Alright, I’m going to be completely honest, because this blog is anonymous, and because the first step is admitting you have a problem. On some days (on a lot of days — maybe even more often than not), my 2.5-year-old watches a full 2 hours of TV. Ugh, gross. This is the first time I’ve said that number out loud. It sounds outrageous. (But if your kid watches more TV than that, I totally don’t judge you!)
Now I’ve been on social media enough to know that everyone thinks screen time is basically the devil. And parents who expose their children to TV are doing the devil’s work. (Well at least now I know what I’m going to be for Halloween, right?) So why am I admitting that my son watches an enormous amount of TV? I don’t know, I guess I have a sneaking suspicion that lots of parents rely on TV to parent, and maybe we can normalize it a little bit. Yes? No? I’m all alone, you say?
Well in my defense, I guess, things weren’t always this bad. When K-Man was in daycare, he watched maybe 30 minutes of TV a day, tops. I will admit that I started him early, out of what I felt was necessity. When Hubby was in med school and I was still working, Hubby was usually out of the house by the time I needed to get ready for the day. And K-Man woke up at an ungodly hour almost always. How is a girl supposed to shower and blow dry her hair with a baby all up in her business? So, I would situate K-Man in the bathroom with my iPad, and let him watch Elmo’s World while I preened. And on the weekends, well, K-Man didn’t sleep in. Which means I didn’t sleep in. Which means I got in the habit of sitting him on my lap, turning on some trusty Elmo, and snoozing on the couch while his brain slowly melted away.
And then we pulled K-Man out of daycare in anticipation of our move to Upstate New York. That move, man, it killed us. Have you ever tried to pack up your life with a 2-year-old and a nursing baby in tow? It is fricking impossible. So I’ll just go ahead and admit it: my son watched Moana and Cars pretty much on loop for about two weeks straight while Hubby and I packed. Moana is a great babysitter, even though she’s only 16. So by the time we were all moved, K-Man was a legit addict. Every other sentence was, “Watch Cars? Watch Moana?”
It took a few more weeks to rid him of that particular habit, but the upshot is that the kid still watches a lot of TV (though he’s moved on to a YouTube obsession). I mean, it all adds up so quickly. There’s usually an hour when he first wakes up. It’s just that I feel like absolute death in the morning, and when I have to roll out of bed to deal with two maniacal kids, I don’t have much fight in me. So I let him watch while I peel my eyes open, read my social media, make us some breakfast, get dressed, brush my teeth, and put my contacts on. And then every time I have to nurse Ell-Bell (aka, the fussiest, most picky, most distracted nurser ever), I have to take her to another room, which means K-Man gets to hang out with the TV (aka, his babysitter) yet again. And then there’s the after-nap grumpies, when K-Man is not human and needs to sit on the couch and zone out with some shows for a bit. And on the worst days, little dude even gets to watch a bit before bed. Because sometimes by the end of the day, I just can’t even. So yeah, you can see how we hit two hours some days. Yikes.
We are always working on it, but I’m also trying to give myself a bit of a break. I’m still learning how to Mom. And gosh darnit, sometimes TV is educational. Yeah, yeah, there are probably better ways to learn, but let me have this one.
All that being said, I do try to stick to some guidelines when it comes to the boob tube:
- No more than an hour at any given time. Let’s give that poor melting brain some time to re-congeal before we melt it all over again
- Educational. We try to stick to TV that has at least some redeeming value. K-Man loves to watch nursery rhyme compilations on YouTube, and I totally attribute the fact that he knows his ABCs, colors, shapes, and numbers to those shows. I mean, the kid isn’t even three yet and can identify all the letters—both upper and lower case—and can also count up to 30-10!
- I don’t offer it. If he wants to watch TV, he has to ask for it. And don’t worry, he does.
- We have to do something else. If it’s a TV-heavy day, we absolutely must get out of the house, at least once but usually twice, to do something completely different.
- Snuggles or no deal. My kid is extra cuddly when he’s watching TV, so if I’m not taking advantage of it, what am I even doing with my life?
So them’s the rules! In the event that you’re interested in coming over to the dark side and need some TV recommendations, might I suggest Little Baby Bum, Clifford, or Daniel Tiger? Ugga mugga!
Until next time,
3 thoughts on “Screen Time: Is My Kid Watching Too Much TV?”
Just stumbled across your blog and saw this post. I’m a full time working mom and my husband is a workaholic. We both commute 40 minutes one way every day into the city. By the time we get home and start into kid-care mode, we are exhausted. So I have joked that Paw Patrol is my 2 year old’s third parent. Some people find it funny, some others, not so much. The way I look at it, when you’re a parent, you have to do whatever means necessary to survive the first few hard years. If it means a few hours of TV a day, then so be it. I figure that as long as you (not you specifically, “you” in general) create a balance of outside play and inside play along with some tv time, that is the best thing you can do. TV is going to be impossible for them to avoid as they grow older, so we might as well instill the ability to balance it out. 🙂
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Thank you for this, it’s nice to know I’m not alone! I totally agree that balance is key, but sometimes you just need a third parent. And on an unrelated note, boo for 40-minute commutes! I’ve been there and it is the worst.
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