elementary brother and sister watching t.v. together on white couch

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.  

Related: 7 Ways to Find Relief from Stay at Home Mom Stress

Two kids watching t.v., with text overlay, "feeling oh so guilty about too much screentime? You really need to read this..."

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.

What if you could stop worrying about screen time limits altogether? Read The Case for Unlimited Screentime (from a recovering control-freak mom) to learn about the benefits of not limiting screens, the reasoning behind it and what you need to know before you try it. There’s more advice in THIS article about not limiting screens if you decide to go that route.

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

Related: 10 Things I Stopped Doing that Made Me a Happier Mom

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.

Related: Working from Home with Kids – How to Actually Get Work Done

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.

Just sayin’.

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!)

four kids, elementary aged down to toddler, on floor looking up at tv screen

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.

Read Next: The Case for Unlimited Screen Time from a Recovering Control Freak Mom

two children sitting on a couch using a computer laptop, with text overlay, "yes, your kids do watch too much tv & they're gonna be fine"

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  1. I work two part time jobs at home. The who purpose of this is to stay at home with my only child and homeschool him. He doesn’t have siblings. (Not on purpose. We have two with the LORD.) I have a cat and a turtle, but he can only play with the cat for so long before she’s had enough. He is extremely rambunctious and energetic!
    We have one car.
    No family that WANTS to help.
    I have no friends because in 2023, people have no idea how to friend.
    I’m a 40 year old mom with a five year old son, I’m not cool enough or hip enough for the younger moms I guess.

    Due to work and house duties and NO OTHER CHILDREN AROUND….I have to let him watch T.V. to keep my sanity.
    I cry and weep so much for letting him watch T.V. for hours at a time while I am working. I literally don’t know what else to do. He’s so full of energy and high maintenance. I feel terrible most of the time.
    We make play dates and I am scrambling to save money for Music class next month. We only have one car so I have to get up at like 4 a.m. to use our car….ugh. I could go on and on. I’m sure no one wants to read about some stranger Mom struggling. LOL.
    Anyways, thanks for the article. I will try my best to not feel bad. That’s hard to do.
    He’s watching T.V. right now as I write this.

    1. Author

      I’m so sorry! That’s hard – and yes, there are fellow moms out there who need to hear this. Please don’t feel guilty: you’re doing the best you can with what you have, and that is enough (Erica Layne, The Life on Purpose Movement).

  2. And one more thing why I am not against screentime at all is because our almost 5 year old learned the alphabet at 1.5 years old because of watching cocomelon. And also learned English because of watching cocomelon in English. As long as they’re not watching 24/7, they’re perfectly ok!

  3. Hello June, im so happy to be here! I am Julai a sahm,too. I found your blog as one of the successful stay at home mom blogs listed in an article written by Cassie Scroggins. I love all the posts I have read, so far. I am surely coming back for more.

    We also try to limit kids screentime, but there are days that they watch longer than usual and we don’t fret about it. My husband always says that “we don’t have to be the first of the class”. hehehe.

    Thank you for the curiositystream recommendation. I checked it out and I love all the choices and it is very affordable. We don’t have netflix, only prime video (for amazon prime) because my husband and I seldom watch TV. but our kids love watching videos about hotwheels! The curiositystream documentaries will be a good diversion from cars!

  4. Thank you for this. I work from home with no help. family doesn’t live close enough to help. My husband doesn’t work from home. Work has gotten busier and I find myself having to let my daughter watch a lot of tv just to get through the day working, on top of diaper changes, feeding her, stopping tantrums from happening. its a lot and I always beat myself up because I feel like Im a bad mom for allowing her to be glued to the tv while I work. I always think the worst like Im ruining her life by letting her watch so much tv at her age. So thank you this made me feel better.

    1. Author

      You’re so welcome! I’m really glad you found it. You’ve got this mama – we are raising babies without support systems. We are all doing the best we can. And they are honestly learning so much!

  5. This is amazing! Thank you for writing this. My son watches The Wiggles and LOVES them. He gets 3 to 3.5 hours of TV a day. I was feeling like such a crap mom when his doctor told me that at 18 months 3 words wasn’t enough and he should stop watching TV. She said he should have 10 to 20. 10 -20???!!! Hes only been alive a year and a half! I feel like it’s all competitive parenting and I hate it. I just want my son to be able to be himself and grow at his own pace.

    I was starting to feel like perhaps I was harming him by letting him watch tv. Mind you, I read to him and converse with him (one way save a few nonsense words and grunts) but he’s getting there. Anyways, thank you for being real it’s much appreciated.

  6. Every. Single. Point. applied to me. Thanks for the affirmation. Great article! ♡♡♡

  7. Thank you for taking the time to write this article. It made me smile and feel a little less lonely in the mommysphere. I work from home and am a stay at home mom of two and it’s overwhelming sometimes. It felt so good to read something that hit almost all the key points of day to day life that seem never ending. I love my kids and consider having more, but some days I feel like I’m going to lose my mind from all the Have-To’s for the day. I have been trying to change those to Get-To’s because I do know this time is short and precious even the monotony of it is fleeting and I am grateful for so much.

    Thank you,

    1. Author

      you are SO welcome! I wrote it just for that reason. It’s so easy to feel alone in both the monotony and the guilt. Cheering you on as you learn how to enjoy the time you do have with your sweet kiddos!

    2. Por Dios !!! Porque no encontré este artículo antes? Debo decir que estoy muy agradecida de leer esto en este tiempo. Llevo mucho tiempo sintiéndome culpable y mala madre.
      Muchas gracias

  8. Thank you for this. Your post literally brought tears to my eyes. As a mom who struggles with a chronic illness that makes getting off the couch some days feel like climbing up Mount Everest, I am grateful for this. My kids have watched more tv than I would have liked but we all got to snuggle up while doing so. As I am in treatment and slowly getting better we are outside more and doing more things together but there still are some bad days where I can’t get off the couch and the guilt, oh the guilt. I think we’re all just trying our best to get through the day which can be very challenging with little children.

    1. Author

      Oh Lara! Thank you for sharing your struggles. We all wrestle with guilt, but as I said in the article, I can’t imagine wrestling with illness on top of all the rest of mommying. I’m glad they can snuggle up with you – just remember, they have YOU, and that’s what matters. Praying you get better soon!

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