For a long time I’ve held the view that TV is not great for kids. I still hold that view, but lately I’ve been reassessing how TV works in our family.
The nick name ‘idiot box’ well describes how I feel TV and kids generally get along. You plonk a child in front of the TV and all you’ll get is a stagnant, vacant, dumbed down version of what was once an active, bright, spunky individual. There are so many other, better things, kids could be doing, rather than vegging out in front of the TV.
But if I believe TV is not good for kids then do I believe it is not good for adults also?
But I like watching TV occasionally. I don’t feel like it is a terrible thing for me to be doing, but I often feel like it is a terrible thing for my children to be doing. Is that a double standard, is TV just bad in general?
I asked this question of my facebook friends and got some fabulous, thought provoking, replies which really helped me pin down my own thoughts on the subject.
In many ways I think TV is bad for everyone, big, small, or somewhere in between. The mindless, zombie that often (but not always) occurs in front of the TV is not a positive thing for adults or children. All of us would probably be better off reading a book, or going outside, or chatting with a friend. Television can also be oddly addictive, and terribly anti social. Of course it is an individual thing, some people (children included) seem more easily engrossed in television, whereas others can take it or leave it. However, a big difference between adults and children when it comes to watching television, is that adults are better equipped to make sense of what they are seeing and better able to self regulate what they watch and how much they watch.
So where does that leave me and TV?
Of late there has been an awful lot of TV watching creeping into our lives. The Middle Child has been requesting to watch a DVD the second we get in the door from dropping the girls at school, and with a small baby and a To Do List a mile long I’ve been letting him. He is much more prone to zombie TV watching than his sisters are and will happily lie on the couch and watch for long stretches of time, without saying a word to anyone. Now while that means I get a lot done without a little helper in tow, I don’t like it.
The girls too have been watching more TV than usual, sometimes coming home from school and watching ABC 2 until I drag them away and make them wash or eat. It doesn’t feel right to me, and I’ve been feeling guilty about it.
I’ve been pondering whether I should just ban the television all together. But surely that makes me, a person who has a TV in her bedroom, who enjoys an hour or so of TV each night to help my brain stop buzzing and worrying and whirring…. surely banning my children from watching TV makes me somewhat of a hypocrite?
And then suddenly the light bulb went on.
I use TV as a tool… I control the television, I use it to my advantage, why can’t I also do that for my children? They enjoy watching TV to wind down and veg out just as I do, and I am ok with that, in small amounts, and at certain times of the day, and in fact, that could work for all of us.
So now my children are able to watch an hour or so of television before dinner. It’s that frantic time of day when I am trying to get dinner finished and tidy up and get everyone washed and ready to eat. It’s the time of day when we are all tired and narky, fights break out at the drop of a hat and I yell way way too much. It’s a time of day when I think a little vegging out in front of the TV isn’t such a bad thing. It’s a time when TV can work for us in a positive way rather than a negative way.
They don’t always watch TV, sometimes they are too busy doing other things, but they know that they can, at that time of day, if they want to. I still regulate what they watch, and I’m still around while they watch it, but I am done feeling guilty about them watching TV because I’m making it work for us, not against us….. well hopefully!
How does TV work in your house?
Do you think TV is good, bad, or somewhere in between?
Read the comments or scroll down to add your own:
I struggle with the whole TV thing. Husband is addicted and my girls are following in his footsteps. TV for people with Autism is so fascinating, it gives clues to human social behaviour without the autistic person having to actually interact with the people on screen. Well that is the way I interpret it from seeing what my family does.
I try to limit the amount of TV but the first thing husband does when he gets up in the morning, gets home in the evening is turn it on.
He finds it strange that I can go all day without watching TV. For me it is like the new radio. I will put a show I like on – usually a DVD – to play in the background while I cook or sew, but only for an episode. I much prefer the silence.
One day we will work it out. For now I’m content to be winning the ‘no TV in the bedrooms’ battle.
We usually have tv on in the afternoons from 4-5, and sometimes 30mins in the morning if everything is ready for kindy. Morning tv will go next year though as we start school! I agree that there are much better activities kids can do with their time, but it can be a useful part of the routine if it is well managed.
Thanks for such a thought provoking article! This is an issue I also struggle with as we seem to get off track when busy and S starts watching way too much TV than I would like. Then I go back to ony alllowing it on for very short periods in the afternoon for down time and that always works much better.
I totally agree about it being ok for kids to use it for their downn time as we can’t expect them to always playing and doing stuff.
I limit it to abc for kids, for an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon for the exact reasons you do- to get things done (for my children, I’m not getting my nails done!) without help from my big girl. You’re a gorgeous mum Kate (look at the wonderful things you do with your kids on this blog!) so don’t feel bad about using the big guns when you need to!
We’re similar. Up until now the little girl has been completely uninterested, it’s literally been this week she discovered a DVD she liked. The big girl needs limits or she would sit there all day and you can see the behaviour and mood spiralling.
She’s supposed to have half an hour of screen time a day and can choose computer or DVD, when I give her a timer it works really well. I don’t like so much that if she misses it because we’re busy there are tears and tantrums :S Next year with school and the new and more organised house I want to stick with it better and emphasise that it is optional, not something she has to do every day.
My 2 are still very little (16 months and 2.5 years) so, unless they are very tired and ready to “zone out” anyway, they actually don’t stay watching TV for more than about 10 minutes at a time. I admit, I find this frustrating at times! I put the TV on for the kids for up to an hour a day (usually late afternoon, while I am preparing dinner or similar), but like I said, the kids usually watch a bit, then wander the house a bit, then come back to it. I am pretty strict on content at this stage. The only choices available are 2 episodes of playschool, or a Colin Buchanan (kids Christian songwriter) DVD.
I change my mind daily on what we should be doing with the TV. I so wish i had the strength to get rid of it forever.
My daughter could sit in front of it for hours if I let her. If things get out of control the TV goes away for a few weeks until life becomes more balanced. We then bring it out again and use it wisely. Its become a bit of a cycle in or household….but it seems to work. After a few weeks of going TV free I swear we’ll never bring it out again (the increase in my daughters creativity and calmness is incredible)…but we usually give in. It’s so addictive.
I have the same issues about TV. My son (4) is much more addicted. My daughter (5) looses interest quickly and find scissors, paper and sticky tape more interesting. But like you, I enjoy TV for myself too. I have made a rule of TV only after 3, only ABC, off when the “baby shows” come on, DVDs only for rainy days, TV only on weekend or day off sort of mornings. I think it works OK. I still think they watch too much but I get a little me time!
A wise mum once told me she uses TV as part of the rhythm to her day. I’ve adopted this too. I pre-record everthing my kids watch, so there is never a moment where they just watch what is there. They are 2 and 3, so it’s mostly playschool or something else that is of interest on ABC2. The times they get to watch are while I’m preparing food, so just before lunch and dinner. They must stay there too, so they are not under my feet or I turn it off! This has been our routine from the beginning and works really well. It probably also helps that neither my husband or myself are real TV people. I do understand that sometimes kids actually just need a bit of down and out time. TV is ok for this. I do wonder how things will change once we move into school ages…!
My kids watch one DVD in the afternoon. Most of them are in the 60-90 minute range. I’ve found that it works well for us. It gives me some time to do other things. And when we have established TV time, it limits the whining and disagreements at other times.
You know, I go in fits with this. At the moment the Bebito (age 2) is watching tv a little more than I’d ideally like but I reckon you’ve hit the nail on the head with the wind down notion. I’m also struggling with the time we spend watching tv of a night and am positive it impacts the “togetherness” of our marriage too. Much food for thought, a most excellent and thought provoking post!
My son used to be addicted (even though I never let him watch much TV), so his TV privileges had to go for a while. First, he winged a lot, then he got used to the no TV routine and started making up his own games. I find that he is much happier, more creative and easier to negotiate with when the TV stays off. Now he watches it once in a while, but he’s not that interested in it anymore.
although i have given up the project of an actual blog with my 2cents about the tv shows that my son watches, or that i watched as a kid, i think it’s clear that most (“thoughtful”..like us blogging mums..) parents have to adjust their attitude on the idiot box when they realize that tv is just as much part of their kids live as it is of their own..
my post on it here:
Kelly Be A Fun Mum says
I’ve really come to peace with the TV. LOL. We are friends now. There are often days when we have “no TV” and my kids often find things to do. And if they don’t, I give them jobs to do… seriously. My kids like TV. I like watching TV sometimes too. But it doesn’t rule our lives. It has its place in our family…
Liga Krista says
We do not have TV at home. Full stop. We, adults, watch DVDs, if screen time wanted and so does yhe 3year old. She has once a week screen time, zhe can chose then which device she wants to use. Of course, there are sometimes exceptions and with the age the screen time will increase, but since we co not use it ourselves, my daughter also doesnt think we would need it everyday :)