watch as much TV as they want then they will eventually get their fill and make better choices for themselves without intervention from the parents. I reject both of these ideas for my family.
I don't think the amount of TV being watched is the issue most of the time. I think HOW TV is being watched is the bigger issue. My kids have pretty much unlimited access to television but they rarely watch it alone. Most of the time I watch with them and we discuss what we see as we watch. It might be a silly cartoon and we'll discuss how irony or parody are used in comedy. It might be a sit-com and the discussion will be about human relationships. Dramas usually bring up discussions about decision making. All shows can lead to discussions about plot and character development and why writers choose specific things to imply things to the viewer. These discussions are so second nature that I've noticed lately that the kids do it when they are watching TV together with no adults in the room. I'd be willing to bet that when they're watching alone they have some similar internal dialogue.
For me unschooling is about meeting my kids where they are, using the tools and methods which they respond to instead of those I WISH they would respond to. Jace in particular responds to television so this is where I meet him and it then becomes my responsibility to help him facilitate positive learning experiences with the tools he has chosen. I don't think TV is the only way or a superior way to help kids learn but I think it is equally neutral to all other tools. When left to their own devices and used as a babysitter it becomes harmful. When used as a place for discussion to begin it becomes a valuable resource. The harm or value isn't in the TV, its in the use.
I can already hear some protests about not having time to sit down and watch TV with kids but I doubt I'd hear the same argument being made for a kid who wanted to play lots of board games or read with an adult. I'm not at home with my kids so that the dishes are always done or to cook gourmet meals. I'm home with them because I believe the best way for them to learn is on their own terms and therefore their learning is my top priority. So, about 80% of the TV they watch, I watch with them. We laugh, we discuss, we learn together.