The TV Thing

OK, so why not kick off the book recap with the really FUN topic.  TV.


The section of my book “Making the Terrible Two’s Terrific” that I’m talking about is actually called SHUT OFF THE TELEVISION.

His reasons:

  • Watching tv is a “passivity” not an “activity”.  The watcher is not only physically inactive, but MENTALLY inactive.
  • Statistic:  the AVERAGE preschooler watches 5,000 hours of tv before the age of 6.  AND, that doesn’t count the hours watched before the child’s 2nd birthday (since the APA recommends NO tv before the age of 2).
  • Break down:  That’s 1/4 of a child’s discretionary time.  Time that could otherwise be spent in meaningful physical or mental activity–the kind that promotes creativity, imagination and intelligence.
  • TV is not an activity that involves any competency skill.
  • Big Point:  TV lends nothing of value to the life of a growing child.  TV is a DEPRIVATIONAL EXPERIENCE.
  • His recommendation:  Do not expose your child to much or ANY tv until they have learned to read and can read well.
  • Better things to do:  Draw, build with blocks, read to your child (can start at 5 min. per day, but by age 3 should be no less than 30 minutes per day), talk to your child, DON’T buy lots of toys (this is a whole other entry coming next), PLAY with your child

He goes on to talk about how if we always use tv to pacify or “babysit” our children to keep them occupied or out of trouble, they actually never learn the level of creativity it takes to entertain yourself for a period of time.  That’s what really got me.

Carter never watched a minute of tv (in my house, anyway) until he was 18 months old.  He got really mobile and into everything and I felt like letting him watch some carefully chosen tv (Mr. Rogers, Sesame Street or Between the Lions) was reasonable while I cooked.  My rationalization was that he could get hurt and that I simply couldn’t be there to watch his every move while I made dinner.  Plus, to be honest, it was a nice, quiet break for me.  I’ve completely stuck with the one tv show a day, but when I read that last statement it really rang true with me.  If I keep using tv to keep him quiet, he’ll always need the tv on while I cook.  He’ll never learn to do something else.  So, I’m still struggling with the how.  How does one go from this very convenient method of getting desired behavior to a completely different method?  I think it’s going to be tough, really.

Great things that have come from shutting off the tv:

Not only is Carter limited to 30 minutes of tv per day, but in order to do this for him, we had to make the decision to do this for us as well.  And, I’ll be honest, I love it and I haven’t missed it a bit!  It’s quiet in my house (aside from my voice and Carter’s and occasional music being played) from the time he wakes up until he goes to bed.  I have time for playing with him, reading to him, cleaning while he plays, Facebooking while he plays, going outside, going to the gym, reading and working.  And, there’s just not that much going on on the tv that impacts my life.  We turn on the tv after Carter goes to bed around 8:30 and Jeff usually watches some news program or I watch some cooking show.  When the new Fall shows come back on, we’ll probably catch a few of them.  But, from someone who grew up in a home with the tv on from sun up until sun down, I really didn’t think it was possible.

Another shocker–I have no intentions of letting my child zone out and check out on video games, either. He can learn eye-hand coordination and problem solving in LOTS of other ways.  I prefer to keep his attention span and creativity in tact.  Don’t even get me STARTED on video games and the waste of a good life that they are.  Nuf said.  I’m fully prepared to be unpopular about that one.

By no means to I intend to pressure anyone into “being like Mandi”.  I’m just saying it’s worked for me, but I’m still hanging on a bit.  What’s your view of tv for children?  How do the points above strike you?  Do you want to punch me?


3 responses to “The TV Thing

  • taliab5

    Yes, I want to punch you! No!! Im so kidding!! I actually would like you to teach me how to do the whole 30 minute a day thing. Now, having said that and really understanding your point I have to push the other side of the TV story here. Emma has been watching TV since she was very little. BUT when I say “TV” and “very little” I mean she watched Baby Einstein videos when she was just a few months old. And when I say “watched” I mean that she would sit and play with her books (or whatever toy it was) with the movie on and watch a bit then play a bit then watch a little more. Also, being a huge movie person myself, she and I have been watching Disney movies together since she was old enough to sit and watch a whole one with me. And I love it. Its relaxing, its time together and we both enjoy it. I have done the same thing with Katie. And as you know very well, neither of them (especially Emma who reads at least at a 6th grade reading level) have been stunted physically, emotionally, or academically. In fact I think Emma is actually already smarter than me in some areas. ha ha
    Now, with all that said, do I think this would work with all children? Absolutely not! Katie, although the TV in the play room is on almost all day, just doesnt watch very much. Its more background noise for the both of us. She plays with her books, play doh, coloring books and crayons, doll houses, etc. while the TV plays away in the background. Why dont I turn it off you ask? I have no idea. Laziness? Maybe. And then again, maybe I just dont hear it anymore, just like it seems she doesnt. Maybe this means weve become callused to the sound of the TV. And thats probably not a good thing…which brings me back to the original statement of wanting you to teach me how to do the one show a day thing. Maybe Ill start with two. 😉

    • mindofmandi

      THANK YOU! Thanks for being honest. I don’t know how many people have read this and thought, “Mandi, you are completely off your rocker” and said nothing. Not that that’s what you’re saying, you’re just having a mind of your own and saying that something else works for you. I totally agree that both your girls are brilliant!
      I’m coming to learn more and more that so many different things work for different people. Whereas Katie may pay no attention to tv, Carter would barely blink or move if I had on tv all day.
      The one show a day thing–how do I do it? I don’t know…I just do. Carter plays when we’re here, we’re on the go a lot, we read some (can’t really say a lot because I know it should be at least 30 minutes a day–and it isn’t), we talk a lot. When I do turn on the tv, it’s for that very WRONG reason. You know, “they” say NEVER USE THE TV AS A BABYSITTER. Sadly, I do, but I’m working on it.

  • laurenhansonwilliams

    i’m so glad you’re enjoying the book. i thought you would agree with most or all of what he has to say. and his practical, down to earth advice is priceless.

    ever since cole has been home with the kids while i work, he is not being as strict about the no tv/video games stuff as i had been. it’s becoming a bit of an issue. i don’t really want to nag him about it but if this short-term job turns indefinite then he needs to reread those chapters for himself and start practicing them. i’ve been pleading for God to do something so i can come home because while he’s a wonderful father, he was not meant to be mr. mom. i know how i want things to happen in our home and i just want to be home to execute those plans and rules. at this point i’m getting afraid for the kids’ development. it’s a problem.

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