Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Your biggest parenting choice

What is the one thing you have complete control of as a parent that can influence whether your child grows up to read, have a good attention span, finish high school, go to college, or be aggressive, use alcohol or tobacco, be sexually active or overweight?  The answer is watching more than two hours of television a day.  Why?

Watching TV.  A photo by Oddharmonic on Flickr
  1. Watching violence on TV is associated with aggressive behavior.
  2. Watching more TV increasing the chances of dropping of of school and decreased chances of getting a college degree   
  3.  Being awake and in the room with television on more than two hours a day is associated with being overweight. 
  4. Television may cause a decrease in metabolism. 
  5.   Children who watch television are more likely to have altered sleep patterns and sleep disorders.
  6. Watching more TV in childhood may increase school drop out and decrease the chances of getting a college degree. 
  7. Watching TV at ages 1-3 years old is associated with shorter attention spans and fewer parent-child interactions.
  8. Increased television watching is associated with less reading.
  9. Watching the use of alcohol, cigarettes, and sex on television normalizes it and makes your child think it is acceptable, even desirable behavior.

Confession time.  I let my three year old watch too much television. I have done this even though I know the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against more than two hours of television a day.
So, why would I let my child watch too much TV?  Well, let’s just say that each morning I always intended to turn it off in two hours.  Just long enough for me to get my work done, I’d think.  But I guess I always have more than two hours of work to do.  Don’t you?  Cooking three meals a day for one or more kids, dishes, laundry, tidying up, cleaning, nursing the baby, and blogging all take time.  I was using the television like a babysitter.  I was starting the day with television and not getting it turned off.  I wasn’t including my little one in the chores I was doing.  And he wasn’t learning to play by himself.

But no more.  I am going to cut the television time down to 2 hours or less a day.  Actually, we had our first day today.  I told Jujube on Sunday night that there would be no television tomorrow until Miss Froggie got home from school.  I also told him we would play in the playroom together and go to the park.  Why did I do this?
1.        Kids do better when they know what to expect.  I also gave him something to look forward to instead of just taking away something he likes.
2.       If I said it, then I would be more likely to do it.
3.        I gave him a time frame that he could understand in order to decrease how often he would ask for television the next day.

What else did I need to do?  I needed to prepare to be firm, no matter what.  I knew that he was going to test me today.  And I needed to win this battle or cutting down on the TV would only get harder.  I believe that consistency, for all aged children is key.  And pick your battles.  Don’t start a battle when you aren’t prepared to win.  If you are going to cut out television, don’t do it when someone is sick, or your support system is out of town.  Set yourself up to have extra help, or at least to devote more time to teaching a new behavior.  These guidelines help me whenever we need to make a change in our schedule.

How long will it take?  It depends on your child.  Be prepared for 2-3 weeks of hard work.  But it may not take that long.
So, does anyone want to join me in decreasing TV time?  And those of you who already have no television during the day, what do you have your three year old do for independent play?  Are they any tricks you have for getting young children to play by themselves?  I have found that Jujube likes me to be in the room, but he will often play by himself if I am close by.


 American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Public Education. Media violence. Pediatrics. 2001 Nov;108(5):1222-6. Available at: http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/pediatrics;108/5/1222.
Bushman BJ, Anderson, CA. Comfortably numb: desensitizing effects of violent media on helping others. Psychological Science. 2009 21(3):273-277.
 Rich M, Woods ER, Goodman E, Emans SJ, DuRant RH. Aggressors or victims: gender and race in music video violence. Pediatrics. 1998 Apr;101(4 Pt 1):669-74.
Klesges RC, Shelton ML, Klesges LM. Effects of television on metabolic rate: potential implications for childhood obesity. Pediatrics. 1993 Feb;91(2):281-6.
Thompson DA, Christakis DA. The association between television viewing and irregular sleep schedules among children less than 3 years of age. Pediatrics. 2005 Oct;116(4):851-6.
Johnson JG, Cohen P, Kasen S, First MB, Brook JS. Association between television viewing and sleep problems during adolescence and early adulthood.  Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2004 Jun;158(6):562-8.
American Medical Association. Brain Damage Risks. Available from: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/no-index/physician-resources/9416.shtml. Accessed 30 June 2010.


  1. Good post. Our kids never watch current tv.We do let them watch old shows on dvd or movies. But we are pretty careful about it, and do make sure it is limited. It is an easy babysitting option. But it is not the best option.

  2. I totally agree. With the bigger kids we watch a couple shows a week as a family. Got into a bad habit with the three year old. Luckily he is adjusting well to the new routine.

  3. This is SO hard - especially with how easy it is to appease them with handheld devices like iPad, iPod, iPhone. Literally, they can watch good quality, educational, and commercial-free stuff wherever and whenever these days! Gotta keep fighting the good fight but it seems like a battle I'm constantly losing!!

    Found you through Jenni's blog hop, which I just discovered today!
    Gen from TurquoiseGates.com

    1. It is SO Hard. My son will say, "I watch a show on your phone" We have done much this week. My key seems to be to not let him start watching anything too early in the day. And then remind myself that I don't have anything to do that is more important than him.

  4. Oh, and I am a nursing instructor so it was fun to find another advance practice nurse slash mom!!

    1. I'm so glad you found me. I am enjoying your blog

  5. I'm guilty! I struggle to find ways to get all 3 (4yo, 2yo, 10mo) involved in chores and such without having mass chaos.Add in bad habits from when I was on pregnancy bedrest..... an uphill battle! We do get out pretty much every day and read a ton. We're taking baby steps around here! Thanks for linking up at Thrive @ Home!

  6. Audra, I got into bad habits during pregnancy and postpartum too. And I agree, once the habit starts it's hard to change. Do you find baby steps helpful? I think it depends on the kid (and the mom). With some of my kids cold turkey would be easiest and others slowly making changes would work better.