When I was pregnant with my first I decided that she would be at least 5 years old before she could start watching TV and even then it would be very limited. I was sure this would be really easy to do since we’re not big TV fans but when she was close to 2 years old we decided to take a 10 week vacation to Europe.
We had ahead of us a long flight and I knew we would be traveling in train a lot. I packed plenty of toys but I needed a back-up and that’s when my husband and I decided we would introduce our daughter to the iPad and some TV shows. We installed kid-friendly apps and downloaded cartoons. We were pleasantly surprised that we didn’t have to use the iPad a lot during our flight and she barely watched cartoons during this vacation.
When we came back from that trip I was pregnant with my second baby and at around 10 weeks I had a horrible bleeding episode. Turns out I had something called subchorionic hemorrhage (SCH), which is a like a pool of blood that forms in your uterus and some in cases makes you bleed pretty bad. I bled for over 4 weeks and was in bed rest for a total of 8 weeks. My husband still had to work and my family lives in another country. I was alone with my daughter most of the time and I couldn’t do much with her.
I was desperate and that’s when we started watching more TV. At first she seemed mesmerized by it. For about 2 weeks she was almost obsessed with the TV because she had never had access to it like this before. I felt so guilty but I didn’t know what else to do. It is not easy to keep a 2 year old busy all day long when you’re not supposed to move.
After having unlimited TV access for about 2 weeks she realized she could watch TV whenever she wanted to and suddenly she started watching it a lot less. It made me think of my childhood and how I wanted those things I couldn’t have and once I had them, I would lose interest in them.
Over the course of my high risk pregnancy I learned this about my daughter: if something was free to use whenever she wanted it, then she would use it at first like crazy and eventually she would move on or use it much less. This was the case with the TV as well as with sweet treats, which is why we let her eat whatever she wants.
Now she is 3.5 years old and we don’t have set times for TV in our home. I let her watch TV whenever she wants to but because she knows that she rarely asks for it.
There have been times that I’ve turned on the TV and my daughter will go play in her room. There have been times when we snuggle together and watch a funny cartoon. Other times when I have to get something important done and I’ll give her the option to play in her room or watch TV and she chooses the TV.
I’m not saying every child is this way but I think some might be and trying to the “no-limit TV” approach might work in your benefit. If my daughter had been obsessed with TV (beyond those first two weeks when she discovered it) then I would have been forced to limit TV time. However, I would have probably done this by offering more activities instead of just saying no.
I am not saying that watching TV all day is healthy nor good for them. What I’m saying is that if we limit TV time they might want it more and won’t know how to control themselves once they have access to a TV. By allowing them the access now they learn to self regulate and if they don’t, this is where you step in.
My kid, like I mentioned, was obsessed for about 2 weeks and then the TV lost its magic. Only you know your kid so if you decide to try this approach observe what they do and how they behave. I think it’s normal to expect them to be a little obsessed over it (since it’s something new) for a few weeks but if it goes beyond a few weeks than I would definitively step in.
Our kids are being born into a different world, a world where technology is everywhere and part of our daily lives. Instead of running away from it or forbidding it all together we should teach them how they can use these tools in their life. We can show them that some shows are better, for example, Daniel Tiger has been really helpful in helping my daughter deal with her emotions and some Spanish apps have helped her increase her Spanish vocabulary. We can use technology as a tool but not as a solution to everything or a nanny.
We should encourage our children to do other activities, even to get bored so they can use their imagination but if every now and then they want to watch a cartoon then that’s OK. I too have days where I like to decompress by watching TV and the reality is that TV’s are very much part of our lives so we have to teach our kids how to use them properly.
This experience has made me realize that sometimes by forbidding things we might be pushing our kids (without realizing) to wanting them more. Ultimately we want them to learn that they shouldn’t watch too much TV because there are other better activities they could be doing instead. I don’t want my kid to stop watching TV just because it’s my rule or I said so – I want her to learn to stop on her own, to look for other activities, to learn to self-regulate. I know this will come with time and with this approach I feel we’re on the right path.
A couple of tips to avoid excessive TV time:
- Set up your home in a way that your kids have access to plenty offline activities they can do with you and on their own. For example, when you have time you can do crafts with them (see the end of this post for ideas) but if they have to play alone make sure they have access to fun things like puzzles, coloring supplies and their favorite toys.
- Another trick that has worked for us is going out. We spend most of our days outdoors, whether is visiting a friend, at a playground, at a park or even out grocery shopping. Since we’re not home most of the time, the kids don’t watch as much TV and they don’t miss it.
Do you limit TV time in your home?