Screen Time

This month over at PAIL bloggers the monthly call-out for posts was about one’s thoughts on TV/screen time for your children.  If you’d like to submit a post you have until midnight tonight (8/22).  If you can’t make the deadline, check back each month for our monthly theme-post call-out.

Like most parenting issues, the topic of television can be a highly charged topic.  My views are my views, and I frankly don’t give a hoot if you let your child watch TV 24-7, that’s your deal.

My feelings around TV stemmed from a time in my life where I had a TV in my room in college and COULD NOT fall asleep without the TV on all night long.  I knew that reasearch showed doing this actually led to poor sleep quality, but I just had to have it on.  This continued for years into my post-graduate education.  Finally one day I just stopped.  I decided that TV was evil and I was not going to watch any of it, at any time, anymore.

My sleep improved, my running improved, I started yoga for 45 minutes a day and I spent time, actual time, doing things instead of watching them on TV.  When Jacob and I married the TV debate began.  He was in favor of having TV and I was not.  But eventually the “if we don’t have TV how will we watch the Redsox games?” won me over.  Yes, I am a baseball junkie.  It wasn’t that I thought TV was all that bad, in moderation, I just knew myself well enough to know that I could easily slip back into my old patterns of constantly having the TV on.  Though we both agreed no TV in the bedrooms.

A year-and-a-half ago we bought a house and when we moved we made the financial decision to not have a TV subscription.  None, not one channel.  It saved us like $50 a month and we could spend that money on having date nights and such.  Now, one caveat, we did have Netflix which we used to watch a movie or an old TV episode here and there.  Or for when I walked on the treadmill while preggo and the only thing that kept me going (bec of all the back pain) was watching old episodes of ‘Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman‘ (shut up! It’s an awesome show and hellooo Sully!)  But for the most part the TV was on in our house only about 3-5 hours a week.

Now we have moved to a new house, a house that my DH’s new church pays for including a TV subscription.  At first I thought, ‘oh, no biggie, we probably won’t watch it much.‘  Like a crack addict back on the street after a 30 day stint at Betty Ford, we have the TV on pretty much nonstop.  Now, I am breastfeeding, which means more often than not there is a small child attached to me for long periods of time.  Being able to turn the TV on for when she’s non-stop nursing is pretty helpful.  And for the first few weeks post partum when I was a hormonal mess, turning on a comedy show to make me laugh was a HUGE stress relief.

But now that we’ve settled a bit my old worries are coming back. If we have the TV on constantly now, what is Stella going to grow up learning?  I’ve already noticed I tend to ‘zombie-out’ while watching TV and holding her.  Meaning I’m not paying as much attention to her as I could be.  We are modeling behavior for her and while she may not pick up on it now, she will very quickly.

Now lets flash back to ‘the toddler’.  We had a foster child who was almost 4 years old when we got him.   Now, granted, a foster child comes with some special needs and behavioral issues, but essentially kids are kids.  So we continued with our ‘no-TV’ policy and the toddler never really asked to watch TV.  However, there were times when I was preggo, had worked all day while having the foster infant with me at work, dropped off and picked up the toddler from preschool, and gotten home and just needed a break.

So we started to let the toddler watch one episode of ‘Veggie Tales‘  or a sign-language learning video a day.  We had the DVDs so there were no commercials that would try to market crap to my kid and this series of DVDs has a very moderate underlying Christian theme so we really liked that.  And not to mention, they’re hilarious.  Often I would watch with the toddler and get some rest while also engaging him about what he was watching.  I would sometimes even close my eyes as we snuggled on the couch however that ended when the toddler caught on and started yelling “YOUR MISSING IT, YOUR MISSING IT!”  Awesome.

So where do I stand?  I guess my biggest issue with TV is it lets you ‘check out‘.  You don’t need to watch your child, engage with them, or do anything.  Now I understand that sometimes you need that.  We all need a break and TV is an easy way to accomplish that.  But children are quite capable of entertaining themselves without TV.   We would often tell the toddler that it was time for him to play with his toys or books while we made dinner or such and he did.  And he had a wonderful time making up games and other imaginary stories.  There is a parenting philosophy out there that you MUST be 100% engaging with your child at ALL times while they play and go about their day.

I think that is total crap.  First of all if my parents had been all up in my face as a kid I would have been a very annoyed little kid.  How else can you have adventures outside, climb trees, play(fight) with your siblings, make mud pies, and all that other great stuff if you constantly have some over-achieving parent in your face trying to make you do ‘enrichment‘ activities?  I’m all for guided-play and enrichment but a kid also just needs to have time to be a kid and use their own imagination.

I am also greatly disturbed by the subtle and also blatant  body images/gender roles and sexuality and other messages that are rampant in even shows for 4-5 year olds.  I’m not going to post the research here, but you go ahead and google-up this issue if you want to learn more.  There are also messages of consumerism, distorted body images, violence, etc.  It goes on.  And then the commercials!  Oy, even more exposure to sexual and violent images.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think kids need to be taught about sexuality and life and death mortality issues.  But TV shouldn’t be the one teaching it to my kids.  And that’s again the issue, parents checking out and not engaging with their child about the images they are seeing.

I feel the same about computer games/hand-held games.  They market them now as “educational” for as young as 2 years old.  I don’t care how educational these toys are, you cannot tell me they are more educational than a child actually interacting with their environment and other people!  ‘But how will little Johnny learn to count’  without their V-techy-whatever thing you ask?  I don’t know, the way we all did before all this crap was available for kids?

Ultimately I think my philosophy will come down to one of moderation.  Will my kid’s brain rot from watching a little TV? No.  Do I plan to let them watch a lot? No.  If they complain I will open up our door and say “behold, the great outdoors, go do something and try not to break any bones while doing it!”  And they will roll their eyes and tell me I am the WORST parent ever, and I will then know that I have done my job as a parent for that day.


9 responses to “Screen Time

  1. Your last line is pretty much the best. Please have t-shirts with this printed on it made up and shipped accordingly. (And here I was all worried your post would say that TV is LITERALLY The Devil 😉 )

    What I really appreciated about this is your admission that you used to be pretty much addicted/dependent on TV. I remember a time in my life when all I had to look forward to were new episodes of Insert Name of Show for Every Night of the Week here. I was watching it from 5-12 every night. SEVEN HOURS a day. I was depressed, overweight, and uninterested in my own life. When I finally left that situation, I stopped watching TV entirely and my life improved 1000%. I’m not saying no TV was the reason, but I am not NOT saying that either. I grew up in a house with more TV sets than people. I do not want that for my life, for my family. I want my kids to learn by doing, not by seeing. So I need to do better at this for myself too.

  2. I used to be obsessed with Dr. Quinn! Sully is HOT 🙂

    I think this whole subject has really made me see how I do things myself. We have the TV on a lot at home. I am now addicted to my iPhone. I jump at an opportunity to blog. If I want my kids to interatct with the world I need to lead by example and start putting these things on the back burner more often.

  3. LOL Dr. Quinn! (I’m sorry…) I used to watch that 😉

    I totally zombie out on the phone. Like, all day. Me never responding to emails but constantly on Twitter? Phone in hand (I save the serious writing for my laptop). It’s bad. I really need to work on this.

  4. Pingback: august 2012 – monthly theme posts – screen time – PAIL Bloggers

  5. “behold, the great outdoors, go do something and try not to break any bones while doing it!” And they will roll their eyes and tell me I am the WORST parent ever, and I will then know that I have done my job as a parent for that day.

    That is the best line I’ve read all day…freaking hilarious!!! I’m almost postive I’m going to save it and use it when my daughter is old enough…it’s way better than when my mother used to tell me to go play in traffic….Great post!

  6. Oh. My. God. Woman after my own heart. No, I don’t mean about TV or no TV. I mean about Sully. Seriously it was absolutely my favorite show growing up. I have looked multiple times at buying the boxed DVD set because it was so awesome. And, damn, Sully is GORGEOUS. He’s so manly and rugged and sexy and… um, what was I supposed to be writing about?

    Anyway, back to the topic at hand – yes, moderation is key. A little of this, a little of that.

    And, dude, what is this parenting philosophy about engaging ALL the time?? I have been meaning to post recently about how one of the most important things I want to do with my daughter is to foment undirected, independent play. I don’t need my child to learn that she must constantly entertained! She needs to learn to entertain herself!

  7. well where do I began, when I was a kid, a long,long,long time ago, the tv we did have was very small and black and white. 3 channels? we watch Hop a cassidy, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, the Lone Ranger, lassie, mickey mouse club etc you get the pic. we played a lot out doors, camping out in the woods, baseball football and fighting with my brother. Today TV is well you have to select what you want the kids to watch. or at least moditor. As for my wife and I we enjoy are sitcoms, the New York Yankees. I love the History channel, Outdoor channel.

  8. I can’t spell either, and this is the 21st Century, and TV, the computer and I phone are here to stay, like it or not and if don’t like it you were born 150 years to late.
    PS I probably should read things over before I post but you get the point

  9. First off, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman was DEFINITELY a show we watched as a family back in the day. Glad to know I’m not the only one. 🙂

    But yeah, moderation in all things…and that’s hard to teach when you know that you yourself have a hard time moderating yourself with the TV (for the record, I’m the same way – don’t give a whit about it if I don’t have it, but now that I do, i watch HOURS every day). I’m afraid of checking out too much and missing precious moments of my daughter’s life b/c I was too busy writing an email / watching a show / etc.

    I know this month’s post was my idea, but I’m stoked about it, b/c it has honestly made me think a LOT more about my own usage and not just about what I’ll allow Stella to do. Great to read all of your insights about it as well!

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