Too much TV?

All of these blog and facebook posts about the amount and type of TV that a young child watches has me thinking… does Jo Jo watch too much TV?

I watched a ton of TV as a toddler and preschooler. I had a single mom who worked and went to nursing school. Nick, Jr. was her babysitter sometimes. I watched show after show, and I also slept in my mom’s bed until age 7, so I watched all of her grown-up shows with her at night. If she went to a movie, she brought me and covered my eyes during sex/violent scenes. The recommended screen time today for toddlers is 30 mins/day, and 1 hour/day for older children. I exceeded that by far as a kid, and yet I was an all A student, involved in every orchestra and band available to me as well as a competitive pianist, I read novels by age 6, and preferred reading to practically any other activity. I wrote poetry through my college years, was financially responsible, never arrested, never did drugs, never overweight, got my black belt in karate at age 25, and have traveled to Europe and Asia many times. I learned a foreign language to proficiency, obtained a college degree, and bought my own house and car. And throughout it all I watched at least an hour to two hours of TV per day, and spent countless more hours per day online. Shouldn’t I be an obese, overweight, violent blob of nothing to society???

Excessive TV viewing did NOT ruin me. It didn’t discourage me from doing physical activities. I put Sesame Street on for Jo Jo almost every day, and it runs for an hour. She gets super excited to see her favorite characters and dances to the songs. She runs around and plays but enjoys coming back and watching every few minutes. During the day I watch my own programs as I clean the house, work on projects, pay bills, etc. Shows like “Survivor”, “The Fosters”, and “Amazing Race”. This does not take away from us interacting, as I’m frequently engaged with her and her books and toys while just listening to my show in the background. I even prefer to exercise while watching something. I like to multi-task! Jo Jo also likes to play toddler games on the kindle, and I have no problem with that. She LOVES it and is learning to manipulate the characters on the screen with her fingers. She spends maybe 10 minutes a few times per week doing this, and I guess it’s more black points against me… but I spent way more time in front of a screen throughout my life and I just don’t see how it hurt me.

When the weather gets warmer we will be spending more time outdoors, but even then I will be listening to audio books as we take walks or run around the yard. When she’s older I will turn off the TV while we do activities together, of course. She will see me reading, playing piano, swimming, walking, and cleaning the house and she will imitate me. I’m not at all worried that she will be sitting around in front of the TV, but if she is like me, she may be able to balance TV watching with other activities. If she can’t, then we will adjust screen time and go from there.

I guess my own experiences are influencing me more than studies, but we’ll have to see how I feel as Jo Jo gets older. If she begins to only want to watch TV instead of doing other things, then I will limit her viewing time. Until then, I’m not sure if making mountains out of molehills is doing anyone any good.

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Categories: parenting

8 Comments »

  1. I loooove PBS and let G watch quite a few of those shows. She’s just recently started noticing our shows, but mostly we watch home design and cooking shows so whatevs. We spend plenty of time outdoors on adventures so I think we’re pretty balanced.

  2. I think it’s all about how the tv and screens are used and how the parent interacts with the child. Too much tv combined with not enough (or good) parental interaction can definitely be part of the cause of speech delays and behavioral issues. For me, I just don’t put a priority on tv. I watched a lot while pregnant because I was exhausted and didn’t have much to do at times. I watched tv growing up and I’m smart and well adjusted and love to be active. That said, there is no tv for Wallace yet and the plan is to keep it that way. He has watched some funny YouTube videos with my dad and he knows the Big Bang Theory theme song when it comes on in the evenings. He will have all the time in the world to learn how to use gadgets but for now, my kindle is all mine!

  3. I watched a shit ton of television as a kid, too. And it didn’t negatively affect me at all, I don’t think.

    I don’t put any shows for Evelyn on, but that’s because the times I’ve tried to, she couldn’t care less. Her screen time involves watching Katy Perry videos on YouTube each morning while I get ready, because that’s the only thing that keeps her attention.

    Do what feels right to you.

    • I just wonder where this information comes from! Every family has their own routines, interests, etc including TV time. I tend to think that the TV factor has less to do with obesity/activity levels than many other factors in the home, but with all pressure to limit screen time… it keeps me constantly evaluating what I’m doing. I guess that’s a good thing!

  4. I just signed my kid up at the public pre-school for 3, 4, and 5 year olds, and they informed me that their policy (based on AAP?) is that they promote <1 hour a day screen time total. I was like….oh, crap. Really? That seems impossible. They included games/learning, and passively watching parents' TV. I have no idea what the evidence is. But it worries me, because look, we all know some kids who are couch potato TV kids, who are obese, who have no initiative to read or play. What if that happens? What if some kids are just inclined to veg and zone out? Worst part is, once you identify that TV is a problem for a kid, the habit is set in stone and like hell to change it. Eeek.

  5. I watched a ton of TV as a child, as did both of my siblings. I was a highly sensitive child, and though my mom monitored what shows I was watching (I wasn’t allowed to watch “adult shows”) she often didn’t scrutinize the KIDS shows to the level that I probably needed her to. Things that I saw in PG rated shows (now they probably would have a higher rating) freaked me out and gave me anxiety. The problem was, I never communicated this to her, so I was continually allowed to watch them. But as an adult, I’m still sensitive and can’t watch things like Walking Dead, CSI, etc. It’s just my preference. But now the ratings are often higher for shows with too much violence or just creepiness, so I don’t think it’s as much of an issue, and I think my anxiety is an extreme case – my brother and sister never had that issue.

    Still, I don’t think excessive viewing hurt me in the long run. In fact, I think I DID learn a lot from kids shows such as Sesame Street, Bill Nye, etc. As an adult, I don’t even watch that much TV (I’m talking MAYBE two hours a week), so it wasn’t like it was an addiction that became a lifelong problem. I really think it depends on the family/child. And I’m not sure that deprivation works either – often the adults I know who watch the most TV are the ones who weren’t allowed to watch any as children.

  6. I’m a teacher and parent and it seems to me that ALL studies are done by people who deal in theory, not reality. People who don’t really focus on real life, but on what looks good on paper…until they change their minds again. Do what feels right, worked for my parents and is working for me so far. They don’t know you’re kid, you do 🙂

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