Tuesday, May 10, 2016

This Is What My Children Do Instead of Watch TV

This is definitely not a "holier than thou" post about limiting screen time. I do not profess to have parenting all figured out. Not even close!

I just wanted to check-in about where we are in relation to screen time as a family. We intentionally try to limit the amount of time our children spend in front of screens. Henry (who is five) gets to watch 15 minutes of Netflix a week. We try to have him watch reality-based things like Cailou, Nova, Bill Nye the Science Guy. He also watches non-scary things like Bob the Builder, Reading Rainbow, and Handy Manny. 

Tate (who turns three in July) does not get any screen time right now (we let Henry watch during Tate's nap). Once Tate is no longer napping, he will get to watch 15 minutes with Henry.

Neither boy gets to play any type of game on a phone or iPad. I sometimes take them to the IMAX theater at the museum to see a non-fiction movie. We most recently watched one about national parks, and it was awesome! 

This arrangement is working well for our family. Although there are plenty of times when it feels like parenting is harder because we don't rely on the help of screens, I still think it's better in the long run. It would be awesome to let the boys watch TV as soon as they wake up on Saturday morning so Matt and I could sleep in, but I see how much children learn by interacting in the world. They learn real focus and concentration (which seems notably different from the kind of hypnotic focus and concentration that screens induce). They build their brain through the use of their five senses. They learn patience and delayed gratification. 

I also just think there's so much inappropriate content out there. So many things that are geared toward children are overtly scary. Or they model really bad behavior for 24 minutes and then resolve it in the last 4 minutes. 

There was a time when Henry was watching a longer chunk of TV each week, but it seemed to make him crave it even more. We're at a good place as a family, although I am looking forward to when they are a little older and we can start Friday night movies!

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Bc said...

It is really frustrating to me the stigma around limiting a child's screen time. The very fact that you had to put a disclaimer before discussing it (which I fully understand). I don't judge anyone whose children watch television. It's a personal decision and they are not my children. I'll let their parents who know them best decide the right path for them. I do feel that the second a person hears that my children do not watch television I get a sort of, oh she's that kind of mom. Like they immediately think that I believe I'm a better parent or I feel others are lazy. Which I don't. Like you I noticed some concerning behavior and a polarizing effect of even a small amount of screen time. I do use Amazon and Netflicks at times when I find it appropriate. You can explain complete metamorphosis of a butterfly to a 3 year old but there is nothing like seeing her eyes light up watching it happen! Anyway, sorry a bit of a rant. I just wanted to commend you for following parental instinct and watching your children to determine their needs. I'm new to your blog. I'm enjoying reading, thank you!

aeep said...

Isn't it really frustrating for him to not even get to watch one entire episode? 15min is shorter than nearly all programs. I'm not even sure as an adult I would be able to care about a story through line that was interrupted by a week. If you were my mom is have to negotiate 30 min every other week.

Megan said...

So what kinds of things do you have them doing instead? That's what I want to hear. Some suggestions--like for when I am doing things like cooking dinner. I would like to reduce the amount of screen time my child has. It is an easy fall-back and I want to have a bunch of other options at the ready! Thanks

Sarah Kopper said...

Curious what age you are thinking about for family movie nights. Love the pic of the boys!

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Sarah! Based on Montessori, I would think 6 is a good age to start watching movies, but since I have two children, we'll probably start when they are about 5 and 7. But I know I will be so picky about what we can watch. Probably a lot of non-fiction stuff.

Hi, Megan! I'll write a whole post about it. Thanks!

Hi, aeep! You're right. If it's a 30-minute thing, I will frequently let him watch it through the end. Some of the shows I mentioned have 15-minute segments.

Candice McKay said...

Good post, Sara! We try to limit screen time too. Clara's only ever seen three different shows on screen: Peppa Pig (which has 10-15-min episodes, a fun kids movie (in chunks), the Nutcracker (personal fave :), and an animated recording of some short nursery rhymes/songs/fairy tales.
You touched on Henry craving more screen time and I'm interested in learning more on how you curtailed it. We've stuck to short bursts of screen time on special occasions, but she asks for it every single day. Any suggestions?


Sara E. Cotner said...

So great to hear from you, Candice! It's been fun watching you on Facebook.

We are very clear with Henry about which days he can have screen time (Saturday or Sunday). Because he's older, he knows when it's Saturday or Sunday. You might try putting up a little schedule. Something that has a box for each day of the week and then a TV on the day she will get screen time.

Best of luck!

Elizabeth said...

I'm looking forward to your post on ideas of what to do instead. I'm a stay at home mom with two part-time (mostly from home) jobs and 5, 3, and 2 year olds. My 5 year old is in kindergarten and my 2 year old (mostly) naps, but my 3 year old is often tired and hard to engage in the afternoons. (She would still nap but napping was creating middle of the night 2 hour wakeful periods...no). By "hard to engage" I mean I offer her many different age appropriate options for free play from 1-3. During that "break" I want to do the things I have to do for work/sanity without being interrupted every 7-10 minutes. Nothing works like tv, but I don't love her watching 2 hours of tv every afternoon. I don't think I'm unreasonable for wanting a bit of respite during that time period, as I'm on and engaged from 7-7 otherwise. Yet, in my weakest moments I feel guilt for not being on 100% of the time! Anyway, that's my current struggle! Appreciative of help and support.

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