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How Much TV Is Too Much TV?

Posted by Jen on November 19, 2008 at 7:00 AM in JenMedia
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too much tv

After years and years of not having a working television in the house, we have finally surrendered to the three major networks plus public television, courtesy of the handy-dandy rabbit ears over the very outdated set we inherited from the neighbors. It might as well be 1984 around here.

Before you gasp in admiration (or simple shock) let me assure you our kids have missed not one beat of popular culture over the course of their collective childhoods. Every show they could ever pine for is available in one form or another online (see veg out session above), and they have spent hours catching up on every episode on whatever is the latest and greatest according to the playground digerati.

Now that we have real TV, however, I'm feeling more of a need to control or limit their access. Online if they want to watch hours and hours of WordGirl, I'm delighted since I figure they're learning something. But an hour's worth of commercials in between Saturday morning cartoons? Not so much.

What are your strategies for limiting screen time at your house? Do you make a differentiation between TV and computer time? How do you handle advertising and how much exposure your kids have to media messages?

For those of you justifying your TV habits by plopping the kids in front of PBS, check out this article from Children Now about what constitutes quality children's programming and who fits the bill.


Meera Murali writes...

Generally TV viewing takes place in evening hours at our place and I choose the same timings to schedule one of the following
Play games as a family
Visit the local YMCA
Go out for a drive.
Watch a family program once a week or something with husband and kids
In a matter of few weeks the habit of everyday TV watching reduces.

Summer writes...

If your children are spending hours on the computer "catching up", you have essentially allowed them to switch from one addiction to another. Hours on any "system": TV, Computers, Video Games, iPods, hours spent not learning how to interact with other people. It stifle their creativity, promotes inactivity, and is generally not good. I would be willing to bet that your kids might be accessing or even inadvertently exposed to. Unless you are sitting right there with them, it's highly likely. And if you are like every other overworked, busy, active mom in America you aren't sitting right there. Been there.

Limit their time. That's it. Change the rules. Set time limits. Pull the plug. Lock up your computer with a password so they can't get into the computer when you aren't even there. (Good advice for later if they're not left alone yet). This won't be fun or pretty, but worth it.

Books are good too.

Another opinion of mine: If you have cable, your kids and quite possibly alot of you, are watching to much TV. AND your spending money that could be going else where.

Jess writes...

We just handed over our TV (also equipped with rabbit ears) to my younger sister and we're giving a TV-less existence a try for at least a couple of months. I'm sure we'll still have a fair bit of screen time, since one son is a fan of the Cyberchase games online, both of the older boys love, and the laptop doubles as a handy dandy DVD player, so we'll see whether or not a dedicated TV set returns to the house next year.

Re: setting limits, I created TV tokens that helped us to get back into better habits when screen time got out of hand. I blogged about it on Spark, a site I started but have sadly neglected!

Robin writes...

We actively use a DVR. fast forward thru commercials and watch programs as a family. The only exception to this is the Sprout network and Disney channel (and morning PBS). There are commercials there, which drive me crazy, but at least the content is age-appropriate.

Izzy writes...

My 3 year old is into TV as well. There are a few cable channels that are specifically for his age (Sprout & Noggin), and there is PBS (love Word World, World Girl, etc!). But now he's branching out into other channels...with nonstop toy commercials. That, I don't like.

Thankfully he likes the computer too, so I let him go and play Diego online. I'm more for computer time than TV time.

Robert Moraes writes...

Actually with DVD players being in the house, and you can get a very,very basic cable hookup, You can control what your kids watch. PBS has many of it's children's programs on DVD. and as for movies, well just look at the Film rating on the film's DVD package. It can be very helpful

Gamer Mom writes...

We don't have cable TV in our house, but we do allow our kids a lot of screen time in the form of interactive entertainment and PBS.

Sitting in front of a TV for hours on end is not good for anyone-- adults included. It leaves you feeling lethargic, brain dead and sometimes depressed. But video games on the other hand challenge your brain and are anything but a passive experience.

Games can also be a social activity as well as an energetic one. Some of these games are regular aerobic workouts where my kids keep stopping to get some water due to all the sweating, and they love it. It's a nightly family activity around here and it gives the family a real chance to bond together.

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