I was raised with the rule of watching an hour of TV a day. It irritated me as a child, but as I grew I could see the benefits. So I wanted to limit media for my kids. Here is how I tried to accomplish this. As you can see, it didn’t really work as well as I hoped.
One Child – easier to limit media
When T1 was born, we did have Baby Einstein Videos. He would maybe watch 1 a couple times a week. (Mostly while I showered.) I distinctly remember one night when he had an ear infection and would not be consoled, sitting on the sofa watching and holding him and he “zoned out” and was “content.” That was about the extent of media for him.
When T2 was born suddenly the TV was a tool I used to help me keep T1 (age 2) entertained while I took care of T2. I was also very overwhelmed with 2 kids and the TV became a chance for me to take a break.
As T1 gave up his nap, I would still have him do quiet time in his room. But he was pretty creative.
After a week where he
- smeared poop all over himself
- the next day he emptied a huge tub of Vaseline Petroeum Jelly, smearing it everywhere
- the next day he played with his poop again
I decided an afternoon video was a better choice then so called “quiet time”. So at this point he watched a video each afternoon while T2 napped.
At some point he and T2 would started watching Clifford every night after dinner before bed, while I cleaned up.
So TV was becoming part of our daily rhythm.
It stayed at about this rhythm for years. Though as T1 started school, the “rest” video became an after school video for “downtime” and Clifford still helped me through the evening craziness.
1 more baby joins the fun
Then T3 was born. By now the big boys were watching things like Modern Marvels and Mythbusters. But still only about 1-2 shows a day. If T3 was awake he was “watching” too. He never really watched Baby Einstein, he would just watch the big boy shows. Or we would watch Signing Time Videos together as a family.
I am VERY choosy about what they watched.
We were mostly a PBS/History Channel family, but would watch some Disney and Nick Jr shows, like Little Einsteins and Backyardigans.
Never things like Spongebob or Waverly Place. Those shows have absolutely no value to them in my mind. Why waste time watching that, when you could spend an hour learning about glue? (Modern Marvels, it is actually pretty amazing the things you learn on that show.)
This was an area that grew out of control pretty quickly.
T1 was on the computer as a preschooler. He is gifted (I didn’t realize this when he was a preschooler, but it is SO apparent looking back) he exhausted me with
- his need to constantly learn
- constantly do creative things (for example, playing with poop)
- incessant questions
- the desire to always be read to
He loved playing educational games. I bought into the idea that he can learn so much on the computer. Frankly it gave me a break from feeding his brain.
T2 started on the computer as a preschooler too. He would watch T1 playing a lot. He would play too, but he is more of a computer gamer type of personality. He used it as a toy, not a learning device.
T1 has always used the computer as a way to learn, not as much as a gaming device. For instance we have Flight Simulator and he has gone through I think almost all the flying instructional segments and could probably fly a real plane if he was in the pilots seat. Whereas T2, just randomly tries to fly, it is a game to him.
T3 spent a lot less time on the computer, mostly because it was always being used by his big brothers. Though as we neared our Media Free stage he was playing more “educational games” on PBS or Disney online, or the games we had that still worked on our newer computer platforms.
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Reducing Media Usage for Kids Series
This series was inspired by my 13 year old. He said I need to tell people about this, after seeing the benefits in his quality of life over the last few months as we reduced our media usage.