We’re a little over a week past the Olympics, and my family is still recovering in its own unique way. We’re not dealing with shin splints or sore muscles here — we’re dealing with detoxing from TV Overload.
It worked out serendipitously for my family that the Olympics aired the same two weeks we were moving in to our new house and finishing major renovations. The night of the opening ceremonies, we pulled our TV out of the box and plugged in the cables.
Until then, we had been watching Netflix and Hulu from our larger-screen computer. Our kids didn’t know the difference between this and “regular” TV; they were happy with the selection proferred on Netflix.
But the game changed that night when they discovered we had cable (it was cheaper for our Internet service to buy it in a bundle that included cable TV). As my husband, Kyle, set it up and scrolled to NBC, we revealed to our kids our dirty little secret: this whole time, we’ve had access to television channels.
My kids have always associated certain kids’ TV channels with their grandparents’ house. They would see a blip of a show when we’d scroll to the Olympics, and our daughter would shout, “Hey! Nana and Hot Rod [my parents] have this show at their house, too!”
The Olympics’ timing really worked in our favor. We were busy unpacking, and aside from cardboard, the kids had no toys. The cardboard worked very well as a toy in its own right, but after awhile, the kids would get restless and needed a little down time and distraction. On would go our “brand new” TV.
Okay, so I’m not a purist here. I’m not completely anti-TV, but I am VERY much in favor of controlled TV, and with all three kids being under 7 years old, it’s been easiest up till now to do this by streaming shows from the Internet. I’m also in favor of severely limiting TV time to only a blip in our day, not making it the default choice of entertainment.
I love Thomas Beller’s thoughts on how Netflix has distorted our kids’ view on commercialism and entertainment rights. My four-year-old son would continually huff when it was commercial time, asking aloud, “Would you please skip this part?”
But it didn’t take long for my kids to enjoy those blasted commercials. It hit me square in the eyes when a commercial came on during the Olympics, so I asked my kids to run upstairs and put away their toys quickly. “But Mom!” my daughter retorted. “The commercials are on now!”
The two-week sporting event is now over, and we still have our 22-inch TV plugged in to the right cables. For now, we’re going to keep it, along with our Apple TV. But I’m constantly reminded of our family’s four tricks of the trade that have worked really well for our screen-oriented children:
1. The kids will only watch TV after lunch, during the toddler’s nap time.
When our kids watch TV first thing in the morning, it’s like a scene from Jekyll and Hyde the rest of the day. Our normally sweet children are absolute pills; no exaggeration.
We’ve found that by allowing screen time in the afternoon, they remain their normal selves, and their mornings are spent creating, exercising their bodies, and reading. This has been the best move we’ve made in allowing television in our home.
2. The show has to be something we all tolerate.
We won’t allow the TV to be on mindlessly, so if the kids can’t agree on a show that the parent-in-change can overhear without stabbing out their eyes with sporks, it stays off. So yep, that means there are certain shows that never air in our home.
I also believe watching too many flashing scenes and screen movement is just as unhealthy as commercials, so that eliminates quite a few cartoons.
3. We mute all commercials.
Seriously, no ifs, ands, or buts. This is new for us, since our kids normally watch shows via the Internet, but if we’re watching something on regular TV, the commercials go silent. And oftentimes, they get changed completely until the show is back on.
4. We play lots and lots and LOTS of music.
Pandora and Spotify play in our home almost all day, and this helps curb an incessant need for entertainment. Our kids often get a say in what channel is played, and we talk about the musicians, their contribution to our culture, and what we all like and don’t like in each of our music tastes.
It’s been fun to share this with our kids, and I’m proud to say they’re developing an admirable music appreciation that’s all their own. Our 7-year-old likes Bieber, but she also likes MGMT—so that’s something, right?
I guess I have the Olympics to thank for keeping me a flexible parent, and to remind me that every now and then, TV can be fun if used for good and not evil. But it also reminded me that I still really hate commercials, and that it’s essential keep a tight rein on the boob tube with healthy boundaries. It’s just not an option.
Do you allow TV in your home? How do you regulate it?
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