Is it “green” to turn off the TV?

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Written by contributor Katie Kimball of Kitchen Stewardship.

As the progeny of a counter-cultural mama who always hated pink as a child, my daughter Leah is remarkably similar to the average 3-year-old girl in our culture: she owns and loves about a zillion Disney princess items (courtesy of doting grandparents), from her comforter to T-shirts to the cup in the bathroom.

The major difference? She’s never seen their movies.

The closest she’s come to princesses outside a storybook is Disney on Ice, and even her 200-page princess stories book is sitting on our master closet shelf after one too many tales that were not age appropriate and just doggone uncomfortable to read to a 3-year-old who doesn’t understand what’s going on anyway.

Grandma got her some new princess gear for Easter and asked, “What’s this princess’s name?”

Leah answered honestly and casually, “I don’t know…I only know Cindah-wewa.” (We’re still working on “L” and “R” sounds.)

Do I care that she can’t peg Aurora, the name of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty?

Do you care that I had to Google that to figure it out?

I actually take great pride that she doesn’t. Besides the fact that none of these movies are made for a 3-year-old mentality and she’d barely know what was going on, there are so many things I’d rather my daughter fill her expanding mind with: from how to identify beginning sounds to using “please” consistently, from drawing squares with actual corners to saying her “R” sound correctly. If she can remember the names of all her friends in real life and how to play fair with them, Sleeping Beauty can never wake up for all I care.

Are my kids the only ones who don’t watch TV?


Photo by espensorvik

Sometimes I reflect in awe about how removed from the popular culture my family is, including the kiddos. They can talk like this: “I was like, dude, you are kidding me!” but they don’t have a clue who Phineas and Ferb are, what Nick Jr. is, or even how microwave popcorn works. (And, yes, I did go to the Disney Channel website to figure out what names they don’t know…)

With television, as with food, I try to go with the, “What they don’t know can’t annoy them” rule, meaning that if the kids don’t know certain shows exist, I’m not a mean mom if I don’t let them watch. I limit their exposure as much as I can, difficult in a world of licensed characters around every bed.

We allow an hour of “screen time” per day, which includes television, computer games, and video games like Wii. Most days, not a minute of the hour is touched. I’m guessing my kids don’t even realize that Saturday morning TV is populated with cartoons for 8 hours straight, all aimed at their demographic.

They also don’t really understand TV in real time or commercials that can’t be skipped, anyway, with the advent of the DVR. As my oldest gets further into elementary school, though, I’ll start to lose control as the kids spend more time without me, playing at friends’ houses.

Boys vs. Girls: A double standard?

I was really pleased when we moved to a new neighborhood and a neighbor told me that “the boys in the neighborhood aren’t the type to hole up and play video games; they’re always outside playing sports and super active.” It’s a great fit for my son Paul, who will hang in there playing hockey with the big boys and love it. (He might also be the catalyst for a neighborhood-wide bug-catching challenge; time will tell.)

Imagine my surprise when this same father invited Leah in to play and assured me that she and his daughter “always just watch TV or play kitchen or whatever.”

What? Watch TV?

We, the weird family, have this crazy rule that we don’t watch TV when guests are over since it’s not a social thing. Besides that, there are a lot of shows we don’t allow our children to watch (see above).

I had two internal dilemmas as I walked home:

  1. How do I bring up the fact that I’d rather Leah not watch TV at all on an hour-long playdate?
  2. Why is it okay that the girls watch television as the norm but negative for the boys?

I’m sure television viewing is far from the only subject in which I’ll notice a disparity between genders as my kids grow up (see princesses, above), but it certainly came as a surprise. I hope the culture will forgive my daughter her ignorance of cartoon characters as much as I hope it will accept the fact that she nurses her baby dolls and thinks waitressing would be a great job when she grows up.

Is avoiding television a “green” thing to do?

It seems that it’s more likely the naturally-minded, crunchy sort of mamas whose kids have similar TV restrictions as mine, so I’m trying to figure out if watching very little TV is related to the subject of being “green.” It’s not particularly eco-friendly, other than saving a minute amount of energy when the television is off.

I’ve come to the conclusion that if we want to raise up children who are outdoorsy, who appreciate nature, and who are connected to the earth, we need to teach them to be the type to dig potatoes rather than become a couch potato…regardless of whether they’re girls or boys.

Let’s turn off the TV as much as possible this month and encourage kid-directed play, preferably in the dirt. Maybe there is a reason after all why “Screen Free Week” and Earth Day hit the same month.

What’s your strategy for limiting screen time?

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About Katie Kimball

An at-home mom who is passionate about food, her two kids, the good green Earth and her faith, Katie Kimball blogs about all that and more at Kitchen Stewardship.

Comments

  1. I think limiting screen time in favor of more social/productive activities is a great idea.

    For us, Disney is and will always be a huge part of our lives. My fiance’s parents BOTH worked at Disney Land years ago, and we’re hardcore Disneyphiles. Despite being an adult, I’m the one with the licensed Disney Princess stuff.
    I think movie night will be a weekly occurence in our home, because we love a good story! My fiance is starting a unique business of recreating movie props and costumes.

    That being said, screens can definitely be overdone. I’ve gotten so tired of all the screens on all the time, and moving into a new phase of life (soon) will be exhilirating.

  2. We’ve also (mostly) taken a pass on TV for us (we still stream our weekly episode of NCIS) and for our son (who will be 2 in June). He gets to watch elmo’s song on youtube when I need to clip his nails. I will say though, the older he gets, the more I struggle against wanting to put in a short DVD, just to get a break during the day. It seems so much easier than reading the 15th book or encouraging pretend play.

    I just keep reminding myself that this is a short season and try to pour myself into it as much as possible. I’m really looking forward to the warm weather taking hold so we can be outdoors more. There’s nothing more engaging to my little guy that spending time in nature!

  3. I think limiting screen time is so important! At the same time, I have to say when I only had one babe it was much easier to not have the tv on. Now, my daughter who is almost 4 will usually get to watch a show in the afternoon while my son who is 20 months is still napping. She has rest time, but when she wakes up, it seems to be the only thing I can do to make sure she stays quiet. We have tried reading books, but it doesn’t quite work. I am ok with a little tv, as long as it is educational – or if I have a hankering to watch Pride and Prejudice :-)

  4. I had to laugh at this… we were given Disney on Ice tickets from a friend and while my 4-year-old daughter thoroughly enjoyed the experience, she spent the whole time looking for Cinderella, because that is the only princess she knows (and that from a book, not the movie!) We are also a TV-free home, with a Netflix movie once a week or so for my husband and I and even less often an episode of Thomas the Train or Curious George for our 2 and 4 year old girls.

    I would agree with your thoughts on the connection between TV-free choices and natural living. We don’t have a TV because we don’t want the popular cultural psychology and entertainment forming our thinking or that of our children. We also want to be do-ers, not consumers and would like to encourage active involvement with life… my husband and I know that if the TV was here, we’d watch it and we’d just rather have that out of the equation, especially to remove the debate with our kids about how much TV is too much.

    I think that those concerns are also an impetus for many people’s decisions to live more naturally, so it makes sense that the two choices are often interconnected. It works out well because, for the most part, the message of TV shows and commercials is driven by very priorities than simple, natural living is.

  5. * very DIFFERENT priorities

  6. We don’t have a TV, but my two and a half year old does limitedly watch some PBS kid’s videos. I like that she doesn’t understand the concept of turning on a TV and just watching whatever is on (including commercials).

    • My four year old still doesn’t understand the concept. I love it!

      Whenever we’ve stayed in a motel, however, they turn into zombies when the TV is on. Yet another reason we should try camping instead. =)

  7. When my kids were really little I never put on the TV and was always surprised when it was on in other people’s houses. It is really important for kids to learn how to entertain themselves and deal with boredom constructively. As my kids have gotten older it is more of a challenge to monitor their screen time but it is amazing the difference in their attitudes… if they spend too much time on media they get impatience with each other and bored more easily.

    • Christine Matkin says:

      I also recognize this with my two girls (ages 10 and 8). We are limiting tv and computer time during the week especially to help with this and as the weather is warming up it is so much easier to spend our time outside.

  8. marci357 says:

    Believe it or not, my kids grew up without TV/cable… and that was for almost all their childhood. They are now 29 – 34. Now my visiting grandkids also know what it is like to be in a house with no TV/cable :) We do pop in a movie occasionally on Movie/popcorn night at home, and that makes it all the more special.

  9. I LOVE this post! Many moms look at me like I am whacked (or like they feel sorry for my son) when they learn we don’t do video games, or transformers, or spider man for that matter. On the flip side, we do watch epic stuff together like Lord of the Rings or movies like Underdog. And he watches BBC dinasour DVDs, Little Bear, and even Sprout and Nick Jr. After watching Underdog (the movie, not the cartoon), my kid was like the Tazmanian Devil, covering every inch of our house with Underdog-type moves and mishaps – a boy pretending to be a superhero dog. I thought, geez – how would he behave after watching generic TV or the typical mainstream boy stuff?

    He scorns Gerber formula commercials for not being as healthy as breastfmilk when they do show up on his “allowed” programming (and if we do watch something with more overt marketing designed to zombify kids, I teach him to take away the bells and whistles and see the item for what it reall is – usually not very impressive after all). We don’t even watch the old cartoons on the numerous mainstream channels because of a) like with your fairy tale, some of the content just doesn’t seem appropriate in this day and age, and teaches gender bias), and b) the commercials are just plain whacked out, mind numbing, super fast brain washing techniques to create little consumerists.

    When it comes to toys (btw, his favorite color is PINK, something we celebrate), I figure that like your son coming of age, he will eventually gain exposure to most of what we avoid. I think that is fine, because we will have taught him discernment and critical thinking. I don’t see the reason to rush kids into the popular stuff (though, I confess, he is a Cars and Cars 2 lover), especially the stuff tailored for “boys” with smash-em up, alien/robot/obliteration appeal (“appeal” here is an oxymoron, if you ask me).

    I notice a measurable difference between my son’s comfort with himself in social situations over that of mainstreamed kids (or kids who are allowed to watch what they please, including battling, violent video gaming). He is at ease with adults, where as the other kids seem detached, even self conscious (and they display somewhat distrubing behaviors as a result).

    I would love to be as unconnected to TV as your family is, but as parents (my husband and me), we are not in agreement about TV time and exposure. The first thing hubby does when he enters a room with a TV is to turn it on. All I can do is try to balance this out as much as possible. The hardest part is definitely being in other households, which isn’t often anyway. I think most homeschoolers and unschoolers agree that our kids are more thoughtful, less likely to just dive into what everyone else is doing. It makes perfect sense to limit their exposure until they are old enough to start policing themselves. Even at just 4 yeas old, I already see my son stepping away from things he knows are inappropriate. We explain why when we assign the definition, and he chooses to respond rationally.

    He even notes (I’m not kidding) how other kids who are allowed to consume the content behave in ways that annoy him, or in ways he finds inconsiderate. Maybe it is just a coincidence, as he doesn’t interact with tons of other kids. I tend to think there is something to it!

  10. I only had time to read this blog because my 2 1/2 yr old is watching Bambi! lol. You inspire me… I would love to live like you. I would truly get rid of our TV if my husband was on board. However, the TV is a constant subject of debate between us (his family never really turned it off, mine was more sparing), so I try to relax about the subject.

  11. Mandee Jo says:

    I think crunchy parents are more likely to limit TV time because, in general, they are more aware of their children’s health and overall well being than your average person. They’ve learned to link diet and other chemical exposure to behavioral and health issues and so are more in tune with their and their children’s bodies. This experience allows them to more easily see the effect watching TV( and other screen time) has on their children.

    Personally I think that screen time can be both good and bad. It’s how you use it that makes the difference. My husband and I both enjoy a good movie or a witty TV show, and one of our shared interests is video games. We feel that in this increasingly technological world it is very important that our children be able to use and understand technology and keep up with it’s advances. So we introduce them to the good stuff while at the same time making sure we do a lot play and spend a lot of time outside. And while our daughter loves to watch youtube videos of farm animals or Kung Fu Panda, more often than not, even in the rain, she would rather be outside drawing with chalk or playing at the playground.

  12. my SD is used to having the tv on at her mom’s and my husband likes to have it on ALL THE TIME when he’s home (which annoys me, especially when he’s listening to music over it! >.<) my SD knows that if its just me and her (and baby) the tv stays off. she gets increddibly bored. we play games and dolls, but if i need to feed the baby or clean something she follows me around complaining.

    i think a lot of people like to shelter their daughters from the outside. i read something that girl toddlers don't play outside as much as boys because their parents are more protective, so he was probably just saying hey don't worry i won't do anything that hurts your kid. i'd say just tell him that you don't want her watching tv and he should understand and they can just play games inside if he's not comfortable taking the girls outside.

  13. Carla Reed says:

    Great article, thanks for sharing. In our home we do not even have a television (this was so even before we had our son). When people come over our home they immediately get uncomfortable with idea that we do not have a television. They always ask “What do you do?”. Really? I have a hard time not laughing out loud when I’m asked this question. People also see our t.v. free home as an affront to their parenting philosophies. It’s really bizarre. I get this “oh, you think you are better because you don’t have a television” attitude. Ummmm…no, we just don’t have a personal interest in owning a television. No biggie. I will say that I think it’s been great raising our son in a t.v. free home. He’s 2.5 years old and spends about 3 hours a day (no joke!) reading. 1 hour of this time is independent ‘reading’. I usually take this hour to cook/clean. I don’t think he would have this attention span if we had a television in our home. It’s pretty great not having a television in our home. I promise we are not weirdos (nor Luddites!). We read books, newspapers, and various blogs. We do not live in a box = )

  14. We don’t have TV and we probably never will. My husband and I watch movies on our computer on an occasional Friday night and we make an event of it- special snacks, drinks etc.

    My 2 year old has watched very little TV in any format, and I want to keep it like that. Life does get a little crazy sometimes and I have to be extra creative at those crunch times, like 5pm. She loves her books, blocks, and helping me in the kitchen. Her little sister loves to watch her and they can play together, often long enough for me to finish up dinner.

    I personally don’t like the Disney princesses but I love fairy tales. And I read the real stories to my daughters to inspire them.

    Great post!

  15. Rhonda S says:

    No, you are not wacky. :) I think people like us, are definitely in the minority but we’re not the fringe anymore.

    We don’t buy cable but we do have a TV. We homeschool and I use Netflix for the Biography, History Channel, Nova and other educational programming. We are studying in History the Mayflower landing and what colonialism meant for the native peoples. Don’t you know PBS has a series on Netflix called We Shall Remain and the first episode is about the Wampanoag’s and the Massachusettes colonists? Great tie-in.

    We aren’t Disney people either, but I don’t have a problem with people who are. The vision we have for our family is going to look different from the ones that most of our peers in our community looks like.

    As for the new neighbor, perhaps host the playdates and invite mom over to visit as well. It will give you the opportunity to casually express your desire to not have your girlie watching tv when she visits, and of course you can assure your neighbor that wholesome, creative play will always be on the agenda at your house as well. :)

  16. We’re also one of those families who don’t watch TV (don’t have it hooked up!) and whose toddler doesn’t know what TV is or that there are shows that get played on it. I have read way too many studies and books that cite the disadvantages of TV, from marketing to kids to shorter attention spans to loss of imagination… it goes on.

    As my toddler gets older, I don’t think I will flat out deny watching TV, and will likely sit with him to discuss it (I’m scared if I never allow it he’ll go bonkers and watch TV as an adult 24/7 lol). I also want him to be wary of advertisers, the messages in the cartoons, and to constantly question what is being fed to him.

    I actually wrote a bit more about this in a blog post: http://sleepingshouldbeeasy.com/2012/03/06/yo-gabba-who-my-toddler-lives-under-a-rock/

  17. Katie Kimball says:

    I should probably officially say that we DO watch TV, just usually DVR’d (or sports in real time), and my husband plays computer games, sometimes with our son. We play Wii Dance Party and sports as a family, or my son gets his own time with it, just no more than an hour. Our TV is huge and the central focus of the room, which I don’t love, but it’s not a huge deal. Just didn’t want people to think we actually kept our kids away from TV all the time, although I truly honor those of you who don’t have a set at all! ;) Katie

  18. This is encouraging to read. It’s how I desire to raise our kids but because it’s so counter cultural all I hear is… “just you wait til your daughter gets a little older.”
    I know being a ‘limited screen’ family will mean more intentional mothering for me but I’m excited about it. At this point we don’t even own a TV and have no plan to get one in the near future.
    Our culture is so media crazed that it’s hard. I have even had to tell my inlaws not to give our daughter their iPhones because she is already learning the ‘swiping’ motion and she’s only 15 months. I hate that!
    Thanks for sharing!

  19. I just found your cute blog! Love all your homemade recipes! :)

  20. Haven’t had tv for 7 years. Don’t miss it at all. Now that dh gave in and bought a screen, we all get the occasional movie or nature documentary, and we pick up pbs dvd’s from the library. The kids watch tv at the grandparents’ once in a rare while, but when it’s extended family there for a holiday, there are teen movies playing all day (mine are under 8). Our kids have learned to bring an outdoor activity and try to convince the couch potato cousins to play outside.

    I think it is a ‘greener’ way of living, as it makes the simple things in life more interesting than technology, and conquers the concept of having the best new gadget/toy as soon as it is available.

    Years ago, I had a discussion with a friend who was adamant that kids shouldn’t or can’t grow up without sharing pop culture with their peers, that it’s not healthy. I have found that pop culture tends to define people more than people get to define pop culture (or themselves), and it increasingly favors excessive behavior.

    I mostly like being a ‘pioneer’ in avoiding mass media. People usually respond with a curious, questioning look, as if it had never occurred to them before, thinking that perhaps it is a good idea.

  21. I understand the “limited screen time” thing, but I’m not understanding the vague references to limiting licensed characters. Am I missing something here?

    • Katie Kimball says:

      Laura,
      To me, all the characters on the toys my kids get are another side to the TV/movie/commercialism coin. It bugs me that I can’t find a sleeping bag w/o characters on it, b/c they don’t recognize the characters b/c they don’t watch movies. ??? But I wasn’t really making any commentary on limiting licensed characters, I don’t think…
      :) Katie

  22. My oldest is almost 3 and we haven’t had cable since well before he was born and gave away our TV a few months after he was born. Now, we do watch things on our computers – and my oldest does like to watch clips on YouTube of dump trucks and fire trucks, etc. And with a very recent upgrade to iPhone, he does like to look at pictures and movies on it. On the licensed characters – my oldest has a pair of hand me down Toy Story pajamas that he calls his “Goliath” pajamas – he doesn’t have a clue who Woody and Buzz are, but thinks the characters looks like David and Goliath. Love it ;-)

    We got rid of cable before we had kids because we found if it was there, we would watch it. If it’s not there, we do things together. I think because he has had such limited screen time, my son’s attention span and enjoyment of books is way greater. He will sit and read books for hours. He is more than happy to entertain himself with his blocks, books, cars and other toys.

  23. We haven’t had tv since we married almost 14 years ago.
    I am sure our lives are better for it.
    It’s greener in that it cuts down on consumption and constant desires it fuels.
    Plus, everyone does spend more time doing than mindlessly consuming media-and potato chips! ;)

    I may have the only six year old who doesn’t know what McDonald’s is, or most of the toys and accompanying tv/movie tie-in crap on the shelves is. And I am ok with that. Living a life without commercials is really nice. Besides, I still have all those dumb jingles in my mind from childhood.

    We just like life better this way.

    We are video game-free and iphone-free as well. It is very freeing!!! They don’t miss what they don’t know and my kids are three of the happiest kids I have ever seen and as a former teacher, I’ve seen a lot.

    • Love your comment. Totally resonate with: “They don’t miss what they don’t know and my kids are three of the happiest kids I have ever seen”

  24. We don’t watch TV either. We have no cable, no antenna. Life is more meaningful when we are not bombarded by commercials and negative news.

  25. I loved this post!! I laugh often about the stories I hear my children telling about Lightning McQueen and more recently Star Wars anything. My children (age 4 and 7) are huge star wars fans (I believe it started with a lego set). They love talking about the characters and make up regular stories and adventures, but they have never seen these movies and until this week we did not have TV. I love living in the technological world, but also love that my children can make up new stories, play for hours and hours out of pure creativity. We still have ‘screen time’ but it is always started by play time and finished with play time. It is a huge treat to watch a movie (we have family movie night once a month) and an even bigger treat to play a video game and time on the iphone is a well deserved break after a very focused music lesson! I hope that these will always be the ‘extra treats’ in our lives and not a part of daily living. There is too much life to be lived to spend it in front of the screen!

  26. Charlotte says:

    We have TV free kids here, and I started that when we got into the “crunchy” whole foods, homeopathy type lifestyle 4 years ago. The funny thing is that once a week when we go to my parent’s for dinner, my 3 very young kids spend 2 out of 3 hours there watching shows because my mom loves to record Backyardigans and Peppa Pig for them! It used to bug me more than it does now, but they wait all week for their show time. When I was little (and older!) I watched tons of TV all day long. So I think my mom just can’t bear the thought of denying her grandkids such a fun thing in life! But other than that, they get zero TV and they find plenty of things to do — blocks, books, outdoors, dollhouse, etc. I honestly don’t know when they’d find time for it!

  27. We ended up selling our tv a few weeks ago. It was too much of a temptation. Now we are in a TV detox phase. We no longer have daily screen time for the littles. I’m relieved that the near-constant begging for entertainment has ended. When we do watch something, it is as a family. Today (Saturday) we decided to have a lazy morning, with breakfast in front of the “tv” (computer monitor) on the couch. We watched a DVD from the library about trains. I’m sure that sounds stupendously boring to some of you, but we are starting to enjoy our freedom from the big blue box. As a family we are more active, industrious and imaginative in our play time, something we were losing as the television set slowly took over all our free time.

  28. StarlightMama says:

    My children only recently discovered Disney…but only because they have a grown aunt who is obsessed with Disney. In our home the boys are only allowed to watch certain shows on PBS, or approved shows from National Geographic and similar channels. And even then the TV time is limited. And it’s paying off: My son was glued to a recent episode of “Nature” about marine life. Glad he’d rather watch that, than other garbage on TV.

    He’s received a pair of SuperMario PJs and I had to tell him who SuperMario was, because we don’t do video games, either. And I told both of my boys to not be surprised if/when we move into our new home, there won’t be ANY TV. Anything we absolutely NEED to see, we can get online or through video. I’m ready to toss my TV out – with few redeeming exceptions, it’s mostly toxic.

  29. I think not watching TV is not in-and-of-itself a “green” thing – BUT:

    – those who don’t watch as much TV in particular (screen time in general but particularly **television programming**) tend to be more connected with reality

    – they tend to be more active, or at least mentally active

    – they tend to be busy (a good kind of busy) with the REST of their lives

    Combined together, they become people more mindful of what is going on around them, their minute to minute choices and their impacts; and NOT cleaning out the tv-chair or couch and finding 3 month old food is not considered normal in their homes. Or being dictated by the commercials.

    So I think the two things (being green and avoiding tv) tend to go along relatively together – they both stem from a mindfulness of conscious life choices, and wanting to LIVE that life.

  30. StarlightMama says:

    I forgot to add that sporting events (we do like some sports) is a little bit more problematic, but we do find ourselves either changing the channel, or turning it off altogether during commercials.

    (We don’t have cable, so these are sporting events broadcast on “regular” TV.)

  31. It’s reassuring to read the comments and find out that there are others who are TV-less or otherwise greatly limit their children’s TV time. People often act like I am crazy because we don’t have a TV. I used to think that I would start showing movies to my DD (now almost 4 yrs old) after she turned 2, but honestly, because that has never really been a part of her short life, it never seemed necessary to introduce it. We have many reasons why we decided to forego a TV, including, but not limited to, wanting to encourage a more active rather than lifestyle, wanting to encourage our kids to learn to entertain themselves, hoping to avoid hours of wasted time in front of the TV set (unfortunately, now I am dealing with the internet on that point). I don’t think ditching or greatly limiting TV is necessarily “green” but it seems that doing so is motivated by many of the same values and concerns that would also motivate someone to live a “green” life.

  32. We have a TV but do not get any channels — just DVD’s that we own or borrow from the library. My kids (ages 4 and 20 months) like to watch when they get up in the morning and then again after naps — this is a good routine for us because it helps them “wake up” and gives me a few minutes to get breakfast ready and such. We watch Veggie Tales and animated Bible stories. As they get older I hope we can find so more educational ones about animals and such. We also enjoy the Cedarmont Kids and Praise Baby sing-along DVD’s for especially tired/crabby times. Usually my kids end up playing instead of watching anyway!

  33. I love this topic. In fact, I love it so much that my family and I are going “screen-free” this summer and we’re going to blog about it. I’d love to invite anyone who is interested to follow us on our journey. The address is http://www.screenfreesummer.blogspot.com. The official launch of the blog is May 21st. On that day all the screens in our home will go black for three months! Should be quite a ride!!

  34. I didn’t let Jonathan watch TV until he was almost 2. It was easy because he was the only kid in the house and our TV is upstairs in the loft.
    Once baby Joe was born he got to watch way too much the first two months (but I’m ok with that. I had to recover from the birth, right?!), then I just didn’t really think about it much after that, I popped a movie into the computer in the afternoons so I could cook in peace.
    About a month ago hubby mentioned that we should limit the boys’ TV time a lot more. So they get to watch a Signing Time or Donut Man DVD once a week and that’s it. Jonathan still asks pretty much every day if he can watch Cars (I so badly wish I had NEVER let him watch that stupid movie!).

  35. I grew up without a TV. I don’t remember having one until I was in high school. My mom does say that I watched Sesame street and Mr. Rogers on a little 13 inch black and white TV when I was little, but I don’t have any recollection of that. I do remember in High school people talking bout TV shows they were watching or had watched in the past and I had no clue what they were talking about. While if always felt awkward to not be included in conversation or labeled the crazy girl without TV I got over it. There were plenty of other subjects to discuss and I learned to steer the conversations to another topic or as with many shows I figured out what was going on based on the conversations around me and you would think I had watched the show. :) I should state that I am 37 years old and still don’t have TV except to watch a movie now and then. My children are being raised the same way as I was. We did not have a television in the house until my oldest was 7(he is now 10). My brother gave it to us so we could watch a movies on a bigger screen than the computer. He on the other hand loves his television and feels that he could not live without it.
    I love the fact that when my children are looking for something to do they pick up a book, play a board game, or Lego’s. Screen time is limited to one movie a week and 30 minutes of games on the computer a week. Many times it’s even less than that, especially in the summer when one is so busy out of doors.

  36. We finally had to get rid of the TV because it was too distracting to homeschool my oldest in the kitchen while my 4 year old watched TV in the living room. Woo-hoo! I’ve been wanting to throw the TV out the window for a long time but I feared (unreasonably) the backlash from my kids (but thankfully my husband was totally on board with cutting the TV out of our lives). So, the actual TV is still physically in the house in an upstairs spare bedroom with absolutely NO reception to any TV programming, cable, dish, etc. The kids are allowed to pick 2 DVDs when we go to the library but they don’t even really watch those very much. My kids are allowed to watch some videos on PBS kids dot com after their school work is completed. But the best part is that we replaced all the TV watching of old with Daddy reading The Chronicles of Narnia in the evening and with, get this, playing with their 10 million toys!!!!! And, of course, now that it’s nice outside, playing with our backyard chickens and digging in dirt and bouncing on the trampoline.

  37. We don’t watch tv at our house. My kids get 30 mins of computer time per day IF they get their work done and 1 movie on Friday nights. That’s about it.

    My oldest (9) still talks about the time when she was 5 and I put her in front of PBS kids for hours. It was for a week and I was packing our house solo for a move across the country. And honestly, it was only for like 3 or 4 hours per day.

  38. I actually don’t have to limit my children’s screen time much because they are not interested in TV. Mostly they play video games. I buy them toys that they can use to act out thier own scenarios and they are more interested in making up thier own stories than watching someone else’s!

  39. I just realized in my comment above that it sounds like they “mostly” play video games above other things. I meant that thier screen time is mostly video games. They play an average of maybe an hour per day- sometimes less.

  40. A year and a half ago we finished a family room in our basement and moved our tv down there. It has been SO nice! I used to watch a little bit of tv before but I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve gone down there to watch something.

    My son is a different story and would watch all day if I’d let him. I also have a hard time with him watching tv at friends’ homes. Why not just play?

    I find that the stuff on network television (especially the news) is dumbed down as corporate America would like to turn us all into a bunch of mindless, unquestioning consumers. I find much more satisfaction in reading a book or listening to NPR. I like PBS and that is all my son gets to watch as we don’t have cable.

  41. We have had the “one-hour of screen time” rule in our house for years. I started it when my first kids were toddlers, because I was providing daycare to other children as well. Tiny minds and bodies are not meant to stay glued to a box. :)

    We don’t have cable, and my own parents got rid of it when I was about 8yrs old, so it’s not really a new idea for me. We have Netflix, and I have to admit, I have let our “one hour rule” slide recently because our oldest kids have learned how to turn it on by themselves, and I had morning sickness, so letting the kids watch TV was an easy break. Your post was just reminding me I need to get that back under control! I know my kids were happier and less whiny when they were used to less TV. It is definitely something I want to keep up in our house!

    I found it a little difficult to relate to other kids growing up; as I often had no clue about the cultural stuff they were talking about. For that reason I don’t mind if my kids are familiar with some of the current cartoons and shows, but I am pretty strict to preview new shows for age appropriateness and positive influences. It really does get harder as they get older, and I have found that my youngest ones see more at a younger age because of the older siblings. Family life is never perfect, but we keep trying. ;)

  42. I couldn’t agree more! My daughter is limited to 2 hours of media per day – something that her father and I closely monitor – whether that be DVDs we own, Netflix we stream, computer games or iPhone apps.
    The first time my daughter saw broadcast television was visiting me in the hospital while I gave birth to her baby brother. She was in awe… and then very, very annoyed by all the commercials. She just couldn’t understand why these grown-ups were talking instead of her show being on! And why couldn’t she watch back-to-back episodes of Curious George?
    I am actually blogging on just this subject this week; the three part series includes my recommendations for iPhone apps, videos and online games for toddlers/preschoolers.

  43. On the subject of is TV green: is there a greater carbon footprint watching a 2 hour movie once or purchasing tons of cheap crap made in china printed with disney images?

  44. Glad to see my kids aren’t the only ones who do not know Disney characters. I despise how the media influences children. Before having kids I vowed they wouldn’t watch TV until 5. Haha! Then they were born and life happened! I work from home and the only way to get my job done is to have a little screen time for my 3 y.o. daughter (while infant naps or plays). That means she is on YouTube (sitting next to me), she doesn’t see commercials, and I am very picky with what she watches. It has to be kind or educational, beneficial in some way. I do like her to just play while I work, but she really likes to be next to me if I am on the computer (we have two computer screens). I’m glad I can supplement my husband’s income from home, at the same time I wish I didn’t have to work at all – she wouldn’t watch so many cartoons. We don’t watch TV at all, though there was a time she did watch every day for about two hours (for 6 months) – it affected her adversely, really bad behavior so I went cold turkey and then gradually introduced screen time several months later.

  45. I’ll go against the grain and say that I don’t think T.V. is such a huge deal. I am raising an almost 3 year old farm boy that loves to go outside and dig in the dirt.

    That being said…I think T.V. (think Nick Jr.) has been extremely BENEFICIAL for our family. As I’m writing this my son is watching Dora and repeating words back to her. My son was/is a late talker and shows like Dora, Team Umizoomi, etc, have expanded his vocabulary soooo much. If we were ever to get rid of satellite we would invest in DVD’s like this for him to watch.

    Also, I personally don’t think it’s a huge deal if my child was to spend an hour long play date watching T.V. Granted, it’s not the ideal thing to do, but it’s nothing to warrant a discussion over.

  46. So I was that mom who never let my oldest watch television. Imagine my shock when two additional kids later, my oldest child was the only one who was obsessed with television. He never watched it as a small child under 3, then his brother came along and he was allowed a 30 minute show once a day, then his sister came along and our television consumption went up to around 6- 7 hours a week? The only one of my 3 kids (7,4,3) who shows interest in the television is the oldest who was never allowed to watch it. He asks for it constantly as a reward for school work or reading or whatever he can come up with. I’m wondering if television became the forbidden fruit for him?

    On the other hand, the kids have no clue that non educational shows exist. They love to watch shows about science or history or their all time favorite show – wild Cratz which is all about animals. My children are a minority and my 7 year old son is a social outcast because he wants to catch potato bugs and climb trees while friends are talking about the latest show they watched on television. I haven’t the heart to even share with him about video games yet! I dread the day when he discovers that he hasn’t a clue what they are all talking about…..

  47. Elizabeth says:

    We have a TV rule. No TV except on weekends. As the mom, I can break this rule whenever I want. Like when the kids are sick – which is rare because they eat well and sleep well. Also – even on weekends it is limited. I have found when they are allowed TV time – especially more than one 20 minute show – then they get whinier. I have seen a statistic that your brain is more active when you are asleep than when you are watching TV. Why would I encourage a vegetative state in my quickly growing, quickly changing children – when I know it literally wastes their brains for that time frame? I attribute this to the whining. They simply forget their self control. So – I don’t do it because I am necessarily green. I do it, just like nutrition and personal products, because I believe it is the best thing for my family.

    • willowsprite says:

      Well said.
      We have a tv, but it’s not hooked up to anything, except our Nintendo and dvd player. So it’s games and videos we take out from the library once a week. Usually Magic School Bus because my 4 year old loves them.
      Katie, don’t worry about “culture forgiving your daughter for not knowing cartoon characters.” You don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself and God. My kids don’t know any cartoon characters and I’m not a bit worried about what other people think of that. They have great imaginations and love reading books and playing outside. Why not worry about stunting their intellectual growth by letting a tube think for them?

  48. I’m 47 years old and remember the tiny black and white TV that we had when I was a child. There were only three or four channels and I remember being so bored by TV that I preferred to play outside with my brothers or read a book.

    But I disagree that TV is bad. My three children (10, 7 and 4) love to watch a favorite show or two on a Saturday or Sunday morning while my husband and I drink coffee and make breakfast. They talk about what they are watching and snuggle together in quilts on the floor. And every Friday night, we as a family of five watch shows that we especially DVR — Young Justice, Ben 10, Star Wars. We LOVED The Last Airbender cartoon series and are eagerly looking forward to the new Avatar series which we taped this morning. I think TV is a very good thing when it is done correctly and with moderation. And any time spent snuggling with your family is quality time to me.

    For those of you whose children do not watch any TV or play any video games, I appreciate your decision. It is a tough one to maintain once your children are old enough to know what they are missing. However, I think it is important for children to have certain common denominators with other children their age. TV, popular movies, music, video games and sports are all regular topics of conversation among children. Be careful that your children do not feel estranged from those with whom they attend school or wish to befriend. Childhood is hard enough without that additional handicap.

  49. We stopped letting our two girls (now 3 & 5 years old) watch tv about 9 months ago. It was a weaning process for us, that is for sure. Now, I do not think about turning the tv on for them at all. 1.5 years ago, we removed the tv from the lounge room and put it in a studio space we have. We converted the lounge room into a play room and the studio space into my partner’s and I study, tv watching & craft room. I spent a lot of energy creating the play space with carefully selected toys, some handmade by my self. The room is beautiful, with a place for everything, inspiring my girl’s imagination.

    There is also a small play corner in our study for when the girls are in there, so they have their space there too. I rarely watch tv these days when the girls are asleep, but if I do, often I may be crafting/knitting whilst watching and at least my partner and I are together. It was the best thing we ever did!

    Now, I do not even think about turning on the tv! In the afternoon we have quiet time and I read the girls each a story of their choice and then we my 5 year old listens to two Sparkle Stories: http (www.sparklestories.com) that we have a subscription to. Best investment ever. My youngest daughter knows the routine and usually potters around or looks through books whilst I get a chance to lie down and have a rest. The girls know the rules and the girls know the boundaries.

    Saying that, they do watch tv very occasionally when they visit their grandparents house. It is an ongoing point of contention, but I I try not to stress about it as it is so minimal what they watch.

    The final crunch came down after I discussed the issue with people that I was studying with last year and when some might think that it is harmless, it smothers a childrens’ imagination. When they watch tv, you watch their play, they copy what they watch. Small children are imitators and their play is tainted. I watched lots of tv when I was growing up and even though I am very creative, I feel my imagination was hugely effected. I do not want the same for my children.

    Put 2 children in a room together, one who watches tv and one who does not. When they play…watch the difference.

    Love & blessings to all…it is a challenging road to travel! XO

  50. We try to limit TV to 2-3 1/2 hour shows a day at most and we recently instituted no TV Sundays. The kids were disappointed at first but got over it quickly and moved on to playing. We monitor which shows they watch and make sure it is appropriate for their age and what we want them to learn and value.

    Its funny that you mention Phineas and Ferb because my family loves that show. The kids think all the inventions that they come up with are amazing and that the whole premise behind the story is hilarious. I wouldnt say it is ‘educational’ but it is fun and it encourages imagination and invention and the idea that you never too young to think up big ideas.

    My husband practically grew up on TV and in way, so did I. Its been difficult to remove ourselves from it. We recently got rid of cable because we felt it was too expensive for the type of content we were getting and now only have Netflix and Hulu Plus and the occasional Red Box movie. This way there are no commercials (on Netflix at least) and we can manage how much they watch a lot easier. My 5 yr old knows that she has to turn it off after 2 shows unless I say otherwise. Now that the weather is getting nicer we are often finding ourselves at the end of the day without having watched it at all because we were outside all day!

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