Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sharing experience on the control of TV viewing

There are a lot of parents who want to share their experience on this issue of TV viewing and I wish to open the debate to this exchange, so please do post your comments here, so all of you will benefit from each other as you are not alone in this.
I am finding raising children TV free to be sometime really challenging, particularly when we are invited to somebody else place and I have to mention first that "we cannot come if the TV is on".
Another mom would also be interested to hear how other families deal with the television issue, particularly if you and your spouse are not (or were not) in agreement about it.
Another mom mention to me "what we see on tv largely does not reflect African American culture in a positive, realistic, balanced, nor accurate light. " and that is why her family do not expose her 3,5 years old to it.
There are so many reason, choices and challenge to share...


  1. Anonymous3:12 PM

    TV, sugar, caffeine, America's deepest
    addictions! My husband and I discussed banning all of
    the above once we had children, but our discussion
    turned to what we had noticed in our personal
    encounters with other people's children who were not
    allowed these overabused mainstream items: those kids
    are obsessed with getting their hands on some!
    For us, TV, like less than healthy foods, has a
    place in the background of our son's life. He's
    almost 2, and he gets tons of active playtime with
    both of his parents and other children. When I try to
    turn on Sesame Street so I can make myself a cup of
    coffee or go to the bathroom in the morning, it
    doesn't work too well because he wants me to watch
    with him. That lasts a few minutes and then he'd
    rather do something else. If he asks to watch
    something, and we feel it's been enough for the day,
    he's very easily sidetracked to another activity
    because other activities are more engaging.
    I realize this may change with time and he may
    not be so easily dissuaded from whatever we feel is
    too much or inappropriate viewing, but for us the key
    is balance with other creative and physical
    activities, time to talk without competing over the
    tv, radio, computer, phones or cell phones! We avoid
    commercials as much as possible, and when we see them
    we talk about them. Our children will be exposed to
    tv and its characters: it should be in our presence
    with open discussion about what they are seeing.
    Conscientious viewing as children is the strongest
    path to conscientious viewing as adults, isn't it?
    Someone posted something a while back questioning
    when pop culture became evil: didn't we all kinda
    connect over people and situations we shared on our
    screens? wasn't what happened on last night's episode
    of "different strokes" a good conversation starter?
    at halloween, wasn't it fun to all share recognition
    of the neighbor kid dressed as some familiar tv
    i have to admit, when we were waiting in the
    hospital for our baby to have a necessary procedure to
    find out if he had cancer, we discovered the
    teletubbies and they were a huge relief. I understood
    the concept-they are toddlers, and i thought it was
    brilliant. when my little guy wants to watch the
    "tubbies" occassionally, he wants to go through the
    whole routine of giving me a big hug, and it's a
    reminder to me of that little bit of mental relief we
    felt in the hospital.
    I think tv can be smart, funny, can be a point of
    connection for families and to others in our
    community, can be a window to distant parts of the
    world! What it should not be is on all the time, on
    without actually being on a show that is being watched
    (flipping channels), or more important than the people
    in the room that it occupies, a point of contstant
    contention in a family. IT has so much power---power
    that we give to it because we get so focused on
    whether or not we should watch it, we forget about all
    the other possible things there are to be done: i am
    aware of the studies that say no viewing time before
    age 2, but for me the issue is what else should be
    happening for that child? is it really neurologically
    damaging for a child to watch baby einstein dvd's for
    an hour everyday because he is watching some tv, or is
    it damaging because the parents of that child consider
    the dvd educational time for their child and don't
    spend real interactive time with them? there is a
    place for entertainment, and that place is in calling
    it what it is!
    while this is not the situation now because we
    live with my father in law part time, in our last home
    we had the only tv in the house in the closet in the
    back bedroom. it was not the focal point of any room,
    and frankly, it made my ass numb to watch it for any
    longer than the length of a feature film because we
    had to open the closet door and sit on the floor (MAX
    2 hours!) While it now sits in front of our sofa, we
    keep it covered with a beautiful piece of fabric when
    we're not watching it, and it's much easier just to
    forget that it's there.
    anyway, that's my 2 (or 5) cents
    I certainly enjoy reading other's take on the subject,
    and find it interesting how the dynamics change when
    one member is a tv addict, or when there is a multi
    child home. good luck figuring out - and
    implementing- what's best for you!

    by the way, does anyone else miss Arrested
    Development? ;)


  2. Anonymous9:11 PM

    I suppose if you use TV as a substitute for attention and other activities, the you are creating a problem. My kids (4 and 22 mo) watch Noggin or PBS in the morning if we have a few minutes before school. I don't let them watch Disney, Nick, or whatever other kids channels we get because there are more crappy ads than anything. I think it can spark a lot of imagination if TV is used as a tool most of the time rather than a pacifier. Mind you, I will be the first to admit if I need a mental health break and want them to just sit down and keep quite, I'll pop in a movie but its not the norm. I did recently read that any amount of TV for kids under 2 can be detrimental because as their brain is developing its picking up this fast paced heighten sense of reality and research is leaning
    towards it being a factor (not a sole cause) in ADHD/ADD. The brain gets used to working at such a rapid pace that it begins to function in that manner most of the time. There by you gets kids that are bouncing off the wall. I notice when both of my kids have been TV drunk because they completely tune me out and just don't listen. Then
    the TV goes off.
    I do understand why some parents cut out TV altogether because they feel its of no value based on a bunch or crappy programming that is out there. But on the other hand, if you put on Animal Planet, PBS, Discovery, Discovery Kids, TLC and my favorite, Food Network, you just can't find a better visual substitute for a lot of what is on those channels. I even bought a BBC kids Spanish video set a few years ago that they both love and are learning from. I don't feel guilty about letting them watch that every day. I think anyone considering tuning out TV completely should look at what you can gain from doing it and what kids can learn from having it on.

  3. Anonymous9:15 PM

    I am also very curious about what others are doing about TV. I did not let my son watch more than a little until he was almost 2. Now he is almost 3, and he loves watching and seems to learn a lot from the shows and videos I let him watch. I try to limit it to no more that 2 hours a day but sometimes it is more, especially since he no longer naps, and the only way he will lay down and rest is with TV. He definitely has many other interests, and plays a lot and rarely will sit for more that 45 minutes at a time and watch, but I still worry about it being too much.

  4. Anonymous9:23 PM

    Have you ever wished that you hadn't seen the movie so that you could enjoy the book unsullied by someone else's visual interpretation? That's how visual media impinges on imagination. But I'm not a anti-TV maniac, just trying to be aware.....

  5. Anonymous9:27 PM

    My daughter is 3 and my son is 6mths.
    We do have morning tv. Unfortunately my husband loves
    his tv and has gotten my daughter used to am shows,
    but also because I have the baby to take care of I
    havn't argued.

  6. Anonymous9:32 PM

    I will admit I am an avid reader (or was until I hit 40 and my eyesight went). I was reading books without pictures before I entered kindergarten. I do think that it is inevitable that my son will someday watch tv but it is my hope that it doesn't happen before he really knows the power of books and what his own imagination and experiences can bring to them. To me there is just something magical about how a book unfolds in your mind - the way your own mind interprets the descriptions or inflections in the dialogue - the part that you yourself add to the characters and events being described.

    Yes kids have wonderful imaginations and love to play superheroes and other characters they know whether it be because they read about them or saw them on tv. But if they read about them, then it is truly theirs - of their own design - as opposed to being someone else's version of the superhero.

    When I was a young girl, I was addicted to Nancy Drew mysteries and so were my best girlfriends. We all played at pretending to be Nancy Drew but each of us had a different version of her. (This was before Nancy Drew was a TV series.) We used to argue about it. "My Nancy Drew would do it this way." "My Nancy Drew wouldn't do that. For some of us Nancy was like ourselves, and for others, our older sister, or favorite teacher, or peer we envied in school.

    TV is also at a different pace - it's own pace - bombardment. Yes my son can learn his abc's and 1,2,3's from watching Sesame Street and sometimes that is probably ok - but it will be at Sesame Street's pace. If he is reading about them, he can read about them at his own pace which may be faster, or slower, or the same speed.

  7. Anonymous9:39 PM

    we have a 2 year old and a 5 month old and the 2 year old could not watch any TV until she was 1 1/2 years old... then she was only able to watch OUR archived copies of the OLD Sesame Street and the Jane Hissey Old Bear Stories. For a total of 30 minutes per day.

    She LOVES the characters....knows how to count, remembers the songs when we are walking and she see's
    "blue" things...etc. We read to her TONS and she is always outside playing and using her imagination, but I really think that the older Sesame Street is a GREAT tool (in limited doses) for kids. Both my husband and I are educated and extremely creative, kind people and
    I know I have Mr. Henson to thank for a little bit of our upbringing.

    This is just an opinion...not meant to spark anything... I just really love my early memories of
    Bert, Ernie, Cookie and Grover.

  8. Anonymous9:48 PM

    I have a 26 month old daughter. We have recently renewed our effort to keep TV to a bare minimum. During the past few weeks we have averaged 2hrs per week. I have found that TV is a slippery slope.
    A little bit a day can quickly lead to more. I attend a weekly toddler group at a Nursery School and the director there strongly recommends not using TV. This has helped me to remain strong in resisting the urge to turn it on. I found that my daughter was getting used to waking up in the morning and wanting to watch tv/einstein. After a few days of no TV she rarely asks for it and when she does she is easily distracted into playing with toys. Yes it is a little extra work at times but I feel so much better at the end of the day knowing that we didn't resort to TV. I take it one day at a time. I find that many of my friend vehemently defend TV watching.... it seems that they just don't want to believe that it is not healthy. I am very interested in any information you have regarding the subject of TV and toddlers.

  9. Anonymous9:54 PM

    My daughter watches very little tv. She needs to learn how to entertain herself with out being entertained and also, there is very little on tv today that lines up with our views of life.
    Also, I do not want her to view violence. She is allowed to watch Clifford, Barney and Caillou but only once or twice per week. She is also enjoys zoom once per week in the evening if we catch it. She loves Madaleine videos so we get them sometimes from the library but I think it is better to get the books that come with the audio tapes. Even then, only some of the Madalaine videos come with my approval. (We don't do stuff with witches, magic, dragons, fortune tellers, etc)
    By the way, she's 2!

  10. Anonymous9:56 PM

    I'm raising my two year old boy girl twins w/o TV and VERY limited educational videos. I watch very little TV myself and don't feel there is much out there watching for the children or me. I took a parenting class recently where several studies were cited (stifles imagination and problem solving abilities) and they reinforced my no TV preference. Young children may not have the ability yet to understand what is happening in most videos...even those supposedly for young children.

  11. Anonymous10:02 PM

    We do not have network TV or cable or video games,but we do have video movies. My 3 years old son gets very involved in what he is watching and identifies very closely with it. He will be a dinosaur for days after he has watched a dinosaur movie. Funny thing is if he watches a tape a few times he gets to the point where he engages in active related play while it is on. If it's a Thomas train video he goes to build a track. If it's Peter Pan, he goes and puts on his costume and gets his pirate ship and so on.
    It doesn't even seem that he's watching the video much after a while. I'm thinking of putting the TV away for a while because he is too attached to it but he does seem to have a very active relationship not a sedentary one. We only watch during the evening and not every evening but we need to reel it in a bit. I am concerned about how it affects his thinking. Ann

  12. Anonymous10:14 PM

    My husband and I choose to not get television reception in our home and the only videos my daughters (5 and nearly 2) watch are home videos (shot with my video camera) now and then. My 5-year-old lucy has watched the Sound of Music, Angelina Ballerina, the Wiggles, Blues Clues, Dora the Explorer, Power Puff Girls, etc. from some play dates (almost every play date has a video at some point) and a couple times when she was sick at home. So she is familiar with pop culture.

    We signed up for cable during the Olympics since our family loves
    athletics and our older daughter is a really strong gymnast. We just watched the television during those weeks to watch the Olympics. But then we discontinued with
    cable afterwards. Because that was one of the first times she had seen commercials, Lucy has memorized most of the sponsors of the Olympics. If she sees an ad
    on a bus that she saw on the commercials, she points it out. For me, the commercials go in one ear and out the other so I don't recognize the ads the way she does.

    She absolutely loves being read to. She does long-term drawing
    projects by herself. For example, she copied the pictures of a fairy tale book this week to create her own book. This was her idea, and she is really proud of
    the book she made. She is bringing it to school today to show the other kids for her share day. She also does a lot of imaginative play with her little sister.

  13. Anonymous10:16 PM

    We are a no tv family and have 3 kids - 9, 6, 3 - all brilliant and creative. They are exposed to what video we allow, which isn't much, and is many times educational. They don't ever see commercials and don't know the TV characters, except thru friends. No one ever asks for it - they have full lives with more time to do other things!!

  14. Anonymous10:25 PM

    We do not watch television, and limit video/movie night to days that are not school nights. We average about one night a week where we watch a video, and ease up when special events (such as the Olympics) are aired. We have children who LOVE the opportunity to watch anything, because they are so seldom given the opportunity. It's a great treat for them...I like that, because they will settle so nicely into a movie on a night when we're dining with friends ...and yet during the week and during the day, we have absolutely no requests for TV. Our children love reading (we have an 8 year old boy who's been reading since 4, and a five year old girl who's reading very simple sentences. I do believe that the lack of TV makes parenting, at times, challenging. We can't "take away" TV. if the kids give us reason to discipline them. We can't use TV as a tool for good behavior. I occasionally feel like our children may be missing out on conversation with friends about certain TV shows. However, the rewards, so far, outweigh any drawbacks. We also have no cable---(still trying to figure out where we'll put the rabbit ears on a plasma TV.--ha). The kids go to bed at 8 p.m. We fill our days with beach time, park time, legos, pretend time, dance time, etc...

    I'd love to be in the majority rather than the minority; it's something I wish more people would "bite the bullet" on, because I think they'd like to; I've heard so many people say that they need the TV. so they can make dinner or drink their morning coffee. It's possible to endure, but it definitely takes effort and creativity. The older children get, the more difficult it is to enforce limits.

  15. Anonymous10:28 PM

    Hi there. We have a two and a half year old and an 8 month and are completely TV free. I feel pretty strongly about it -- while I know that TV has some substantial babysitting advantages, I think it has zero educational advantages for little ones (and may even be detrimental if you believe the ADD studies that came out earlier). If we watch TV we do so after they are in bed.. and never while they are around.

  16. Anonymous10:53 PM

    We didn't let our daughter watch any TV at all (ok, maybe once in
    awhile a football or baseball game - like maybe 3 or 4 times total) until she was 3 or so. We could see how it mesmerized her and caused her to be absolutely
    motionless on the couch. Plus we read a lot about it inhibiting brain development and not giving anything back and heard the same from parenting educators. Plus our parenting educator said that the Academy of Pediatrics said no TV 'til 2, and we figured they are not nearly as alternatively responsible as we want to be.

    We thought about why we would want to let her watch something, and it
    was really (when she was very young) for babysitting purposes, to give us a little break to make dinner, etc. So we got a small table and chairs so that she could do stuff in the kitchen while we were in there. I have to say the table didn't exactly work that way, but somehow we managed.
    The other reason we would want to let her watch, is that she began to want it quite a bit, and, eventually, we didn't want her to feel completely deprived, nor give video extra power by saying that it was so bad it must be completely banned. I grew up mostly without a TV, and I did feel deprived and not really with it around other kids, but on the other hand, I had lots of things I could do for fun, and I have felt my whole life that I was more
    creative, and more imaginative because I didn't sit like a boob in front of the tube being fed non-participatory entertainment. I really hate that if you are watching something in real time you can't stop and talk about
    It completely robs spontaneous conversation, which is pretty precious in a family, especially when raising children. Even now, I only watch one show...because I just don't want to spend my precious time there. My husband watches some, but we have headphones because we live in a small house and the TV would wake our daughter up. This helps me, too, because I can be in the living room without getting mesmerized. I have to say that
    movies and TV have huge power for's hard for me to have
    distance, or to concentrate on anything's always been like that.

    Now that our daughter is six (and I'd say we've been doing this for 2 -3 years) she has "Movie Day" once a week, on Saturday, when she is allowed to watch one thing. For awhile it was a videotape of Little Bill, Dora, etc.
    We have taped Sesame Street and Barney, and recently Angelina
    Ballerina. Sometimes we rent something, or watch a movie taped from TV (like The Music Man), and she does have several movies, but she has not asked to watch The
    Lion King again...I think it's a little much for her. Occasionally we all watch a baseball game together and eat dinner in the living room.
    Recently, however, we have changed the rules to say that she can't get up after breakfast and watch her movie, because she just gets duller and duller, sliding farther and farther down the couch and being in that half-asleep phase before she's actually had any exercise, etc. So now she can
    watch part of it during breakfast preparation, and the rest (or the whole thing) late in the afternoon.

    I am a little concerned that she will not be "up" with her peers if
    they all want to go to a movie... because she gets pretty freaked out by any scary bigimage... and we have to leave. They are so loud and big, and she has not been aculturated to them. We are thinking of some ideas to help with that. I told her that I even now still shut my eyes and put my fingers in my ears when I think
    it's going to be scary, and then I can stay and see the rest of the movie.

    Also, we are completely against all the consumerism that is a main part of all this stuff. We talk about the commercials and about how they just want you to buy stuff, and we like to decide for ourselves what we need to
    When we tape something, we skip over the previews and ads. Our movie outings are so infrequent that we forget that we should go in after the previews, which often are scary and loud and inappropriate. We really
    understand that we have to see something first before we decide if it's okay for her, and that pretty much knocks it out... because when are we going to do that?

    I accidentally caused her to be introduced to video games just this
    week... and I feel bad about it now, because we probably had another six months or so before we got that. Now we'll have to have a rule about that,too.