Inside: Why your kids watch too much T.V., and why you need to stop feeling guilty.
Your human alarm clock tiptoes into your room just after six o’clock (in the morning). Bleary-eyed, you try to pull it together, but the baby woke up five times last night.
Not going to happen.
You mumble something unintelligible. The only word that gets through is “TV”. She runs out of the room excitedly, and you roll over.
You’re dead to the world until the baby next to your stirs and starts to cry. The sound of PBS hits your ears, and your eyes fly open.
Glancing at the clock, you realize to your horror that the kids watched far more TV than you intended. You planned on using a show later that day to take a shower and maybe read for ten minutes in peace and quiet.
The day has barely even started, and you already feel like a failure.
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The Great Debate Around Screen Time
Oh, TV. In parenting circles, none of us wants to admit how much our kids really watch, do we?
We all speak in vague, fuzzy terms: “Oh you know, they watch their fair share,” “More than I’d like” or “We’re working on cutting back.”
You certainly don’t feel like you can admit how often you use TV just to do basic human things (that you used to do all the time pre-kids without even a smidge of gratitude).
You know, like take a shower? Eat more than a few bites of food in one sitting? Pee without a little person hanging on you or banging at the door?
And that doesn’t even cover cooking dinner, working from home, peace and quiet on a long phone call with the insurance company.
We don’t dare give the real numbers (our friends would be horrified). In fact, you’ve probably even lied about how much your kids watch – like to your pediatrician, perhaps?
Or maybe your estimates were just a little off, that’s all.
Then there’s the constant access to information in our society, which is both good and bad. Unfortunately, every time you check into Facebook, there’s some new article proclaiming the evils of TV, video games, and everything in between. Studies claim it causes academic setbacks, life setbacks, every possible kind of setback, really.
And then there are all the different ideas on how to control, regulate, and otherwise rein in that awful screentime beast.
Is it any wonder we’re constantly fighting mom guilt about screen time?
The problem with these articles is that most of the parents clicking through to read those kinds of articles already freak out about how much TV their kids watch.
The main purpose those articles serve is to make moms who already struggle with guilt feel even guiltier.
Personally, I spent a long time wrestling with mom guilt about the amount of TV my kids watch, until it bordered on obsession. When it becomes an obsession, it becomes your measuring stick for whether or not you are a good parent.
Your only measuring stick.
It doesn’t matter if we spend hours outside playing with our kids or reading aloud until our voice is hoarse. It doesn’t matter that you are otherwise a loving, kind, patient and competent mom. If they watch just a tiny bit more than this arbitrary “right” amount in your head, you feel like a failure.
And when we feel like failures as moms, it ALWAYS works its way out to our families – and not in a good way.
It may come out as anger.
It may come out as negativity.
It may come out as anxiety.
It may come out as listlessness.
So here’s the major revelation for today, mamas:
You feeling like a failure because your kids are watching too much TV is far worse than your kids watching too much TV.June Doran
7 Reasons Your Kids Watch Too Much TV
1. You don’t live close to family.
This is the case for more and more families today. Jobs, cost of living, and education all contribute to living far away from doting grandparents and siblings raising kids at the same time.
You get a break far less often than parents who live with grandparents nearby to shoulder some of the burden of the little years.
2. You can’t afford a babysitter.
Let’s be real: babysitting is expensive! I am not at all advocating for reducing pay for babysitting; in fact, I am thrilled for babysitters everywhere who are finally getting paid what their time is worth.
However, many families – especially single income families – just cannot afford to pay for babysitting on a regular basis.
Date nights? No way! Once you add up the cost of dinner out, and maybe a movie.
Eight dollar a month Netflix is much cheaper, especially since they might watch a little TV with the babysitter, anyway.
3. You have a new baby (and a big family).
Having a big family is awesome – I’m all for it (clearly, since I have
four five kids).
If you have multiple kids close in age and you’re still in the little years, and you answered “yes” to any of these other reasons, the only way you’re getting a break, the sleep you desperately need, or a non-kid related conversation with your spouse is TV.
4. You and/or your spouse are introverts.
If you’re not an introvert, you probably don’t understand this one (and you might question the sanity of introverted parents who have a lot of kids – definitely a valid point).
I’ll point you to the book Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.
If it’s not the constant togetherness that’s killing you, it’s the noise.
5. You are a work at home/stay at home mom.
The reason you are a work at home mom is likely to save money on childcare. But if you are home with your kids all the time and you work, you’ve got to work sometime (and sleep, too)!
On the days when everyone wakes up fighting or you have a deadline, your kids will likely watch more TV than usual.
6. You do not have a safe outdoor play area.
Oh, how I long for the day when I can tell my kids, “Go play!” and it is safe to do so.
Not everyone can afford a home with an idyllic fenced backyard.
Any time I want all the kids to play outside, it means I need to be outside with them, and because I have a toddler, it’s usually very hands-on outside time.
Dishes can’t be done, laundry can’t be folded, and dinner doesn’t get made while I’m watching the kids outside. And all that stuff has to be done sometime – those three things make the world go ‘round.
7. You have ongoing health problems.
I can’t begin to imagine having health problems and little kids at the same time.
I know parents with migraines and chronic illness. It’s just hard.
Again, when you feel like your head might explode and you NEED to not have kids pulling at you and screaming in your ear, PBS saves the day every single time.
(We get access to all PBS Kids episodes – not just the few free ones on the free app – through Amazon Prime for just $5 a month. My kids LOVE Wild Kratts and can watch all 15 seasons!)
Time to End the Mom Guilt Around Screen Time
Are you nodding along to any of these? If so, I’m going to tell you what you really need to hear: give yourself grace. Remind yourself that it’s only a season.
Your kids won’t be little forever.
- One day, they’ll all be able to read, so when you say, “Go read a book,” it’s actually a legitimate option.
- One day, you’ll be able to afford childcare (or the oldest child will be able to help with that).
- One day, you won’t need that fenced in yard that you may or may not get.
I thought about giving you tips to reduce the amount of media your kids watch, but no.
That’s not what you need.
Right now, you need to know that while some parents may judge you, I am right where you are.
You need to know that it’s o.k. to turn on a show to take a nap or get a shower or to be able to drink an entire cup of coffee while it’s still hot.
If you feel guilty about how much TV your kids watch, you’re already an awesome mom.
You care about your kids. You care about what the experts say is good or not good for them. You want the best for them.
Give them your best.
Give them lots of books and cuddles and imaginative play. Sit outside with them so they can get all that amazing outdoor time they need – folding that basket of laundry can wait.
And when the TV needs to go on for whatever reason, let yourself off the hook.
It’s o.k. that your kids watch too much TV right now: they’re really gonna be o.k.
P.S. Want to feel a little less guilty? Try Curiosity Stream: all educational documentaries, so many great ones for kids! My older kiddos (ages 7-9) love it. Plus, it’s dirt cheap – as in a fraction of the price of Netflix. Start a free trial HERE.