Families Get Serious About Limiting TV

BlogHer Original Post

Reuters reports that 75% of young children in America live in a home where the television is turned on a majority of the time.  Not surprisingly, the study quoted found that the near-constant background noise is not developmentally helpful to a preschooler:

Researchers observed the children as they played to determine whether background TVdefined as adult-oriented television that is on and may be watched by older members of the family, but which very young children don't understand and to which they pay little attentionaffected the children's behavior during play.

Background TV was found to disrupt the toy play of the children at every age, even when they paid little attention to it. When the television was on, the children played for significantly shorter periods of time and the time they spent focused on their play was shorter, compared to when the TV was off.

I'm not especially suprised by this.  When there's too much noise (especially of the electronic variety) buzzing in my household, I find my focus, energy and patience are stretched too thin.  It's easy to see how much greater this impact would be in a young child. 

Angi of Lifelines has noticed this frustration in herself and her kids:

And I really don't know! I just know that I've become accustomed to not having it on during my long, wonderful summer full of Boys In The Creek. Truth be told, I suspect too that what I truly hear from the tv is noise and I can't stand any more head clutter. Things are so fast and furious in this house, now especially with my schooling two boys, entertaining a preschooler, and trying to prevent my infant from killing himself daily, not to mention the gobs of things spinning around in my head, ("Do this! Pay that! Call her!") I think the tv sound just puts me right over the brink and straight into Crazy.

What to do?  It's a plugged-in, turned-on, wired age we're living in, and teaching kids to navigate (and filter) is an important part of a parent's job.  Many families are finding the solution is to turn off the television entirely, or at least place strict limits on its use.

Alicek[i]nd and her husband have chosen the former, and it's a decision they made when in their earliest days of parenting:

We have had the no TV policy for many years. When Collin (our first child) was about 2 years old, we started letting him watch PBS... things like "Teletubbies" and "Barney." But that didn't last long because I soon noticed there were some other shows on PBS they we didn't approve of ("Arthur" for one) so we just decided to quit it completely.

There's More To the Story isn't convinced that this is the best step for her family, simply because she's seen some of the educational benefit of TV in her kids:

I’ve heard claims that too much television is bad for kids under a certain age, or any age. Honestly, for me, I don’t believe it. My daughter, Madison, has an amazing vocabulary, can count past 30, knows her ABC’s, colors, shapes, numbers (can point them out), and is now working on writing and spelling. A lot of this stuff? She picked up from TV.

I'm finding this tug in my own family.  In addition to the demands I notice TV places on our attention, it takes a good deal from our time, as well.  In these busy days of balancing homework and after-school activities, TV slows us down!  In our family, we've made the decision for the kids to turn the TV off during the week, except for occasional evening shows we watch as a family.  Then on the weekends, the kids can have a little more "screen flexibility".  So far, these baby steps are working well for us.

Shalee of Shalee's Diner, another TV-free family, advises her readers to try it out:

Try the no TV thing for a week. You don’t have to decide to quit forever, just decide to quit for a week and see what happens. You may find that you really like life without cable.

Shannon Lowe is a BlogHer contributing editor (Mommy/Family). She also blogs at Rocks In My Dryer and The Parenting Post.

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