I was one of those moms who would not let her baby near a TV set, to the point of chewing out my now ex-husband for even holding her in his arms while he watched a show. When I was expecting my second child, however, the only way I could recover from pregnancy exhaustion with peace of mind was to let my then 3-year old watch a movie as I dozed. I’m not that bad of an anti-TV fanatic, you see.
The American Academy of Pediatrics got a lot of flak when in 1999 it advised that children under 2 years of age should not watch TV at all. Now, the same organization has revisited its recommendation, stating that parents should limit (not ban) TV and other types of screen time for the youngest, as screens have become a part of how we do business and communicate with others and interact with the outside world.
As someone who does not watch TV, I still feel very strongly about using this device as a babysitter. When I was separated almost three years ago, my kids had no cable at our new home, and they survived just fine. I had other parents question whether my no-TV stance would cause my kids to be “outcasts” at school if, for example, they couldn’t discuss popular kids’ programs with their peers. But then those were the same parents asking me how my girls managed to get such good grades in reading and writing, while their TV-savvy kiddos were flunking. Also, my girls had access to cable at their dad’s place.
COPING WITH PEER PRESSURE
My children indulge at friends’ homes, where their friends not only have a TV set in their rooms, but also fall asleep to their favorite show, every night. I understand that’s the way other people raise their brood, and I don’t ban sleepovers, but at home we all read for an hour or two before lights out and that’s that. Of course when we have young guests, they need to adapt to our routine or fall asleep out of boredom.
I don’t get the concept of screens in the back seats of mini-vans, even for toddlers. I’ve done road trips alone with a 4-month-old baby and a 3-year-old in the car and never felt the need to use videos to entertain them. Now, every Friday my kids and I travel two hours by car to and from their dad’s house, and I cherish the time we spend chatting, listening to music, singing and playing word games. We are building memories that no TV screen can match.
Of course, it’s not always been easy being a no-TV mom. At times it was painfully exhausting. But eventually, I learned to write articles and books while my kids played around me, and they learned to respect my work time without having to resort to watching TV.
My girls are now 7 and 10 and enjoy the fact that I’ve lifted my ban on TV. My significant other, also a writer, has an 8-year-old who would indulge in watching Sponge Bob while his dad wrote. Since we moved in together a year ago, his boy reads more books, my girls watch some TV, and I try not to freak out about it.
On weekends, they’re all allowed to watch a program when they get up in the morning. Saturday nights, we sometimes watch a movie together, as a family.
At times, I hear one of the kids say: “I’m getting a headache from so much TV,” and then turn to the others and ask: “Hey, wanna go for a bike ride?”
When they turn off the TV and run out the door of their own accord, I realize I’m the happy mom of some pretty outgoing, creative, self-reliant and active kids. I like to think restricting their TV-watching throughout the years has had something to do with it.
THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS RECOMMENDS
• Setting media limits for your children
• Encouraging independent play vs. TV time from an early age
• Not placing a TV set in the child’s bedroom
• Turning the TV off while the kids are around
Learn more from the AAP: Babies and Toddlers Should Learn from Play, not Screen.