Many parents choose not to limit TV use, and that’s okay. But if the amount of time your children spend sitting in front of a screen isn’t sitting well with you, or you’re concerned about the research showing TV’s impact on attention span and other foundational learning skills, the eye-opening experiences described below might give you the impetus and encouragement you need to make a change.
Chelsey’s story: The day you posted the article about TV viewing and children my son (almost three) went cold turkey. My husband and I did not grow up watching TV, so we were never a TV family. But with the arrival of our beautiful daughter three months ago, TV (Netflix and YouTube) crept into our lives. My son was waking up incredibly early for a while, and I was using TV more and more each week to help myself cope with the early mornings and the challenges of two. But RESOLVE! I sent your article to my husband, and that was it. It was over. It’s been around a week, and I will never go back. My son’s personality is completely different. I wonder now if the challenges we had with him (tantrums, aggression, sadness) were due to his sister’s arrival (he never directed his anger towards her), or if they were mostly due to the TV watching, which commenced at the same time. Our days are so easy without TV (and its associated behaviors) and much, much more joyous. It’s been such a huge wake-up call for me as a mother. Thank you so much for helping us get back on track.
This is me (in blue) and my husband chatting about the change in our son’s personality. I could go on and on about the specific changes we have noticed. It’s honestly been a life saver:
(The article they are referring to is How to Break Your Toddler’s TV Habit)
Lee’s story: Have to share! My just three-year-old is home from school today, and I was desperate to get some work done. He was moaning and whining that he was bored, wanted to play with my laptop, and was generally making it difficult to work, in spite of me setting up play dough and paint. I finally acknowledged his frustrations with me not being able to go to the park or being available to play. He walked off, found some toy cars, some towels from the cupboard, and he is now deep in play at ‘the car wash’. Thank you for your advice. Otherwise, I may have caved and let him watch TV, missing this wonderful opportunity to play. I have to add, he stopped after a few minutes to take himself to the toilet. I’d have been none the wiser if I hadn’t heard the loo flush and the tap run. I love how independent he is, which I can attribute to reading your book and blog!
Nicole’s story: I am writing to thank you for encouraging me without knowing that you do! I read a lot of the posts I see from you and have been trying hard to get my child off the TV as a time for me to get things done (or a break for me). Lately I have just been explaining that, no, we won’t be watching TV every time we have down time or when I need to make breakfast, dinner and so on. I explain that TV will turn our brains to mush if we watch too much, and he totally rolls with it most of the time! Tonight he has been playing on his own for 45 minutes and happily engaged with his things. I’m just feeling proud of sticking with it and thankful to your blog for such positive encouragement. Thank you.
As these personal stories illustrate, limiting screen time takes courage and commitment but can help to protect children from the effects of overstimulation (which include hyperactivity and aggression) and also encourage:
- Active, therapeutic play and learning
- Full engagement in self-directed, independent activities (like reading)
- Daydreaming, puttering, deep thinking
- Inventiveness, creativity, and flow
- The expression of uncomfortable feelings like fear, frustration, and boredom (experiencing and overcoming these feelings — moving through them and then moving on — is how children build confidence and resilience)
Thanks so much to Nicole, Chelsey, and Lee for allowing me to share your stories!
Watching TV is Relaxing by Teacher Tom
I share more about setting limits with confidence in my book: