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Why I Don't Limit My Kids' TV Time

Ez - posted on 10/20/2011 ( 27 moms have responded )




While one study showed that too much television as a toddler led to attention-related problems as a first grader, a second study suggested that the amount of television a child watches in the first two years of life had no effect on future test scores. Further studies delved into the effects of the types of programs a child was exposed to — entertaining shows, like Batman, vs educational shows, like Sesame Street.

My opinion? We are drastically overthinking this.

As an adult who was raised in a home where I was free to watch as much or as little television as I pleased and even (gasp!) had one in my room from an early age, I see absolutely no evidence that this has had any negative impact on my life. As a child, I was just as likely to pick up a book as turn on the television. To me, the unrestricted access meant I didn’t assign a high value to television time. I knew that I could watch whenever I wanted and this contributed to the loss of it’s appeal.

So who restricts TV time, and who takes a more laidback approach?

I actually agree wholeheartedly with the italicized portion of the post. I see this in my daughter. Our TV is on Sesame Street right now, and she is in the play room 'cooking' at her kitchen.



Sylvia - posted on 10/21/2011




I'm frankly a little sceptical of the argument that because a study or studies show that screen time doesn't affect test scores (I have read this before -- it's in Freakonomics), therefore it's perfectly okay and has no effect. Are test scores the only thing that matters? Do we not care about physical fitness, activity levels, health, creativity, problem-solving ability, attention span, independence, compassion, empathy, social intelligence, happiness? Do we know for sure that TV for babies/toddlers/kids doesn't affect any of those factors, or a hundred others that you might be able to think of?

I mean, if you think about it, TV is basically just a vast uncontrolled social experiment of which practically nobody is even attempting to determine the results.

I'm on the fence about limiting screen time. On the one hand, I know from experience that the more strictly TV is controlled and restricted at home, the more kids gravitate toward it elsewhere, so that tends to be a self-defeating strategy. And I don't think TV is ipso facto evil or anything, in fact I like to watch TV sometimes myself -- and I'm the first to admit that there are times when half an hour of the electronic babysitter is EXACTLY what the frazzled parent of a cranky child needs.

What I detest is this habit DH has, or used to have, of walking in the door and *instantly* turning on the TV, regardless of whether or not there's anything on that he wants to watch. I hate TV-as-constant-background -- I couldn't live like that. I don't like TV in the bedroom. I hate it when you go over to someone's house and everyone just sits there watching TV instead of interacting. I don't like to have the hockey game on while we're playing cards; I don't like to watch TV during dinner. I would never buy my kid a TV for her room.

DD isn't allowed to watch TV until her homework is done. She's not allowed to watch "adult" shows (except Doctor Who) or anything that seems likely to give her nightmares. She's not allowed to watch Hannah Montana, because it crosses that line from "stupid and annoying" into "so stupid and annoying that mummy and daddy can't stand it." So there are restrictions. And the restrictions were stricter when she was younger: for her first year of life, when I was on mat leave, there was no TV during the day, except during her late-afternoon nap, when she was cluster-nursing and I was brain-dead from being up and around since six in the morning, and MASH reruns were on for an hour; then she discovered the Muppet Show ("Uppets! Uppets!"); then we had a few years of limited viewing of Treehouse; now it's the horrible Family (i.e., Disney) Channel, but at least THANK G-D she has outgrown horrible, horrible Dora...

Sara - posted on 10/21/2011




I don't restrict TV time. And you know what? She mostly does pretend play in her room or works on crafts with me. And most of the stuff she does watch is educational anyway, and she really does learn from it.

The way I look at it is this: my husband and I were both raised in homes that didn't restrict access and we are not functionally retarded or uninterested in things outside of TV. We both went to college and are functioning members of society, so I assume our children will be much the same.

[deleted account]

I am not anal over it at all.Balance is key.

All day watching it and its a nice day out, i don't have to tell the kids to turn it off, there going to want to jump up, turn off the tv and play outside.

We watch tv a good bit but not to the point we get to do nothing else.

We do arts&crafts and outdoor fun also.

My first is seven and top of the class.She was reading beyond her level at age 5 when she started school.

She has no problems academically or concentration wise.

As for the 2 year old, she had her d/check up 2 weeks ago and the doctor was very impressed to the point she took a few long pauses to discuss how amazed she was.It was the same when our seven year old was at her check ups.

Tv can be educational also.Our 2 year old told the doc the colours she held up in Spanish there was about five colours.She then asked what is that colour in English and she told her.She loves Dora the explorer.She can also say Irish words as were Irish.

[deleted account]

I agree with Sylvia's comment on TV being a social experiment with the minds of an entire generation. Make that 3 generations.

I think TV is an unnatural thing that takes over people's lives and sucks real life out of the house.

All the time that kids spend glued to the TV they are not playing with each other, making things, imagining things and doing a whole lot of other fun stuff.

I can't believe that the original article made it sounds as if test scrores were the only issue.

I absoultely control TV watching.

Lady Heather - posted on 10/20/2011




I've been kind of lax during the tougher moments of this pregnancy. I am kind of picky about what shows she sees. I like things with pretty obvious learning. Fortunately those seem to be the things she gravitates too as well. I don't worry about it because if she is ever given the choice between running around outside and watching tv, she will always pick running around outside.

Anyways, she learned her whole alphabet (lower and upper case) from Super Why. I had no idea she knew them and then one day she just started telling me what all the letters were on everything. So thanks TV. haha.


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Rachael - posted on 02/24/2019




Our children were never allowed to watch tv at home until they started schhol. It was usually a treat else where. Once they started school each of them had one show that they could watch, while siblings were bathing.

Kacie - posted on 11/15/2011




i think it depends on the kid. the tv is always on, but its mostly background noise. our son is busy with other things. if its turned off, its no big deal for him. we only have one tv (i dont believe in tvs in the bedrooms, not just for kid(s) but ours too)

Jeannette - posted on 11/14/2011




We limited our kids t.v. Growing up. Instead of inside toys, we bought outside toys. They could ask for a book or a board game any time of the year, but any other toy was for birthdays, Christmas, and Easter. We actually turned our t.v. Off for four years in a row, then put it back on for a couple, had it turned off for a year, and just got it back on about two months ago. The decision was based on the irritating fact that we were paying so much money a month and weren't watching it.
Also, held off on owning a console until the youngest was 9 almost 10. That was a big deal to us. Our kids enjoy outside activities as much as inside now. We even bought the equipment to view movies or play video games outside!
I think it depends on the family too. Plenty of people watch hours and hours of t.v., but still go and do things.
Either way I think could work.

Christina - posted on 10/28/2011




Guess I'm an odd ball too! I wouldnt say restrict as much as limit! There are plenty of things to do around the house then for me to do it ALL and watch the "boys" (including hubby) lounge around all day like Al Bundy. They would have no problem at all either watching TV or playing PS3...THE ENITIRE DAY...seriously! If I didnt say anything (cause Ive tested it) lol they will sit in their pjs all day & do NOTHING!! I just cant handle it. It seems like my list of to do's are never ending & they can sit all day & do nothing?? Not happening!! They have certain time slots on the game (mostly at night), because most of the games are war games w/ bad language & they seem to be too envolved in the game to realize my 2 yr old running around saying "pow-pow daddy shoot em up" TV time is in the AM till about 10ish and then its dressed and doing something together. We all like COMPLETLY different things so finding a movie or show we all like, is impossible! M-F is soo busy that we really dont have anytime for TV anyway and the weeknds are the only quality time we get, Im not gonna waste it in front of a tube that has nothing but garbage coming out of it half the time anyway. If my oldest son wants to be alone & watch TV, he can do that at anytime in his room...just not all day! My 2yr old does not watch any TV as far as shows. He has DVD's in his play room that are appropriate for his age. I grew up in a house where there was no limits or restrictions at all...the TV was our babysitter 24/7 and man I hated it! There was never any family time or communication..just fake family reality of different shows that depressed me mostly. Why watch a show about a family spending time together??? lol...I dont know maybe I'm alone in this... but its silly to me I guess. I knew then that TV wouldnt be a focal point in my home...I enjoy the family time over TV time! :)

[deleted account]

I am with Sylvia on this one. It's hard to say which effect tv consumption really has on kids, so I rather play it safe and limit it. There might be one study saying that it's not detrimental, but there seem to be plenty more saying that it is, particularly under the age of 2. Now that my daughter is over 2 I don't mind my partner turning on a kid's programm for her in the morning. I know it's not too long because they love to go outside no matter the weather and he tells me she gets great fun out of it, particularly when it contains music. But knowing that he turns it on already means I won't, unless she is ill. If the weather is bad, we bake or paint or do other stuff. She'll be allowed to watch more when she gets older, but I certainly will keep a close eye on it.

[deleted account]

We have no 'tv' only dvd's, but I don't restrict them. I do restrict times (not before school and not before homework), but don't limit how much they can watch when things are done.

Starfish - posted on 10/21/2011




I do it on a day by day basis. Most days, the tv is on, but not given much thought to. If anyone seems to be too absorbed, I propose we shut it off for a while and do something else fun, like go to the park.

But most of the time, it's a non-issue.

Jenn - posted on 10/21/2011




When I was a kid, the neighbors didn't let their kids watch when they came over to play, all they would do is stare like zombies at our tv!

I don't restrict tv too much. My kids spend far more time outside, playing or crafting than they watch the tv. And, they have learned some cool facts that they throw out randomly from shows like Dino Dan and Sesame Street!

Denikka - posted on 10/21/2011




I'm another one who has the TV on all day. I prefer it as back ground noise, and a chunk of the day I have Treehouse on for my 2.5yr old.
He's also a kid who doesn't sit for long. We spend about an hour in the morning right after waking up, just to kinda get going. Then we have breakfast and it's off to play. Periodically he'll sit and watch something, but most of the day he'll be running around, playing with toys, tormenting his sister, getting into things, etc :P

Caitlin - posted on 10/21/2011




Our weather is pretty much always chilly ad rainy right now, so it's on most fo the time. Both my girls don't sit there and stare, they may watch for 5 mons ro so then wander off to do other things. My oldest one likes running around driving me crazy and my second loves flipping through board books. My older daughter learned all her alphabet, just like Heather's from Super Why and shows like that. I only leave it on PBS and in the afternoon it's either off or I have DVDs on depending on the level of distraction I need. We do crafts and such still, and it's mostly just on for background, I don't really limit it's access (I only pick up 2 channels anyways, PBS being one of them, so no big deal).

Lady - posted on 10/21/2011




It depends on them and me - if I need some time and space to do something I will let them watch more than other times - in bad weather as well I let them watch a little more - I will turn it off though if it's a nice day and I want them to go out and if I feel that all they'e done is stare at a screen whether it be tv or x box or computer - I'll tell them to go do something else. But I agree by not making a big deal of it they don't crave it and will quite often chose to do something other than watch tv all by themselves - luckily my children are quite creative when it comes to imaginitive play - although sometimes their games are inspired by something they have watched but rather than watch more telly they'll go off and continue whatever they have just seen in their own way - an other good thing about having so many kids is that they always have a play mate to share things with :-)

Sarah - posted on 10/21/2011




As with most things, I think moderation is the key.
My eldest (7yrs) is more into playing the computer, and is at school most of the day, so she doesn't watch much tv anyway.
My youngest is at pre-school 3 days a week, but the days she's at home with me, she does like to have the tv on. If she was just sat staring at the tv all day, I would start limiting it, but she joins in with all the shows (she's using her Mighty Maths Powers as I type! lol) and she often wanders off and plays, gets books or puzzles out etc.

I think so long as a child isn't just staring blankly at a tv screen all day, then tv isn't the worst thing in the world!

Becky - posted on 10/21/2011




We don't really restrict TV time here. On days where we're home all day, the TV is generally on most of the day. The boys aren't glued to it though. They have their favorite shows that they will watch, but even those sometimes they ignore. (probably because the kids' channels play reruns so much, they practically have them memorized!) If I want to watch a grown-up program, the kids pretty much ignore it. I am cautious about what I watch while they're up though, I avoid overly violent or frightening shows, or some of the ones that have a lot of psychological violence and darkness, like Criminal Minds.
The boys still play with their toys, do crafts, are very imaginative, and if given the opportunity, would generally rather go out and do something than sit around and watch TV. I find that when they resist going out in favor of watching TV, it's usually that they're really tired or it turns out that they're coming down with something.

The boys have both learned quite a lot from TV. Cole can count backwards from 10 and count to 10 in Spanish thanks to Mickey Mouse and Handy Manny. And Zach, who is barely 2, knows a lot of his shapes, again thanks to Mickey Mouse. Of course, I also have MM to thank for teaching my barely 2 year old to go around saying "chicken butt!" and laughing his head off! :p

Brittany - posted on 10/20/2011




We do not have cable. So no TV here. We have a TV and a PS3. As a matter of fact my oldest son has been up playing video games with his dad for the last three or four hours while I did homework.

He is having surgery tomorrow, so no school.

Stifler's - posted on 10/20/2011




My kid is the same... plays while ABCkids is on. Sometimes if he is tired he will sit on the couch and pay attention. If he's paying attention for a long time i switch it off and encourage him to go outside.

[deleted account]

I'll be the oddball...I do restrict it. I very much dislike having the tv on all day long. It gives me a headache. And Eliza will get distracted from creative play if it's on.

With that said, I don't sit there with a timer and turn it off at a certain time. She generally watches PBS in the morning while I'm making breakfast and getting ready for my day. And she'll watch a movie after supper on the nights that Jason is working, so I can focus on putting the baby to bed and cleaning the kitchen. Of course, if one of us is sick or over-tired, I'll allow more tv than usual. During the course of the day I like to keep us busy with other things.

Tara - posted on 10/20/2011




Yep they have free reign of the tv time, what they watch is a joint decision between them and myself.
And I also agree with the italicized comments. My kids will only watch stuff that really interests them. Some days they will watch more, rainy days, boring cold days of winter etc. and many days they won't watch any. And I have never witnessed one of my kids watch tv for more than 2 hours at a stretch and that was an "I carly marathon" on Netflix.
No restrictions on time in our house.

Ez - posted on 10/20/2011




I think it obviously depends on the child's personality too. If I had a kid who would forgo other activities (playing outside, art and craft, imaginative play) then I would certainly reassess my approach. But as things stand now, TV is really a non-issue. She watches a bit when she wants, but would generally rather be doing just about anything else. Including 'helping' me with housework lol.

Charlie - posted on 10/20/2011




I dont restrict it but I do encourage outside or imaginative play if Cooper ( he is the only one interersted) feels he wants to rest I let him but he generally doesnt watch it that much usually when he is tired right before his day time nap.

Minnie - posted on 10/20/2011




I think we're pretty middle ground. We don't watch US television, only foreign programs because I find they just are easier on the eye and not so flashy.

I do put a limit to the amount of time. It varies by day, their moods and mine. Depends! On a grouchy sick day we'll watch it all day long because that's all that keeps us off our misery (like this week, with the kid suffering from pneumonia, yeah it's mighty machines and kipper allll the time.) On regular days we're outside all day and doing school.

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