I feel I should have started Friday’s post with a disclaimer of sorts. This blog and the views posted on it are solely my own personal thoughts and opinions. I am a firm believer that what works for me and my family does not mean that I think all families should follow suit. I do not write to cast judgment on anyone’s personal views and I welcome courteous discussion regarding any subject I choose to write about.
One of the most difficult aspects of understanding what is “best” in regards to TV viewing and children are the “facts” and opinions shared about it. Shared from other parents. Shared from your parents. Shared from the pediatrician, the talking heads, conservative websites, liberal websites. You name it, there’s an opinion on every level. I have friends who are educators who rail against kids watching TV and I have educator friends who see no problem with either TV or computer access being allowed to any child of any age. Sometimes, the opinions come with validated reasons and other times, usually from other parents, they are perplexed about the issue and aren’t secure in the decisions they’ve made regarding media in the home.
Just because the AAP says “not before the age of 2” does not mean that all children who view screens of any kind prior to that age are forever “messed up”. And just because an adult grew up watching hours of television each day does not mean that they should use that reasoning to decide whether or not watching TV is a good thing for kids today. Each child is different, processes things differently, has different vulnerabilities, different strengths. What can negatively impact one child can seemingly appear to have little impact on another child of the same age. It can be very confusing to know the best direction to take!
With that said, our reasons for strongly limiting access to TV viewing and computer screen time, both for ourselves and for our children, come from various sources and, as the blog post title states, are in a continual state of change. What seems to be working for us right now does not mean that we plan to stick with this as long as we have children in the home. However, it is working for now, which is why I feel compelled to share about it.
When we started down the path of learning more about the issues concerning D is when I started paying a little more attention to how much time he was spending in front of the TV. After his appointment with a behavioral pediatrician in May of this year, I really took notice and began to gradually pull back his TV allotment. 1 show here, 15 minutes there, and soon D was down to 1 hour in the mornings and maybe an hour or so in the afternoons. Improvement!
I began to notice how very little attention L paid to the television. Even if he seemed excited about a movie or a show coming on at first, he rarely could sit longer than a few minutes before he was off and running, wanting to play. This difference between the boys caused loads of “fights” between them as D was literally glued to the TV and L would constantly try to get his attention, not to bug him, but because he really wanted to play with him.
Summer came which meant lots of traveling for us. Screen viewing happened in large chunks of time on the airplane or in hotel rooms, but overall I would say he got less screen time during our travels than he would have if we’d been home. This was a definite benefit to curtailing his viewing time at home.
Another step I took that helped me tremendously was to “hide” the TV from sight. We didn’t have an entertainment center that allowed for the TV to be behind doors, so I got cheap and crafty and devised a curtain for where the TV sat. I bought a small tension rod and then found a single curtain panel that matched the color of the entertainment center. Voila ~ a hidden TV!
Having the TV set out of sight was a benefit for both D and for myself. The temptation to just click it on at any random time of the day diminished and eventually both boys stopped messing around with the curtain, wondering what in the world I was doing. Instead, they used the curtain as a place to hide…because they were playing with each other a lot more instead of fighting.
I decided to use the start of the school year as the “push” for our new, limited TV schedule. At this point, neither Hubs or I were changing much of our habits. I watched maybe an hour of TV at night – maybe. Hubs would only watch the TV for various sports games and highlights. Once school started, I let D know that the TV would not be on before school in the mornings and that he could have 1 show after school in the afternoons, after his rest time. Since I wasn’t going “cold turkey” on him, this was not a problem for him at all.
This schedule was going well. I had no complaints whatsoever and I felt we had made huge progress from how much screen time both boys were having from the beginning of the year. School started the first week of September for D. On September 19th, Hubs and I both had the opportunity to attend a lecture given by Kim John Payne, author of the book Simplicity Parenting, who also has a vast array of experience in the field of education and counseling.
It was an eye-opening evening for both of us, and that night became the catalyst for why we pulled the plug even more for both us and our children, along with a few other changes leading to “less” in the home.
Thanks for reading thus far; more thoughts on media to come!