I'm always interested to learn about the way other people do things, and I was interested to learn on a recent T&S thread that there are many people in the bloggernacle who don't have a T.V., or at the very least have intense rules about television consumption. So I would just like to have an informal poll about how many people let their kids watch TV, and what you let them watch, and what you think is inappropriate. I have found that these answers, esecially the inappropriate vs appropriate, vary greatly, and I want to know what y'all do in your families. Also, what do you think about letting small children watch full length feature films at home, or in the theater? Jacob really likes going to the movies, and we do that on rainy days and when Adventure Mom needs a serious break. He has seen Shrek 2, the Incredibles, Madagascar, and Star Wars, Episode III in the theaters, and he loves it. We get our popcorn and treats, and he sits attentively each time, watching the movie. I, of course, sit and watch my son's brain melting as he overloads on visual stimulation, but I assuage my guilty conscience by telling myself that he watches virtually no TV at home (our TV is hooked up only for videos--DH says the time waster has been replaced by my blogging habit!), so a little brain melting now and then won't hurt him in the long run. I could just be fooling myself, I know, but it makes me feel better all the same! Ok, so to sum up, here's what I want to know: Do you let your kids watch TV, and if so, how much and which shows? Do you let your kids watch feature length videos at home, and/or at the theater? When does the occasional brain melting become too much, and what do you think the effects are, if any, of media consumption? I'm mainly interested in anecdotal evidence, but if somebody can pull up some real stats about TV, that could be cool, too.


Blogger The Wiz said...

I personally let my kids watch TV 24 hours a day. There's a TV in all their bedrooms, and I put a movie in it and push 'repeat' just in case they wake up in the middle of the night and need some comfort.

I don't care what channel they watch, they'll eventually end up seeing all the crap that's out there, anyway, so why not expose them when they're little?

Plus, it's so much cleaner to just let them watch TV 24/7. We don't ever buy them toys, there is not a single thing in this house that would encourage creativity or learning. They're just too hard to clean up. (Actually, that is true about Play-Doh. Devil's spawn, if you ask me.)

6/28/2005 02:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

I let my kids watch a lot of tv and movies. When they were small, we had no cable, so the only channel we got was PBS, and that was great. They watched a lot of movies on video back then--I've seen the Lion King, Marry Poppins, and all the Herbie movies countless times. I probably still have entire scenes memorized.

There's such a wealth of educational programming now. My daughter loves the Animal Planet channel. She wants to work with animals when she grows up. She loves all the motorcycle- and car-building shows on the Discovery channel. She wants to be an automobile painter when she grows up, as well as a metal sculpture artist.

I understand why parents don't let their kids watch tv, but I think it's a bit like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. There's lots of good stuff on tv.

I'm a bit more lax on the inappropriate stuff then I want to be, but I don't let them watch certain stuff. My kids are 15, 13 and 11, and they still mostly watch Nickelodeon and cartoons. I don't like them watching anything gory or sexually explicit, which is a lot of stuff on during primetime. The comedy channel esp has some nasty stuff on.

As for long term effects...I was raised by television. When I was a kid, almost every play-acting game I did was a television show. My best friend and I would play Dukes of Hazard, Little House on the Prairie, Eight is Enough, I Dream of Jeanie...And when we'd walk each other home we'd do little cheers of whatever shows were going to be on that night. I remember Tuesday's was, "Happ Days! Laverne and Shirley! Three's Company!"...And I obviously turned out fine! (Oh and the ironic thing: my mom wouldn't let us watch Three's Company. Not because it was about a man living with two women, but because he was pretending to be gay. Gotta love it that after they grew up, two of my brothers came out of the closet.)

6/28/2005 02:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Matt Jacobsen said...

Kids ages: 6,4,2,2

We only have the basic broadcast stations, so there's not much TV watching. Usually it is something on PBS or sports with me. They do watch a little of Full House or Kim Possible or whatever else at their friends' houses. Videos are more common, though, and we probably average 1 hour a day of total TV screen time.

No movies in the theater yet, but that has more to do with their fear than anything else. We do watch full-length videos at home, usually during a weekly movie night. The last few have been 'My Neighbor Totoro' (japanese), 'Star Wars: Episode IV', 'Not One Less' (chinese), 'The Bicycle Thief' (italian), 'City Lights' (chaplin), and Cirque du Soleil. Our goal so far has been to expose our kids to things that they are not likely to find elsewhere, so we don't really go for too many mainstream shows. Not that mainstream is evil, but they are going to experience enough from their friends without any help from us. I'm amazed at how well a good story will hold our children's attention.

Library videos and netflix are our friends. You get a DVD for the kids and they can watch it all month (or longer) and then you get another one.

6/28/2005 03:03:00 PM  
Anonymous claire said...

First of all, let me say that my husband works in television production, so since TV is our bread and butter, I can acknowledge that yes there is a lot of good/educational stuff of TV.

However, we have gone from TV in the attic for a year to several hours a day of PBS kids/carefully selected DVDs on sick days in our family and I really like the no TV lifestyle better. Anything your older kid can learn on TV they can learn in a book. We did not have a TV when I was 6-12 and it really helped me develop a love of reading and playing in my yard, setting up tents, clubs etc. My emerging reader child is much more likely to want to watch TV than my older, reading at middle-school level daughter is.
Now that my girls are both in school, they don't watch much tv at all because after school there is homework, practice, chores. I am very particular about video choices (we don't own any Disney princess movies, for example) but we do watch videos occasionally on weekend nights and on car trips. Now that school is out, there is more temptation to let them watch TV rather than do something 'constructive' so we watch TV AFTER chores, practice, 'school work' (reading/writing a letter/practicing times tables,etc.) IF we aren't doing something like bike riding, going to the pool or having friends over and it has helped.

Oh, and we don't have cable either; limited choices make it easier to turn off, and the big plus is they don't see toy and junk food ads- a big issue for me since we don't do much in the way of plastic toys/barbies/fast food.

We had a primary president once with 5 kids who had a whole WALL of videos and the TV on almost all day. She believed in the "educational power of television" (although not many were educational in my opinion) and although I found her philosophy distasteful, I have to say her kids were fairly normal. I suppose I do believe in the educational power of TV too, and that's why I don't want them to watch it!!

See www.tvturnoff.org for lots of good reading. Sorry to blather on about this; a subject close to my heart.

6/28/2005 03:15:00 PM  
Blogger dede said...

I keep "rules" for the important things that are worth the battle. TV is not worth the battle, therefore we have no rules about it.

We have 3 tv's, cable, tons of videos/DVD's, and going to movies at the theater is one of our favorite family activities.

But guess what? My kids don't watch all that much TV. Because it isn't "restricted" to an hour a day, they don't feel like they HAVE to watch an hour a day. We will go days without the TV being on at all.

Plus, as all SAHM's know, the TV is a lifesaving device when we are under the weather. We can't call in sick, so we have to do what we can.

Basic point...Not worth the battle. Save it for when they want to start dating before 16.

6/28/2005 04:13:00 PM  
Blogger lchan said...

My kids watch mainly PBS during the day and if they aren't playing in the neighborhood, they'll watch whatever we're watching at night (stuff like Survivor and Amazing Race).

The only thing we watch that is slightly controversial is The Simpsons. My husband and I are big fans - and my girls are, too. There are a couple episodes that we turn the channel when they come on.

We go to the dollar theater almost every weekend.

I don't restrict TV watching, but I would if I felt like they were watching too much. They don't though. They like to watch Arthur in the morning, sometimes catch Cyberchase in the afternoon.

Occasionally they'll put in a video, but my girls are more interested in playing. If I tried to restrict it, it might be more appealing, but I don't know.

6/28/2005 04:45:00 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Kids ages: nearly 9, 5, and 18 months.

I restrict TV for my kids to 1 to 1 1/2 hrs/day (except on the weekends), mostly because my 5 yo would watch it all day long (and has), and I can't stand the noise coming from the TV after a while. My 9 yo doesn't watch it at all during the week during the school year. She does get to watch some at school, though.

We mostly watch PBS, though I have no qualms about watching TLC programs (we're all big fans of What Not to Wear and all the re-decorating shows) and the Food Network. I would probably let my girls watch a network program in the evenings, if there was one I thought we could enjoy as a family. I have fond memories of watching TV shows as a family growing up. We only have one TV. I have a thing against children having TVs in their bedrooms.

We do watch a lot of movies though. The girls usually watch one movie on Saturday or on Sunday. We take them to the movies at the theater, too. We didn't take our oldest until she was 5, but that was because we weren't convinced she'd sit still for the time necessary to be in the theater. Even so, we're pretty selective about the movies we see, and try to only see the "good" ones. There's no dollar theater in town, so we're paying full price and we want to get our money's worth.

I'm sure there are effects of media consuption. My oldest doesn't like TV all that much, and doesn't watch it except for a few select shows on occasion. My second daughter is being raised on TV -- she loves it, her imaginary games revolve around it. I don't know if it's because she can't read or if it will change when she begins school in the fall. Perhaps.

Too much TV is probably bad, but no TV could possibly be bad in the long run, too. My motto: moderation in everything.

6/28/2005 05:56:00 PM  
Blogger Thomas J. Brown said...

I think some TV is okay, but those people who use the TV as a nanny or who have TV in their kids' rooms (no offense, wiz!) are overdoing it.

I noticed that a lot of people who have commented let their kids watch a lot of PBS, something with which I strongly agree. PBS is a great network.

I also work in TV and I know that there is a lot of absolute garbage on (we don't have cable, but even if we did I would only watch about a half a dozen channels).

Personally, I think TV is a waste of peoples' time (yet I work in the industry. Hmm...). I know that I can get so much more done at the end of the day provided I don't turn the TV on.

Then again, it's nice to be able to turn your brain off at the end of the day when work (or school, as the case may be) has really burned you out.

Moreover, if you let your kids watch TV, it can become another form of currency that you can take away should they require punishment.

6/28/2005 06:37:00 PM  
Blogger Keryn said...

kids: 20 months, 3 months
Heather, I'm excited you asked about this because I have been giving it a lot of thought the last few days. I check out Baby Einstein videos from our public library, and it's eerie how entranced my 20 month old is by them. The child who can't sit through a five minute FHE lesson with pictures and stuffed animals (I know, that's fairly normal for his age) will stand, staring, for thirty minutes of Baby Einstein. It actually kind of wigs me out, but in spite of that, I keep getting them from the library and watching them.

Why? Mostly because it gives me some time without him tugging on my leg, closing the laptop while I'm typing or reading, or trying to call Australia while I'm nursing the baby. I use it so I don't have to try to entertain him every minute.

We do other things, too. Play at the park, read books, etc. But the TV is so easy. Am I a bad mom?

6/28/2005 07:16:00 PM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

OK, Heather wanted to know why I made such a snotty comment, so I guess my attempt at being funny did not go over well.

I agree with Dede. Not worth the battle. I agree with Melissa - moderation in everything.

And, we, too, have Simpsons issues. DH and I are huge fans, but it's hard to convince the kids that the cartoon is not a kids show. And PBS is the main channel of choice. Nothing like a little Berenstein Bears, or Clifford.

If the kids start getting irritable after watching for a while, 'tis my cue to snap it off and divert them to another activity. They're usually more than willing to stop watching.

But my morning routine consists of getting my toddler some breakfast, strapping him in high chair, turning on something he will watch, and then using that valuable half hour to shower, get ready, make my bed(most days), etc..Am I using the TV as a babysitter? Absolutely! But only for a short time, and it just means he takes longer to finish his breakfast, thereby giving mommy time to brush her teeth.

6/28/2005 10:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Sue M said...

My kids are 9 months, 2, and 3. I TRY to limit their viewing to an hour a day - usually Noggin or PBSKids. (Noggin is rather like PBS in that there are no commercials.) I find that if they watch much more than that, they are cranky and crabby. We have a few reliable videos that we pop in when a break is needed - Sesame Street, Winnie the Pooh movies, etc.

My girls are entranced by Annie - the musical version that Disney recently put out. They WILL NOT MOVE while it is on.

I absolutely use TV as a babysitter. (Isn't that what it is for?) It generally only comes on when I need to do laundry, or feed the baby, or am too exhausted to move, or what-have-you. I am longing for the day when my 9 month old decides that TV is interesting. And upon that day, I will nap!

6/29/2005 11:27:00 AM  
Blogger Mrs. M said...

I guess I'll be the extremist here. My boys are 2 1/2 and 4 months old. We don't have a TV.

We do have rabbit ears on our computer. We occasionally record "Dora" and "Bob the Builder", both in Spanish. (DH grew up in Mexico City and I studied it a little in college.) We edit out the commercials before showing them.

We do have a ton of Baby Einsten DVDs, which my 2yo watched a lot more when he was younger (maybe one every other day), but now we save them for really special (or desperate) moments.

We watch almost no movies, mostly because of their content, and hence, don't own many. OUr 2yo loves the church DVDs Joy to the World and the Restoration. We go to the theater maybe once a year and never bring the kids. Total tv/movie time for 2yo: maybe 1 hour per week. Although, we did watch Game 7 of the NBA finals and just muted/minimized the screen during the commercials.

As a kid, my family didn't have a TV til I was 8. I played outside, built forts, went swimming, practiced violin, read tons of books, etc. All the things kids do when there is no TV.

DH, on the other hand, grew up watching TV in Mexico all the time. He is certainly none the worse for the wear, although I think tv 25 years ago was probably a lot different than it is today.

6/29/2005 05:25:00 PM  
Blogger TftCarrie said...

My daughter (turns 3 in August) loves the television. Probably because I love tv and my husband loves tv. We have a cable version ot Tivo --which is the best thing ever invented and keeps us from watching crap and commercials. It also means that my daughter pretty much watches the same shows every day because I just record the same ones each day and then she can watch them at anytime. So, an average day of tv watching for her consists of Sesame Street right when she wakes up while she eats breakfast and I either go back to sleep (which is what I usually do since I got pregnant last Nov) or I get ready for the day. If I go back to sleep she gets to watch one more show while I take a shower. Her favorites are Dora the Explorer and Madeline (which I think is a great cartoon on the Disney channel). Then I turn off the tv for the day. It usually gets turned back on for another show while I make dinner at the end of the day. We have Netflix so we always have one DVD for her. She loves all the Disney classics (sorry those of you who think Disney is of the devil). She also loves the original Annie and Mary Poppins. We have taken her to several movies in the theater which she loves too. She loves the movies, but I also think she loves the fact that we are doing something together as a family.

I am sure when we have more kids and they get older, I might actually set more “rules” about the tv, but for now I don’t feel guilty at all using it as a babysitter and sometimes I think my toddler needs the “veg” time just like I sometimes do.

6/29/2005 06:34:00 PM  
Blogger Yogi-girl said...

We lived without a TV for a while and when we set them up again, the difference was shocking. Every time a commercial would come on, my 3 and 4 year old would start a chorus of "I WANT THAT! I WANT THAT!" pointing to the junk advertised between shows. They're currently watching way too much TV, a couple hours a day, and I can't wait to pack the TVs up again. (We're about to move again.) It changes our quality of life.

At this point, we're interacting with TV like a drug, an ever-so-aaddictive drug. TV cures the headache of grumpy kids immediately, stops fights, dulls the length of a long day, and gives me a minute to post on a blog, but in the end, I'd much rather not have it around.

Without the TV, I talk the kids through their arguments (conflict resolution skills rather than distraction), I don't post on blogs (with a little self-control I can wait to do this until after they go to sleep), and, like one poster mentioned, it makes me brush my teeth *with* my kids rather than with them in the other room.

Without the TV, it's exhausting, it really sucks at times, but it's better.

Can't wait to pack the TVs up again and hope that they get trashed in the move.

That said, I do let my kids play a TON of video games and computer games where they "write" their own "storylines". It has the same effect for me (the kids are entertained & I am free to do my work) but it's active, not passive.

Plus no commercials! Woot!

6/29/2005 09:47:00 PM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6/29/2005 10:16:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


We only have TV available for videos that we choose for Jacob, but when we go to my moms house, I let him watch her very intense, very cool digital cable. It was startling to realize, the first time we did that, that he had no concept of what a commercial was, and was constantly saying things like, "Is it over? What is this video? I want to watch the other one again!" He's now tuned in more to what a commerical is (he calls them "commercinals"), but it was weird for all of us at first.

One of the other big differences I noticed when we unplugged our TV, so to speak, was that DH and I talk a lot more, and it actually improved our marriage. We spend a lot more time having the kind of discussions we used to have before we got married, and I'm reminded why I married this awesome guy in the first place. The whole no TV started out as an economic thing (starving students can't afford to spend $30 bucks a month on cable), but we have really enjoyed the difference it has made in our family.

I have to admit, though, there are days when Jacob gets plugged in a little longer than I would like to certain videos, and there are days when I really, really miss Buffy. But overall, I like not having access to regular TV.

6/29/2005 10:21:00 PM  
Anonymous Sue M said...

Hee, hee... Heather, that sounds so familiar. We let my daughter watch Dora on "regular" Nickelodeon the other day, instead of on Noggin. The difference is that Nick has commercials, Noggin does not. Just like Heather's Jacob, my daughter was mystified by the commercials. She got upset everytime one came on, wondering why her show was over so soon. After a few minutes, she turned it off and told me she didn't like Dora anymore. (giggle)

No offense to all of the Baby Mozart/Einstein/Bach what-have-you afficianados out there, but I think those videos are the biggest scam that ever scammed.

While it's true that they will keep your baby entertained, they aren't any more enriching than any other videos out there on the market. I think parents just feel better having them on because nice music is playing in the background and because of the video titles. Makes you feel like you are doing something good for baby - like flashcards or something. But really, it's just TV.

Most "experts" (for whatever their opinions are worth) don't think that the Baby Einstein target audience (infants) have any business watching TV anyway. There have been recent studies showing that tv watching in very young infants/toddlers rewires the brain and contributes to ADD - which may be why we are seeing such a sharp increase in ADD afflicted kids.

I like this author's commentary:


Hey, I'm all for using TV as a tool/temporary babysitter/entertainment, but when we talk about how it's enriching, etc., I think we're just kidding ourselves. Although the Disney company must LOVE it.

6/30/2005 12:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Sue M said...

Sorry, another one:


6/30/2005 12:14:00 AM  
Anonymous Gwen said...

To answer the original question first: I try to limit TV and videos a lot and would love to have no TV viewing at all and only rare video watching. But our reality at the moment is that we don't have any cable or broadcast TV right now, but the kids watch probably 2-3 full-length videos a week and a couple of times they might watch some shorter stuff on video, like old Popeye cartoons, Little Rascals or Scooby Doo. (My kids are 9, 8, 6, 4, and 3, and #6 is on the way). We live in snow country, so ideally, they'd watch no TV during the summer when it's actually nice for a very few months, but since I'm pregnant this summer, my standards are lower.

They do get to watch regular TV when they go to their grandparents' house, which they love (and I wish I kept better track of exactly what they're watching; there are so many new shows and they want to watch all of them, but I don't want to spend time watching it. There are some shows I've banned them from watching, but I'm sure there are others they watch that are equally obnoxious).

We do go to the movies sometimes (not very often), and we're pretty careful about what we watch. Absolutely no PG-13 movies, and only some PGs. By the way, some of my kids are the type who would watch TV all day if we let them, and some will voluntarily turn it off after a while. So the limiting is important for those who would be obsessive.

Now for an experience that convinced me not to be so trusting of all the educational shows, Sesame Street in particular. I have been mildly disgusted with that show since my oldest kids were little. I like what I remember of the show from when I was little, but now it's so PC and kind of annoying. Anyway, a few months ago, I was watching it with my kids and my niece and nephews, whom I was babysitting for a few days. Elmo's World came on (which I hate because the gist of its disproportionately long part of the show seems to be "Let's learn something by turning on my TV!"), and Elmo started talking about families and what makes up a family. I thought, "Uh oh," and sure enough, within a few minutes we were watching a montage of various families: two parents with some kids; a mom with a baby; two dads with a baby; and at the end, an androgynous couple with a child (I really couldn't tell the sex of either parent).

I don't want to shelter my kids from this kind of thing, and I'm not going to teach them to be bigots or homophobes (I have a brother who's gay, so it's possible that eventually they could have a cousin with two daddies), but I really don't want Elmo teaching them about it. I do want to have some control over when they learn about it and how, though. Sesame Street isn't to the point yet where Elmo's describing these families out loud--these were video clips with music playing in the background--but it won't be long.

I don't mind kids learning letters and numbers from TV (I remember watching Rosie O'Donnell several years ago, and she asked a guest whose kids weren't allowed to watch TV "But how are they going to learn to read?!" And she seemed to be serious). But I don't want the TV teaching my kids how to act or what their "values" should be. I think this is particularly dangerous when they are very young, and we should be aware of what they're watching when they're pre-school age. Once they're school age, they really should be more able to see and judge inappropriate behavior and ideas, at least to some degree. But they're certainly not watching TV with a discerning eye when they're 2 or 3. I think that's a huge difference between adults vegging in front of the TV and toddlers. Although I do think it's a good idea to teach kids to watch TV critically, but for that we have to standing by, and that kind of defeats the purpose sometimes, eh? :)

6/30/2005 01:29:00 PM  
Anonymous heather h said...

kids: 3, 5months

We do not have cable, my Dh and i agreed not to get it until the kids are much older and even then it would only be on the TV in our room, so we would know when they were watching it and what they were watching.

the 3yo watches TV in the AM for about and hour maybe an hour and a half, all PBS, Sesame Street and Caillou (sp?). Saturday Morning he watches some of the Nick Jr. shows that are on cbs as we can catch that channel. Occasionally during the week he will watch an hour long blues clues video while I work on a project.

As for movies in the theater- He has seen Nemo and Pooh's Heffalump, both were torture, my son cannot or will not sit still for that long. I am all for taking him to kids movies as he gets older- I like the idea of making it something special that we occasionally do.

Here is an article about TV and kids http://www.mormonchic.com/mommy/effcts-tv.asp

6/30/2005 05:48:00 PM  

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