Sunday, June 13, 2010

Television Battles

Before I had kids I swore that they would never be allowed to watch much TV. I've always been uncomfortable with television being used as a baby sitter and I always imagined them playing creatively with their toys, helping me around the house or letting me read to them. Then I had a real child. A real child who is loud, bored easily and whose idea of creativity is stamping my kitchen table permanently with pictures of blue mice.
I've tried various things over the past few years to keep the TV watching in my house to a minimum, some more successful than others. For a while I had the rule no TV before 5pm because I realised if it went on early in the day it quiet often wouldn't get turned off till bedtime and that equalled a lot of TV watching each day. Then I realised that TV watching before bedtime was causing problems so I tried to restrict it to late afternoon and it had to go off at dinnertime or when the sun went down, whatever came first. Whatever I tried though the TV would always creep back into our lives, monopilising Iris's time, causing meltdowns and leaving her tired from lack of activity
My my most recent attempt at wrestling control back from the TV was to move it from the loungeroom to the study where I could close door on it and hopefully it would be a case of out of site out of mind. It worked really well for a few months. Iris slowly watched less and less TV and she even went a few weeks without watching any at all. Then we got sick, the weather turned crappy and the TV crept back into our lives.
I think because Iris went so long without it I'm really noticing the negative effects it's having on her this time and I'm not happy about it! This past week we've had some major battles over the TV with meltdowns over when she's allowed to turn it on, meltdowns over turning it off and she's even been waking me up in the middle of the night to tell me that she's very sad with me because I turned "Dora" off so we could eat dinner with her grandparents who were visiting.
All this is making me seriously consider banning TV outright. I know that makes me a sellout in regards to radical unschooling but I think at 2yrs old as nice as it sounds for Iris to be able to moderate her own TV appetite there are forces working against her that are making that difficult. I think TV shows these days are made to suck kids in and keep them watching for as long as possible. I'm guessing the longer they watch the more brands they begin to recognise and the more they are able to be marketed to. Ideally I would like to strike a balance and just let her watch small amounts but with Iris she seems to want all or nothing.

So what would you do in my situation? What's the TV situation like in your house? Do you let them have unhindered access, no TV at all or somewhere in between?


  1. TV is addictive. The producers know exactly what they are doing. Banning tv is a parental decision, you know what is best for your child. Unschooled or not. I mean couldn't this be likened to restricting coca-cola. Both are things that are addictive at levels way above what a child could be reasonably expected to deal with.
    nb. I can't talk too much, I am the mum you began your blog post about. My bubby is 6months old. We are only just considering unschooling, but free reign at the tv is the thing I like least about unschooling (at least the bloggers I read).

  2. Sell your TV on eBay. Then the unschooling argument is a non-issue, because no-one can self-regulate what they don't have access to anyway.

  3. Ok, before I say anything I wanted to acknowledge 2 things - a) I don't identify as an unschooler, I prefer to label myself as a home educator because then I don't have certain 'rules' of particular methods to abide by, I do whatever the hell I want ;) LOL
    b) I have the luxury of a co-parent. I may solo parent for large portions of the week while Jamie is at work but it isn't anywhere near the same as being a full time solo parent.

    I also like the points that Nat and Cassie have made - you can't self regulate something that isn't there and that it IS reasonable to restrict TV for a child, I mean she is 2 ffs, its not as if she can fully understand and comprehend what is healthy and what is not and make sound decisions about whether or not she would like to watch TV based on that. And where do you draw the line? What is okay to self regulate and what is not?

    I also saw the negative impact TV had on my children, we are close to zero TV time, they get maybe an hour a week if they are lucky. It is REALLY hard to stick to it, sometimes I want to turn it on so they will leave me alone, so I can have a breather. I don't think that doing it for that reason (in appropriate amounts) is a bad thing at all, but I feel that if I let them have 'just a little bit' one day, it tempts me to give it to them more often, so I am really hesitant to give in to it.

    Having said that, I let them watch about an hour of TV on Friday because the weather was shit and we'd been stuck inside all day, before that the last time they'd watched any was 2 weeks ago.
    Now that TV has become a luxury they enjoy watching it more than before...before it was something they *needed* because they were addicted, now it's something special and fun - I let them watch Play School and Jet was dancing around and doing actions and they were all pointing out and talking about the things that were on screen, they NEVER did that before.

    I fully admit I find it draining thinking of how to keep them occupied without TV, but I would rather deal with that than the effect it has on their behaviour.

    Errm, I hope my rambly babble was at least a little helpful LOL.

  4. Just get rid of the TV. We got rid of ours about 12 years ago and that was mostly because it was impossible to stop the kids from continually watching mindless shit. I cut the plug off it in a temper and on the whole that was that.

    These days with internet video, iview and laptops it's easy to watch the occasional show or dvd without needing a TV at all. You're not manipulated into watching stuff you are not really interested in, plus you avoid all the ads that go along with it.

    In a few weeks the kids soon forget all about it (but do become mesmerised when they visit friends with a TV). Honestly it's the adult's need for TV that is the problem.

    The kids are also oblivious to all the latest fads as they are not exposed to adverts. No whinging before Christmas. You can take them around toy shops and they have no idea about what's hot. It's great!


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