May 30, 2008

Kids and TV

My parents were pretty strict about TV viewing when I was growing up. The TV (and I do mean "The TV"... it was the only one in the house) was housed in the basement, but the power was controlled by a switch upstairs in the kitchen. It was a crummy TV too; small and not very good reception. Most of the TV watching I did as a kid was at the homes of friends. (Yes, even "The Wallace and Ladmo Show.")

It drove me crazy at the time, but today I am very grateful that my parents were so strict about it. I have had some shocked responses to the fact that my kids are not allowed to watch television. Yes, it's true.... even PBS. Some have asked how we do it. Here is the scoop.

We have had the no TV policy for many years. When Collin (our first child) was about 2 years old, we started letting him watch PBS... things like "Teletubbies" and "Barney." But that didn't last long because I soon noticed there were some other shows on PBS they we didn't approve of ("Arthur" for one) so we just decided to quit it completely.

On our old TV, we simply deleted all of the channels from the remote control, meaning you had to punch the number in manually... otherwise there was nothing but the channel for watching movies... and we kept the remote in our closet and only got it out after the kids were in bed and Jay and I wanted to watch it. The kids never knew the difference.

Our new TV works differently, but all we had to do was program it so that all the channels (yes, even PBS) and all TV ratings are blocked unless you have the PIN, which the kids don't. They don't even ask to watch TV.... they are just used to it. Mary and Jack have never even watched PBS, and Collin was so young that he doesn't even remember watching it.

I always knew I didn't want my kids to watch commercial television (and not just because of the commercials) but I realized there was a problem with the concept of television itself.... there is always something on. (That's the problem I have with cable TV too.... too many options.) After one show is over, another one comes on, and another and another, and before you know it the child has watched it for hours and hours. A video or DVD has an end. Videos were even better because they had to be rewound before you could watch it again, where as DVD's can start over instantly. But thankfully my kids are beyond that stage where they want to watch something over and over and over and over in the same day.

During the school year, my older kids rarely even watch DVD's... they just don't have time. Sometimes Jack will watch a movie in the afternoon when there is no one else to play with and I'm working on something, or he is just exhausted and needs some down time (since he's kind of old for a nap).

During the summer they seem to watch a few more movies because it's so hot (and we don't have a video game system either, but that's another story), so they will put on an movie on a summer afternoon when they don't have anything else to do. But again, it's just one movie, and kids movies are usually less than 90 minutes, and I'm fine with that.

We have mostly Disney ones (including those great old ones like Pollyanna, Swiss Family Robinson, Darby O'Gill, and Mary Poppins, which are closer to 2 hours). We do own the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies, but the kids are not allowed to watch them except (on rare occasions) with Mom and Dad (those are high up on our closet shelf) and absolutely no PG-13.

Obviously, it would be harder to institute this kind of rule in your home if your children are already used to watching TV. I'm very grateful that I started early. But if you really want to do it, you can make it happen... you will just have to be vigilant. Or you could do what Jay's parents did when he was a kid.... throw out the TV or give it away. Good luck.


  1. This is fantastic! Good for you! Wish I could have stuck to my guns with the TV. My kids are only suppose to watch 30 min. after their chores, homework, piano are finished, but before you know it 30 minutes turns into 2 hours. My kids need a serious intervention! We're going to have to do some tough love and put the TV away for the summer. I loved the idea of blocking all of the channels. I'm gonna try it. Wish me luck.

  2. Wow! I so wish I would have started when my kids were younger. What a great idea to have a PIN to watch TV. I'll definitely be doing that this summer. Thanks for the advice!

  3. We have a slight variation. Our kids can't watch live TV, but based on chores and behavior can watch something we have recorded on DVR. When the 1/2 hour show is over the screen goes blank and they turn it off. It's all they have ever known so they don't ask for anything else.

    My boys especially don't get the concept of TV that you can't start when you want, fast forward or stop.

    Movies are only for when they have a babysitter.

    2008 girl, time to get a DVR!!

  4. Why would I want DVR when there is nothing worth recording? I find those kids shows on TV and cable (which we don't have) terribly annoying. Besides, it's just more licensed characters that my kids would want the toys for. ARGHHH!


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