Saturday, March 24, 2012

Why I Curbed Family TV Time

According to Common Sense Media's report, "Zero to Eight: Children's Media Use in America," 57% of parents often or sometimes "use media to keep their child occupied while they do chores."

I'll admit it. I've used the TV to babysit the kids, falling into the "often" category. When they were very young, in the Dora the Explorer stage, I turned the TV on so they would hold still while I got them ready for the day. As they grew up a little, I rearranged TV time so they watched every evening while I cooked dinner in peace. It was a routine that we were all comfortable with.

Then my older daughter, in elementary school for nearly seven hours a day, began frequently complaining that she didn't get enough time to play. My younger daughter began to have sleeping problems, waking frequently with nightmares that almost always involved the cartoon characters she had been watching.

I didn't want to nix TV time completely, and frankly, I doubt my husband would have supported that. So I decided that TV time would be reserved for weekends. I thought it would be a hard fought battle with my kids. Surprisingly, it wasn't.

I explained to them that I was going to change things so that they had more time to play during the day and were able to sleep better at night. I let them finish out the week with the current routine. They have rarely asked to watch TV during the week ever since.

Since the big change, my kids are undoubtedly happier, and yes, they do sleep much better. (And sure, it helps that they are older now and can entertain themselves better than the preschool days.) Do my kids get bored during the week? Sometimes. But a little boredom often forces them to come up with something creative to do.

I don't expect that turning the TV off will do miracles for everyone, but it has certainly been a big help to my family.  Perhaps it will help yours, too.

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