Tuesday, July 9, 2013

TV the gateway drug

One evening we sat down as a family and decided to begin a grand experiment.  We decided to turn the TV off on Fridays and Sunday.  I thought it would be hard for the children but it has been infinitely harder for me in particular.  The beginning was the hardest.  I realized Maggie was accustomed to constantly being entertained.  So if the TV wasn't entertaining the responsibility fell on me to occupy her free time.  What exactly had I gotten myself into?  But after a few weeks I began to see miraculous changes.  Maggie began to self-play more.  Henry who was too young to care about TV anyway, now had a role model and began to mimic some of Maggie's self-play.

Over the months and now years it has become a lot easier.  The rules have been broken from time to time.  One Friday, I asked if we could break the rules and watch a movie.  I didn't have a single descending vote.  Of course, when Sunday arrived Maggie to proudly proposed that we should break the rules and watch TV.

Part of this rule has helped us keep the Sabbath but it has never been strictly about Sunday.  Unknowingly we create a rule that didn't plague Sunday with another "thou shalt not" but since in typical week it spans two days, Friday has been met with more disagreement than Sunday.  Looking back it was smart.  I think our kids enjoy Sundays with no TV.

The rule has only increased in spectrum as I have seen the positive effects over the years.  The break from TV has helped our children have learned to play more with each other, although not always so nicely.  We also do not turn the TV on until 10am and typically Maggie does learning time on the computer before she can watch TV.  Due to her example Henry loves learning time too.

TV really is a gateway drug.  Maggie could watch TV every waking hour.  She love it that much.  If I didn't pause it she wouldn't eat or even take bathroom breaks.  She still has fits of rage when I turn the TV off.  Sometimes I think she might start foaming at the mouth.  It is a good reminder that TV must be cautiously rationed.  No TV days actually now go smoother now than TV days.

As far a TV content goes, Maggie has a lot of shows that I dislike, such as Scooby-Do and Spiderman.  Most TV has no intrinsic value but I try not to over regulate her TV content.  There are few shows like Sponge Bob that I refuse to let her watch but for the most part I let her watch her Strawberry Shortcake.  It allows her to make her own decisions.  At first, the fact that her Dad didn't like Spiderman made it more appealing but its amazing what your children will do with a little agency because I think she has started making better and better media decisions.  It has also allowed us to talk about what makes a TV show good.   Now when I am watching a TV show without the kids, I think of her example regulating my own TV consumption.


  1. Love this post Stanford. Love that you do two no TV days. I really have to agree with everything you say too. You are a good example.

  2. Stanford, I'm so happy that you and Sara are doing such a good job raising your children. I totally agree with your building choice for the children while giving parental guidance in the amount of time spent haveing the T.V. on. It really baffles me to think that many children have their own T..V. in their bedrooms! xo mom