Monday, August 20, 2012

PAIL Monthly Theme Post - TV Time

The question this month at PAIL is concerning Television screen time and your child.

I find this an interesting subject because it is, of course, very subjective and frankly, changeable with age.

We have a general guideline with our children.  The general guide is they can have a 1/2 hour of television time in the morning and then 1/2 hour of television at night and then there might be 1/2 hour of "family" television.  On the weekends this can be changed to 1/2 - 1 an hour morning and night.  And there are exceptions for movies and special events.

That is the general guideline but it is not so strictly enforced.  And here is why:

--During the summer and school vacations, rules are relaxed.

--My son is now 13 years old.  Sometimes he wants to play a video game for 1/2 hour and then later on watch television too.

--Having a 13 year old in the house often means my four year old gets exposure to television and computers a lot more than I would necessarily like.  Distraction only works so well sometimes.

--We make exceptions often for good behavior or long days or times when it is rainy/snowy, etc.

Here are rules that are NOT BROKEN:

--85% of the time a parent is watching with the child (this hasn't changed that much even with my 13 year old--in fact, we watch a lot of shows with him like 30 Rock and Modern Family)

--after a media time there is a break.  The media is turned off.  People explore books or the outdoors or whatever.  Some meaningful time away from the media is important.

--No handheld games.  No DVDs in the car.  There are plenty of opportunities for these things, why make it even more portable.**

--We have one television in our living room; the computer is in a corner in the living room.  This is our family area, this is where most of the watching occurs.  The only other television is in our bedroom, I mainly use it for morning exercising.

My television/computer usage philosophy is pretty open.  It has changed as my son has gotten older. We have put in parental controls on the television and the computer.  He occasionally surfs the web now and we monitor what his history is.  He is not on Facebook or other social media, although he does on-line games. He often watches programs with us that have more adult content.  He started watching R rated movies with us when he was 11 years old (violence doesn't bother us or him--it is sexual content that we are more vigilant about).  (Btw some of the R rated movies were Saving Private Ryan and Schindler's List).

Our philosphy has changed as we added another child.  For example, there was no television usage at all until my son was age 2 years.  Obviously, my daughter was exposed a lot earlier, as my son was 9-10 years old when my daughter was born.  She has definitely had more television viewing and more movies under her belt...she has went to the movies since she was 6 months old.  One of the ways we limit her exposure is to make sure her bedtime is reinforced so that we have time to watch our shows.  Or if our son wants to watch a specific type of program, he has to wait until a parent takes her out of the viewing area (outdoors, etc.).

This can sometimes mean that it takes us two years to get through Walking Dead (because our son wants to watch it with us so we have to have a conflagration of time when our daughter is asleep, husband is not working, son is not going to school the next morning, we are in the mood, etc.).  But thank the gods for DVRs, DVDs and Netflix.

Media can be a good teaching tool.  Often we watch meaningful movies or documentaries with our son and discuss them with him (see above). My daughter watches mainly educational television and I try (oh gosh this is HARD sometimes!) to watch them with her and engage her.

Media can also be a great source of entertainment and family time.  We are science fiction Geeks so we take it upon ourselves to have our children well versed in Star Trek and Twilight Zone.  And the many times we have had a Rock Band party or a Wii bowling tournament has shown us how to be together rather than apart.

However, as with most things, moderation is the key.

We also take our kids to museums and theatrical shows, to zoos, plays and concerts.  We are lucky we live in a wonderful area to expose them to history, nature and the arts and we take advantage of that as much as possible.  We have Friday night family gaming nights (sometimes lately that is movie night) and we try to maintain that balance.
**UPDATED TO ADD: Someone in the comments mentioned going on long trips and portable devices. This is what I put into the comments section: We have most of our relatives living in Michigan, so we have taken 14-18 hour (one way) trips with our kids. And no portable devices. We play games, kids sleep, we have them pick songs etc. We talk. No need to have videos whatsoever. Yeah, long car rides can be boring--or they can be an adventure! If we get too bored/tired--we stop along the way.


J o s e y said...

I love this! Your entire concept seems to be very close to my hopes and ideals for my family. It was great reading a perspective from someone with an older child as well, since you've actually had time to implement it in real life!

Anonymous said...

I imagine it is hard to balance it with an older child! I like the idea of media, tv, pc, being in one public room of the house. Computers/tv in a kid's bedroom horrifies me. Great post!

SRB said...

I really appreciated reading this account of how to handle this issue with older kids. I like to think this is where we are heading.

And I am totally with you on no handheld or portable devices. It drives me nuts to see two parents, and two kids at a table in a restaurant where each kid is blaring something on an iPad and the parents are both on their phones. Physically being near each other is not being together!

This reminds me...we are so far behind on The Walking Dead! :)

MrsSpock said...

We have only 1 TV- in our living room- but 2 laptops on the dining table next to the living room. No handheld games or DVD players in the car.

We struggle with TV time. I think on weekends my son plays too many video games, even though it is PBS kids. My husband is addicted to Minecraft, and my son loves watching him.

Our daughter gets one 30 minute time and our son one 30 minute time on school nights, and we stick with this pretty well. No TV in the morning. My health has been so rough the past year, I have been stuck on the couch a lot. I often read on my Kindle, but have ended up watching Star Trek or Dr Who more often than not, and my son loves watching with me.

SLESE1014 said...

I think like a lot of these posts I'm seeing a middle of the road. The idea of everything in moderation and adjusting it to age specific needs. I definitely like the idea of a parent being in the room watching and engaging...even if it's really hard with the younger themed shows....I used to think Barney was the devil, but I'm hearing he's passed the torch to yo gabba gabba...

I love your approach and as my daughter grows up I'll be interested to see how she adjusts.

jules said...

Coming from a "babies" perspective, I hadn't thought much about the effect of having much older siblings like a 13-yr-old in the house would have on screen time! The "13-yr-olds" in our house are me and Husband ;) and we can mutually decide not to watch TV around the babies if we think it's for the best, but that's harder with a teen. Hmmmmm.

Anonymous said...

I love the unbreakable rules:

- I think it’s so important for parents to watch TV WITH their kids. Issues can come up that need to be discussed (I LOVE Modern Family and it could spark so much great discussion).

- The break after media time is a wonderful idea. It’s really all about balance!

- Portability – this is an interesting concept and I like the idea of having the kids experience everything about going out, including the journey, but I’m curious, do you make exceptions for road trips or other travel? I live in Spain but am from the States so long airplane flights are a given for our family. I’m pretty sure I’ll do whatever it takes to make those 12ish hours as manageable as possible!

- YES! TVs in public areas!!

P.S. Unless you are totally against it, think about turning word verification off! There are lots of us that can’t comment easily!! (

Delenn said...

We have most of our relatives living in Michigan, so we have taken 14-18 hour (that is one way) trips with our kids. And no portable devices. We play games, kids sleep, we have them pick songs etc. We talk. No need to have videos whatsoever. Yeah, long car rides can be boring--or they can be an adventure! If we get too bored/tired--we stop along the way.

Last time we did it, we spent the night at Niagara Falls and had a blast!

P.S. Okay, I turned off word verification for a bit, but if I get spammed, it is back on...