“Watch What Happens…” In Our House Regarding Kids & TV

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Kids and TV

The other day I caught up with the mom of one of my son’s besties from school. While waiting for our kids to be dismissed from kindergarten we talked about their recent after-school playdate at my house. I recapped of how much fun they had and mentioned how worn my son was afterward and that he went right to bed that night, no arguments, no books, not even an extra glass of water. Bestie son’s mom said her son did the same – he was so tired that she didn’t even have to put the timer on his TV that night.

Then the bell rang our kids came out and we went our separate ways. Later that night I told the hubs about the TV comment. Now, TV is a BIG subject in our home since both the hubs and I have careers in mass media.

A million questions came to our minds:  Do you think he falls asleep to the TV every night? Is there a TV in his room?  What is he watching? Is it educational or a cartoon? How do his parents monitor what he watches? Does he know how to use a remote? Are certain channels blocked?

I wasn’t judging by any means and I’m in no way an “anti-TV” mom.  To say that I love television is an understatement. When I was a kid, I used to wait impatiently for Tuesdays when the next week’s TV Guide arrived in our mail. I studied it like a college textbook… all anyone in my household had to do was ask, “What’s on tonight?” – I could give them a full prime-time line-up (fortunately there were only 3 major networks at the time, plus a handful of cable channels).

What sparked my interest was the impact of television as a medium – how it connects people, conveys messages to the masses and its overall impact on society. I am still fascinated by these things today. In fact, my entire career is based on my love for the medium. Of course, I know there is a lot of junk clogging the airwaves, so I am a picky watcher – shows have to earn my favor and attention. Once I’m turned off by a program, network or star, I switch the channel for good.

But when it comes to children, how much TV is too much?

This is an ongoing debate the hubs and I have. Right now our policy is no TV during the week.  Mornings in our house are so hectic — getting up, eating breakfast and going off to school – TV watching is not an issue. After school, the hubs and I want to spend some time with our kids, playing, going to after-school activities, having dinner together, cuddling and reading stories. However, on the weekends, it can sometimes turn into a cartoon marathon in our house.

My boy loves cartoons, old ones such as Looney Toons and Tom & Jerry and newer ones like Fairly Oddparents, Chima or Ninjago. He will sit like a zombie for two hours or more if you let him, taking in all the hilarity only a child can find in some of those cartoons. So far our daughter can take it or leave it when it comes to TV, but she does enjoy a good episode of The Pink Panther or SpongeBob Squarepants.

Certainly, we’ve bended the rules…such as when mommy has an emergency work call, or daddy has a similar crisis. A half-hour in front of the boob tube might bail us out until the crisis passes and then it’s back to our regularly scheduled program…NO TV!

We want our kids to enjoy being kids-playing with toys, coloring, looking at books, using their imagination and minds to have fun. Growing up, I had a fraction of the entertainment choices my kids have today. Today there are 600+ channels to choose from, DVDs, DVRs plus video game systems and iPads – the choices are exhausting.

I’m realistic to know that our policy will have to evolve. But right now I want my kids to know the pleasure of running around, playing outside, riding bikes and just having fun. I want them to be worn out at the end of the day from actually doing something, not tired from a day of looking at a screen.

So now I’ll get off my soap box, and good timing too, since I have a new episode of The Young & The Restless to catch up on!

How much television do you let your children watch? How well do you know what they are watching?

Image credit: stockbroker / 123RF Stock Photo

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  1. That’s a great subject to write on.. Unfortunately there’s no answer to how much TV is good.. My kids aren’t old enough yet to watch TV but the future of TV in my house does leave me perplexed. I understand its impossible to keep children away from TV but I don’t want them to become addicted to the idiot box either. I think half an hour a day is not too much. is it?

  2. We don’t own a TV but we do allow the kids to watch movies on Saturday mornings and special occasions. Aside from that, the kids are outside playing (we do live in a climate that invites one outside).

    • I think about ditching our TV all the time. Not owning one is a great idea. My kids definitely go outside more to explore when I turn it off.

  3. Dorothy Teel says:

    Interesting blog, I have one set of granddaughters that rarely ever get to watch TV, but when theydo they appear mesmerized by it and we have to turn it off to get their attention , the other two granddaughters love tv and put it on immediately when they visit. We have to turn it off to get them to out to play, etc. All the girls are very friendlsy but the ones wheo rarely watch television are the ones who come up with what games to play outside, etc. They are often the leaders of the activities..

    • I think it’s no surprise the girls who rarely watch TV play more and have more imagination. I’ve heard that across the board. Great to hear it firsthand. Thanks, Dorothy.

  4. My son is 2, so I know what he watches. When I’m at work every day, he is either at school where there is no TV, or he is with my mom who is anti-TV. When I come home, I let him watch TV (usually Jake & The Neverland Pirates) while I cook during b/c I hate to say it… it occupies him. Once I’m done cooking, TV is off and we dine together. I will turn it back on for him before bed so he can watch Caillou or Pajanimals. I know he doesn’t get to watch during the day, so I don’t mind that he watches TV at night.

    • That’s great you’ve been able to find a healthy balance, Ashley. I try to avoid it during the week too and save it as a weekend treat.

  5. We have debates about this kind of often. As far as I’m concerned, there is no reason for the TV to be on during the day. If we are that bored, we should just go outside or something! The hubs on the other hand wants to watch it all day long, which is a problem. With the TV on, he doesn’t see or hear a thing! My daughter is 2 and could care less about the TV, but the 9 month old, he is a zombie like his father if it is on. I did have it on the other day when I was down with a stomach bug and home with both kids by myself. Some days, you have to bend the rules!

    • Thanks for visiting, Shannon. We have a bit of battle with TV too. Sometimes it’s a convenient babysitter for a few minutes but when it comes a habit every day I think it becomes a problem. I think we all struggle with appropriate screen time. And I’m with you – it shouldn’t be on during the day (or during the week IMO).

  6. I am really falling more and more in love with your blog! Loved this article! I wish my son Christopher’s dad would be willing to implement this…. When my son and I visit Germany to see my parents, we’re usually there for 4 weeks at a time or longer and he never once watches TV there. On the rare occasion that I want him to see a German show I loved as a kid, I’ll watch TV with him there. Apart from that, he plays outside and with real toys. I NEVER hear him complain there about not getting to watch TV. It’s become rare these days that parents take your stance. Love it that you do!

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