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Anyone NOT limiting TV?

post #1 of 71
Thread Starter 

My daughter is only 2, so I guess we're not technically unschoolers yet, but we're planning to be. Since deciding to follow this path, we've flip flopped from no tv to all tv. Okay, not ALL, but we don't limit Netflix. If my daughter asks for the laptop or ipod, she gets it. She mostly watches Wonder Pets, Justin Time, etc. ...though she's recently gotten into My Little Pony which seems like a very dark show for kids. I absolutely HATE having the tv on so frequently, but I wanted to see if I'd notice any changes in her and I really haven't. We still play outside many times a day, go for walks, run errands, etc. and she seems the same. Honestly I feel like the more we have it on, the less attention it gets. In fact, the more complicated shows seem to bore her and she's more apt to do something else.


All of the research I've read on the ills of tv end up talking about school and how far behind your kid will be if they watch tv at an early age. Well, she's not going to school, so does it matter? Am I completely scarring my kid? If I noticed some destructive or negative behavior I'd limit things, but I'm not seeing that. In fact her favorite thing to do while watching tv is to nurse or cuddle.


Does anyone have examples of unlimited tv in their home and how things have progressed?

post #2 of 71
Is it good that she is no longer following a complicated show? I'm not sure what you mean by "complicated", but it sounds like her ability to follow something long and involved is decreasing. That doesn't seem good to me.

Why did you decide to do that experiment? Just curious. I've heard of people going from lots of TV to little or no TV, but you're the first to go the other direction, in my acquaintance.

Edited to add : what I mean is, it sounds like her attention span is decreasing. I don't know if that's what you mean, though.
post #3 of 71

My kids are 10 through 19. We've never limited TV here, but we probably have / had a very different environment at home than what your dd is experiencing. We live in the mountains where there's no cable, and when my kids were young the internet was in its infancy. Although we had a TV, we chose not to subscribe to satellite, and Netflix wasn't an option. By the time we got satellite and high-speed internet, my kids were already in the habit of keeping themselves busy with reading, imaginary play, projects or outside play. 


As it stands now the TV sometimes gets turned on the evening, and sometimes not. Almost never during the day. Usually at night it's dh turning it on for news or a hockey game (he's the one who grew up watching TV as a child). My kids watch some stuff on their laptops: sometimes in obsessive spurts, say, watching all three seasons of Sherlock in a weekend or something. That started when they bought their own laptops over the past year or two. Before that we were so many sharing the computers that it wasn't a realistic option.


So no limits here, ever ... but my kids rarely watched TV or videos prior to age 10 or 12 just because of the way things were here. I think they've learned to self-regulate well. 


I agree with you that it's possible that some of the studies about TV-watching in children aren't predictive in an unschooling environment. For instance, 4 hours of TV a day by a school-child reduces the amount of family and play time to almost zero, whereas with an unschooler that would barely make a dent in it.


On the other hand, two is awfully young. Not sure how I'd feel about that. 



post #4 of 71

It was at 2 that I started the limits and kept them for about 6 years.  Probably could have backed off at some point.  (DD1 seemed like she was turning into that kid who would sit and watch anything like her dad.  That's about when we ditched the satellite and were stuck with videos-- we couldn't afford it anymore.)  I really liked what came of that period-- the girls really learned to occupy themselves with energy and imagination (and dh was more engaged with the girls in the evenings because he wasn't engrossed in the tube), and there were never fights about TV except some fussing between the two in the mornings.  We relented once they started watching some TV on the computer and I figured that computer or television, it was pretty much the same.  They did start into a lot of TV, but they seem to be finding a balance.


At 2 it could be that the really "complicated" stuff was engrossing not because it was complicated, but because it was a novelty.  (??)  Also, my girls were more likely to watch heavier fare if I was sitting with them.

post #5 of 71

We unschool and don't have tv limits.  Our girls are 4 and 7.


Our philosophy has been  (and I imagine will continue to be) :  Increase the positive activities and the negative activities will naturally decrease.  


The girls watch tv when we're home and they haven't found anything else to entertain them. This is a very small percentage of our day.  At this point their tv watching doesn't bother me.

post #6 of 71

My daughter is 9 and we've tried all sorts of methods.  Right now I don't limit TV at all, but like Woodchick's philosophy I try to introduce other activities if I start to feel uncomfortable with the amount of tv watching.  99% of the time she is happy to be given another option, it just seems like the TV is an easy "go to" for her.  Also, she seems just as happy to watch Nova Science Now as SpongeBob, so that helps.

post #7 of 71
I've never limited TV but ds didn't like it at all until he was 3. Shorty after that, he got freaked out by the singing fruit on Sesame Street so we covered it up with a blanket for 6 months. Since then, he likes the TV on for background noise. He has always been sensitive to noise so the TV keeps him from getting startled when the phone rings or the mail gets delivered. Or by the sound of my voice. He has never been one to get sucked into TV. He is usually doing other things (like using the computer) when it is on.

I don't think I'd have been comfortable with him watching much when he was under 3. There were a lot of messages on pbs kids shows that I didn't like. They'd introduce him to ideas and words that could have waited until he was older or we came across them in real life. Competition was highly promoted in some shows and my family prefers cooperative play. Some shows would try to teach a message but in actuality taught ds the "bad" behavior instead. Like his picking up "losers weepers, finders keepers" instead of the message the show was trying to teach, to try to return things to the rightful owner.
post #8 of 71

I think "TV" and "videos" are very different.  TV can keep going and going and is designed to keep you watching.  Videos have a natural end point, and even the internet shows we watch, the show ends and you click on another one, so that's a touch different from the TV that never stops until it gets shut off.  


I'd be wary about not limiting TV for a 2-yo, sort of like the tube is "guilty until proven innocent".  Of course, dh colors my opinion about this-- he absolutely cannot "hold his TV" and will watch it endlessly, completely zoned out from family and the world until it gets shut off (by someone else, usually).  Thankfully we have videos only here.  I can do without television.

post #9 of 71
If it's background noise you're wanting, you could use music. And music counts as music and math for portfolios, for those who have to put them together.
post #10 of 71

We don't own an actual TV, so all watching for us is Netflix or Youtube.  I have to say, I never thought I saw any effect on my kids until the day my ds1 (now 5) say "What a boring boring day" - straight from Kipper.  I always thought Kipper was such a benevolent show - very low key, kind, etc...but I was really unhappy hearing that phrase.  Now I hear lots of phrases from his shows, especially Kipper.  

Also, when ds1 was younger than 4, we never had a tablet or iPAD, so when we drove somewhere, even far, or went to a restaurant, we'd always have coloring books, or little activities, or he'd just sit and look out the window.  Sometimes, it was a pain, because once in a while nothing would make him happy and we'd have to stop the car or leave the restaurant etc...However, now that he's 5, he can go on very long rides and draw or read or just look out the window - as he's gotten used to more or less entertaining himself on car rides....I think if we'd had a tablet before, it would've been an easy go-to for in car entertainment (happening now with my 2.5 yo), and he wouldn't have been such an easy traveler.  Unfortunately, my 2.5 yo is more exposed to tablet use, and he went from one day not watching anything or being interested to next day literally glued to the screen.  I try to limit screen time by providing other activities, but I work from home and when I need to be on a call, I need to have the screen babysitting so my 2.5 yo doesn't pick up the other phone and start talking to my boss like he did yesterday! 

post #11 of 71

In addition, so much of programing suitable to young kids is essentially school propaganda. It's designed to encourage kids to want to go to school. And that's great if you are planning on sending your kids to school. But you might not want to have them inundated with the concept that school is the place to go to learn. Or have them feel like they are missing out on one big party if they homeschool.


Music never worked as background noise for my ds because he wanted the additional sense of company that tv added. He has always hated being alone and still comes looking for me after a few minutes if I go to another part of the house. Poor kid should have grown up in a small house with an open floor plan rather than this squirrelly place with too many doors... 

post #12 of 71
Thread Starter 

These are great! Thanks for sharing and please keep posting. I love reading about how tv/movies are being handled in different families. As my daughter grows, I know things will change and it's great to have ideas in the back of my head.

I personally don't like the idea of limiting. It goes against everything we're trying to gain by unschooling. I like the suggestions of providing other more positive things for her to do. While I do this pretty regularly right now, I am finding that the more effort I put in, the less she's interested in watching tv. If the amount of tv (or netflix because we don't actually have cable) is bothering me, then it's up to me to step up my game. I like that it puts the ball in my court to do something fun, rather than forcing her to stop something she's enjoying.

At this point we're okay with most of what she watches and actively engage with her as she's watching it. I think the "what" of watching is a very personal thing and what works in our family isn't going to work for everyone. The first time I saw preschool being promoted on a show, I totally flipped out. Now I think of it as an introduction for her. She's gonna need to know that other kids go to school. If she learns about it on tv, so be it. That doesn't mean we're not going to have lots of discussions and possibly field trips to find out what school really is. In fact, finding out that what you see on tv isn't always true may be a good thing.

I also love lmkl's thought about not bringing an ipad into the car. I actually tried stopping this recently and it worked great because my daughter is still okay just looking out the window or reading. It had become an "emergency" crutch for us and I'm thinking that some meltdowns might be necessary for her right now, though we may still need to use it on an airplane eyesroll.gif …and once she's really talking it will most likely be up to her.

post #13 of 71

The school propaganda thing can be rough if your child starts begging to go to school, unless you are willing to send her if she asks. It wasn't an issue for me because I didn't decide to homeschool until we tried out school and discovered what a poor fit the best available option was. But I've seen a lot of hand wringing on the homeschool forums when young kids are asking to go to school.


My son was never interested in using gadgets in the car, despite being a very computer oriented kid. He never liked using his hand held game system in the car, always preferring to look out the window. Sometimes kids just come the way they come and it isn't entirely how we handle things.


Sometimes rotating toys can be helpful because TV is frequently a default activity. Keeping toys fresh by rotating them or adding new components (like new train accessories for train sets, a new piece of doll house furniture, new toy kitchen food, etc) can help. I'd pick up the occasional science kit for ds when he was older.


And young kids rely on adults to let them know what the options are, what kinds of places can be visited, etc. So it's good to do some brainstorming if your little one is watching a lot of tv so that you can make sure it's a true choice, not a default "nothing better to do" activity or a habit. But it's ok for kids to be bored. Parents shouldn't feel they need to be more entertaining that the tv, either.

post #14 of 71
Originally Posted by 4evermom View Post

But I've seen a lot of hand wringing on the homeschool forums when young kids are asking to go to school.


Yes, I agree. With young kids it can be very difficult to achieve a balanced view on the matter. I have super bright kids and yet my ds at age 4.5 was determined to go to school because school buses were just totally cool, and he was convinced that no matter the other issues we discussed with school, they would all be worth it if he just got to ride on that bus. 


We rode city buses to demystify bus rides when we had the chance and he was underwhelmed but he was convinced a school bus would still be awesome because it would all kids, and a cool big-kid thing. We asked the school administration about riding the local school's bus and they said absolutely not, liability issues, couldn't be allowed. We knew one of the schoolbus drivers, though, and asked if for a special treat we could sneak him onto the bus just prior to school dismissal for a couple of minutes. The driver was willing to allow this so long as he was off the bus before it was moving, and was accompanied by me the whole time. We went. He sat. The school bell went and the kids started piling on, raucous and rude and unpredictable, yelling and pushing and swinging backpacks at each other. My little guy shrank into me and couldn't get off fast enough. That was the end of my sensitive little introvert's school wishes.


Fortunately for us we were able to discover a single identifiable source of school's allure for my son and, despite the school district's rules and because of who we knew, defuse it with a short experience. It might not have been that easy. I wouldn't underestimate the power of that "starting school is so great" message that kids can so easily pick up from popular culture.



post #15 of 71
It can be a real quandary when you've been raising kids without limits, respecting their choices, and helping them do whatever they want for years. How are you going to handle it when they want something diametrically opposed to those very values?
post #16 of 71
I'm not actually advocating limiting, per se. I'm just thinking about how all the unschooling stuff sounds so great. But a lot of it is really talking about older kids. Toddlers and young kids may need much more guidance than the no bedtime, no limits, follow your hunger cues stuff that so much of the unschooling writings seem to revolve around. Those things are all great goals. But they are goals, something to work toward as a child becomes developmentally ready.
post #17 of 71
Originally Posted by 4evermom View Post

I'm not actually advocating limiting, per se. I'm just thinking about how all the unschooling stuff sounds so great. But a lot of it is really talking about older kids. Toddlers and young kids may need much more guidance than the no bedtime, no limits, follow your hunger cues stuff that so much of the unschooling writings seem to revolve around. Those things are all great goals. But they are goals, something to work toward as a child becomes developmentally ready.


Nor am I advocating limits, per se. And I agree with you that it's really interesting thing to think about and discuss what we do as parents when our children choose to live in ways that are contrary to our values. 


Having said that, I think that young children do very well following their own cues about hunger, sleep, exercise, play, learning etc. .... provided they exist in an environment that approximates that which they are biologically programmed for. By that I mean that high-fructose corn syrup and refined sugars are artificial foods that kids can't necessarily self-regulate because humans haven't really evolved to do that. And artificial lighting can play havoc with natural sleep balance. And electronic entertainment can play havoc with the desire to play and exercise and learn. And so it's possible or even likely that children will need support, structure and guidance in learning how to self-regulate. 



post #18 of 71
Most kids do self regulate in a natural environment. But my own son did have trouble realizing when he was getting hungry. Recognizing the need for sleep was hard for him, too. He'd do that revving up thing and just get wild if we missed his sweet spot for sleep. And if he was too tired, he had more sleep disturbances; insomnia, sleep walking, night terrors... It was work staying on top of his sleep and food needs. I never ever expected it. I was all "Oh, he'll fall asleep if he gets tired" and "He'll eat when he gets hungry." But he didn't get that memo. I swear to God I was the perfect AP, child respecting parent who did every blessed thing right, lol. He's just got that highly sensitive thing going on and isn't a food oriented person.

The main thing I've learned as a parent is how completely and utterly different kids can be. Nothing is the one and only right way. But there are things that are mostly right for most kids;-)
post #19 of 71
I preferred to have my son looking for me or some other real person rather than becoming dependant on two dimensional characters for company. But that's just me.
post #20 of 71
Originally Posted by pek64 View Post

I preferred to have my son looking for me or some other real person rather than becoming dependant on two dimensional characters for company. But that's just me.


Would you say a similar thing about characters in books? If you had a voracious reader would you say that you'd rather your son looked to you or others for real experiences and relationships rather becoming dependent on books for vicarious ones? Is that really a fair dichotomy? Is it not possible to have both?



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