Unschoolers...how much TV do your kids watch - Page 2 - Mothering Forums
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Learning at Home and Beyond > Unschoolers...how much TV do your kids watch
TheJoyfulMom's Avatar TheJoyfulMom 06:23 PM 02-07-2006
I've been reading this thread since the begining and decided I would try to contribute as I have been on both sides now.

We limited tv for a long time. They would beg for it, try to sneak and watch it. It got VERY ugly. I stopped limiting. I let them watch. Our oldest is almost 7 and she watches right before lunch and then at 4pm for her favorite show. For the most part, she watches things I would have let them watch had I known they liked it- Discovery Channel documentaries, the History channel... wonderful stuff.

Our middle could care less. The older sister begs her to watch tv with her sometimes, but she usually won't do it. She'd rather be coloring or outside.

I fid the not limiting much easier to deal with. it causes a lot less fights and they really don't watch much- of course they did have that period of watching tv all day for about a week just because they could.
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4evermom's Avatar 4evermom 12:31 AM 02-08-2006
Originally Posted by boysrus
My 4 year old will watch a bit and then go run around. I realized yesterday that we are enforcing the vegetative state by asking him to sit while watching tv! I am going to stop doing that.
My ds (4.5) is the same way, not only with TV but with books. I've been getting into audiostories because I don't like reading to ds when he is jumping around the room. He does ask questions about things that he seemingly was paying no attention to. He has always been sensitive to noises which has resulted in him wanting TV or radio always on (so he doesn't get startled by an unexpected noise, even just me speaking suddenly). I don't limit TV at all but the only thing worth watching is PBS. Sometimes he watches a lot, sometimes hardly any. He prefers computer games. He is also very attached to me which translates to him not watching TV alone much, so I have always discussed everything with him; how special effects are done, commercialism, acting, content, whatever.
ekblad9's Avatar ekblad9 01:29 AM 02-08-2006
I don't know that I would call us "unschoolers" but here's what we do.

I don't watch things that I wouldn't want my kids to watch. I rarely watch TV. And as a result my kids (especially the older ones) rarely watch TV. When they do, it's good quality programs (documentaries and PBS specials). My younger kids enjoy DVD's of Wiggles, Dora, Barney, etc. We don't have cable. If the tv is on my nerves I turn it off. We have a ton of alternate activities here and the kids find something else to do. It's not a fight. If they were marching around the house banging on pots and pans and it bugged me I would stop them from doing that too. I do get to have *some* control
Soundhunter's Avatar Soundhunter 04:39 AM 02-08-2006
For those of you with no limits and multiple children, are you never concerned that the older children may expose younger children to violence and sexuality that they aren't old enough for, or wouldn't choose for themselves? Its one thing for one person to opt to watch something on tv, but if the volume is loud enough, it affects everyone. I know that I have issues with this myself, I can't handle endless tv sound, especially if I'm not watching it, I prefer to listen to music, but our house is not big enough to accomdate both, our house is too open to keep different sounds contained in different places, other then bedrooms. But our children will have to share a bedroom...so there wouldn't be dedicated place for any individual to watch tv where it wouldn't affect others. I'm not an unschooler, just pondering the no limits on tv concept, and the idea that kids can opt for themselves what violence they can take made me wonder about other children in the home not necessarily being prepared for images ad sounds that they walk in on without any say in the matter.
umbrella's Avatar umbrella 09:19 AM 02-08-2006
It really depends. We don't really have tv channels she could watch, so it's only our own shows and movies on tape or dvd. Thus, she has to ask before watching something (the dvd player is up too high, and dh freaks over her scratching the dvd's anyway). Some days she doesn't ask to watch anything at all. Other days, she might ask to watch 2 or 3 things over the course of a whole day. The average is one tape/dvd a day, with typically 2 shows, 22 min each.

There are infrequent days where we might have a movie day, and watch a lot. I had days like that occassionally as a kid, and it was fun. Something neat about spending your day watching movies, when you don't do that very often. I don't have a problem saying no, though after just one tape, the majority of the time. It's not much of issue. Just more of a, "nah, that's enough tv; let go do _____ instead."

Especially since we don't really have "tv" to watch, I'll be somewhat comfortable giving her more freedom as she grows older.
umbrella's Avatar umbrella 09:21 AM 02-08-2006
I can't handle endless tv sound, especially if I'm not watching it
I'm also rather sensitive to "noise." If I'm not watching it, or listening to it, I find it bothersome. I love to listen to music while I clean, but we all decide to play a board game or something, where we're also talking, and concentrating on something, I can't stand to have music playing in the background. I don't like the noise of the tv just for noise.
SagMom's Avatar SagMom 10:57 AM 02-08-2006
Originally Posted by Soundhunter
For those of you with no limits and multiple children, are you never concerned that the older children may expose younger children to violence and sexuality that they aren't old enough for, or wouldn't choose for themselves?
This hasn't been a problem for us. My oldest is very aware of what might bother his little brother and has said things like, "I'll watch this movie tonight, when R is asleep, I think it might scare him." The youngest wanted to watch LOTR, because his brother was so into it. I found them sitting side by side, with the 5 y/o allowing his older brother to cover his eyes when a violent part was coming.

My dd went through a period where she was very sensitive to curses. It really upset her to hear anyone swearing. If she was up late and we were watching a movie that was likely to bother her, we'd just put the closed captioning on.

I think they're each aware of what their sensitivities are, and have become good at predicting what types of movies they each might not want to see. The older ones read the movie descriptions or ads, or reflect on scenes from the book if the movie is based on a book. We do a lot of talking. ("This movie is going to have a lot of language, you might not want to watch it.") Really, for our house, it's the level of violence that seems to be a concern to all--we each have our limits. Dd doesn't like angry words, ds & I don't like graphic violence, but we can deal with implied violence when it's necessary to the story. Sexuality hasn't been an issue--dd went through a stage where she rolled her eyes and groaned every time someone kissed, but she did that when seeing it irl too. By the time she was interested in romatic comedies or other movies that might have a sexual scene, she was past that.

I think it's like any other issue you have to consider when living in a family unit. One doesn't play loud music next to someone else who's trying to read, the meat eater doesn't put his plate under the vegetarian's nose and offer some steak, one doesn't watch a movie likely to offend another when they're in the same room and within earshot...kwim?
simple living mama's Avatar simple living mama 12:09 PM 02-08-2006
We don't have TV. Some would say that's not like a typical unschooling family but there is something about the advertisements that makes me nutty. They are so assaulting to the senses on every level. We also don't do commercial radio or big box stores so our lives are pretty commercial free. It's funny, I live in a small historical mountain town and they even ban billboards around here. I love it.

So saying this we do watch plenty of good movies. In fact we started a film festival in this town so the access to good movies has even gotten better.

So to answer your question, none at all.
oldermamato5's Avatar oldermamato5 12:26 PM 02-08-2006
the single best thing we ever did for our family was throw out the t.v. 5 years ago or so. we do watch dvd's sometimes.
KaraBoo's Avatar KaraBoo 02:33 PM 02-08-2006
We don't get TV channels in English where we live. (We could but we don't want to go thru the hassle. It's a long story!) But we have over 600 movies on DVD and about 100 on video. She is free to choose any of them at any time (well, I may have to remind her that she may not have time to watch a complete movie if we are headed out to do something else or everyone is going to bed, etc).

If she picks up a movie with a cover that interests her, she will ask me the title and what it's about. Believe me, this kid is NOT interested in violence and sexual situations. LOL (She's 7, by the way) She makes her own choices. Right now, she wouldn't choose anything but Disney, anime (tame stuff, though), musicals or "family films." Ok, well, for some reason she thinks "Dude, Where's My Car" is hilarious. LOL But that's the only one I can think of that she likes outside of the other genres mentioned.

I don't know how we will handle things as she gets older. If she chose, say, Clockwork Orange, I'd tell her that there are scenes that disturb me even years later after viewing the film but that it's well-made and has critical aclaim. (I remember my stepson wanting to watch that film when he was about 17. He wanted to see it but didn't want to watch it alone. So he asked me to hang with him and talk about the movie.) I dunno. We'll see. I hope we can continue to "give" her the freedom she deserves.

As for amount, just as listed above, it varies. It's winter right now and dreary. Unless she has friends over, she will watch two movies a day. Since kids' movies are shorter, I'd say that equals about 180 minutes or less of her day spent in front of the television. As others have mentioned, she does other stuff while watching. She draws or eats or dances along or plays with toys. Yes, sometimes she even plays with her Gameboy or DS. LOL For a while, she liked to watch Lion King and play the game on her Gameboy. And no, this does not make me worry she's ADD or ADHD.

As Dar posted, it's a different way of life. I like a lot of what unschoolma and Dar posted, as usual
suziek's Avatar suziek 02:38 PM 02-08-2006
WE don't have a tv either, and only watch dvds on my computer about every two weeks or so. That said, we aren't unschoolers either.

I grew up in a family where it was all tv all the time--I gave it up for lent when I was 11 and never looked back. I suppose that is a case for letting kids make their own choices, but I still have an allergy to the box.

We don't have a tv because I don't like television, and to get one I'd have to buy one, which I just won't do. My kids don't miss it, YET. We'll see what happens when they get older.

I actually think the tv era as we've known it is almost over, and our issues as parents today will be around the computer. My oldest son and I have already had numerous discussions about access to computers and computer games--discussions we've never had to had about tv. And here I do feel a bit hypocritical. TV doesn't need to be limited because we don't have one. There is no need to say 'it's good for me but not for you.' But that is effectively what I have been thinking about my kids' interest in the computer--I looove it, but it's not for you. My son has let the issue go for a while, but I'm still pondering how to handle that one.

Anyway, thanks boysrus for reviving this discussion. It's always interesting to see how people think about this one.
ShannonCC's Avatar ShannonCC 02:54 PM 02-08-2006
I cancelled cable almost 2 years ago. We still have videos and the kids watch them whenever they want. They don't tend to watch all day long with videos though. We have a ton and we rent new ones whenever they want but it's still not the draw that 24/7 tv is. I'm happy with how much they watch now.

I have an addictive personality. I grew up with unlimited tv and contrary to what many say, that did *not* cause me to take it or leave it. To this day I can't be in a room with a television on and not look at it. I find it very distracting to the point where I can't follow a conversation (and I come across as rude). I'm one of those sad people who will watch infomercials for things I don't want rather than turn off the tube

When my dd was littler she watched as much tv as she wanted. At her first birthday her Grandpa gave her a Teletubbies video and that started everything. At that time I thought that eventually it would get "old" as so many have said of their kids so I didn't regulate. It didn't get old and finally I realized she's like me. She was about 5 (her brother 2) when I pulled the plug and cancelled cable.

Frankly, what with how good the results were (in her and in the family in general) I wish I had done it a lot earlier.

So yeah, it's the biggest area in which I don't fit in with other unschoolers but I can live with that
oceanbaby's Avatar oceanbaby 05:05 PM 02-08-2006
As for content, LOL, I don't much care about violence, I feel like my son is quite capable of turnng his head when something upsetting comes on, he knows the diff. between fake and real, and he trusts us to warn him if something is likely to bother him in a show/movie. (We always watch together anyway) As for sexuality-content, I am much more cautious there, but generally we don't watch anything inappropriate ourselves. He's getting our "message/opinion" when he notices us switch channels/turn off a dating show/scantilly-clad babes, and he understands the concept of modesty just fine for a 5yo. JMTC
That's interesting - I am just the opposite. Except for something highly inappropriate, I don't have any problem with ds seeing sex/nude scenes. But violence is another story. I don't let him watch any violent movies or shows, and even get irritated when scary previews for CSI type shows come on when dh and ds are watching baseball. I guess it's because I think sex/nudity should be more of an everday occurence, but I don't think that violence is something to accept as normal.

I don't want to limit tv, but I have noticed that ds1 starts acting pretty bratty if he watches too much tv. He only watches PBS stuff but he will watch for hours if we let him. I would be okay with seeing how long it would last for if his behavior weren't an issue afterwards. Has anyone else dealt with this conflict - not wanting to limit but not wanting to deal with post-tv-syndrome either?

Another question: Ds1 was almost 2yo before he even watched any tv, and then it was maybe Sesame Street. I am not a background tv person - in fact, it drives me crazy - so I never had it on during the day. Dh and I would watch a little after ds went to bed. But now that ds1 watches tv, ds2 has been exposed to it since birth. He does what ds1 never did - cry when we turn it off, and ask for it to go on! I find this frightening in an 18 month old, and don't really know what to do about it. I am scared that I have already turned ds2 into an addict by exposing him from such a young age. Is this an issue for anyone else?
Soundhunter's Avatar Soundhunter 06:48 PM 02-08-2006
Than you, those of you who answeredmy questions

And as for this:

Originally Posted by ShannonCC
I have an addictive personality. I grew up with unlimited tv and contrary to what many say, that did *not* cause me to take it or leave it. To this day I can't be in a room with a television on and not look at it. I find it very distracting to the point where I can't follow a conversation (and I come across as rude). I'm one of those sad people who will watch infomercials for things I don't want rather than turn off the tube
I think just as there are kids with the different learning styles, that different people are wired differently in ways that mke their reactions to various medias different. There are audio-sensitive people like myself and a previous poster, and there are definitely people that I've met who are wired to be tv-zombies, in my experience. I know two children like this, my niece, and Emma's little friend. If there is a tv on, suddenly everything, and everyone else disappears, they get a very vacant look in their eyes, and they seem unable to multitask, or tolerate anyone speaking to them while the tv is on, no matter what they are watching. Emma on the other hand, has a very short attention span with tv, she's definitely a kinesthetic oriented person and isn't interested in tv for longer than 5 minutes at a time, then she's off to climb stuff and conquer her physical surroundings. These three girls are all similarly aged, given similar access to tv as part of families that watch tv, and yet they obviously have some kind of internal wiring that influences how the respond to tv. Emma is far more interested in pushing all of the buttons on the tv, and remote, and putting videos in and out of the vcr, then watching the screen.

I don't think giving unlimited access is the right thing for all kids, I think for Emma it would be harmless, but for my niece and Emma's friend, I think it would be a bad idea.
iamama's Avatar iamama 07:43 PM 02-08-2006
Great thread has given me lots to ponder.
Galatea's Avatar Galatea 09:35 PM 02-08-2006
I had unlimited tv and cable and HBO for my childhood and I still was a fine student and self-motivated reader and as an adult I don't watch that much tv. I don't really think it makes a whole lot of difference as I am starting to think that the die is cast when the sperm meets egg, and that there is not a whole lot you can do about how your child is. But that's my bag. Anyway, I am living proof that unlimited tv and scary and sexy tv do not make little ADD psychos.

As for my kids, ds1 watches PBS Sprout (toddler shows 24-7) and videos. He loves to watch Star Trek with me. That is the only tv I watch. We have all been dragging for a week or two and his tv time has increased, but normally he doesn't ask for it very much. We got a cabinet with doors so we can put the tv away and that usually distracts him.

Now dh, he is a tv zombie and will trout-mouth in a second. If either of the kiddos start seeming like him, I will take action.
ShannonCC's Avatar ShannonCC 01:30 AM 02-09-2006
Originally Posted by Galatea
I am starting to think that the die is cast when the sperm meets egg, and that there is not a whole lot you can do about how your child is.

That's pretty much my stance too Especially having given birth to two completely different kids. I still think how we raise them is important and *can* affect them but I definitely no longer believe in the blank slate idea (like I did before I had kids).

By the way, I didn't mean to imply that my unlimited tv watching was the *cause* of me being unable to tune it out or anything. I just keep reading over and over on MDC how if you just give your kids free access to the television they *will* self regulate and if they don't it's because you did something wrong. Of course, those posts are usually along with the posts about how if you raise the kid AP they will never turn out to be anything but a mellow, laid back child
insahmniak's Avatar insahmniak 02:48 AM 02-09-2006
Originally Posted by simple living mama
We don't have TV. Some would say that's not like a typical unschooling family but there is something about the advertisements that makes me nutty. They are so assaulting to the senses on every level. We also don't do commercial radio or big box stores so our lives are pretty commercial free.
Same here. I can't stand TV - drives me crazy. We live small and there's no way I could escape the noise of it. At some point, maybe there will be a request for one, and maybe I'd figure out a way to live with one. But for now, we are very happily tv free. Kinda strange, I admit, for unschooling/trying to be as noncoercive as possible parenting. But really, because we don't have one and TV has never been part of our lives, there is probably a LOT less coersion in this household than in most.
cottonwood's Avatar cottonwood 03:41 AM 02-09-2006
We are unschoolers and we limit TV. I have concerns for their physical health -- I think that the entertainment value and/or addictive nature of the medium tends to override the ill effects, so that they keep doing it even when it makes them feel unwell -- and I personally have a VERY low threshold for the flashing images and noise.

The TV is on an average of two hours a day. Sometimes it's Mr. Rogers and Cyberchase, sometimes a movie. Not all of that is continuous, often they'll turn it on, then run off to play and I'll turn it off. Today it hasn't been on at all -- they've mentioned it once or twice, and I've said, "I don't really feel like having it on right now. What else can you think of that you might like to do?"
Cenote's Avatar Cenote 04:33 PM 02-09-2006
I'm so glad this thread was revived! We are so torn about this issue right now! (At least I am ) My ds would watch TV all day if he could and we are trying to find a way to put limits on it. But then I question whether the limits themselves are creating his desire to watch all he can. When he's done with TV, he is in a much more aggressive and cranky than when he started out. That's what made me consider having limits. So, we talked to him about it and decided (together) that he would have 3 hours of TV/week to allocate in any way he wanted (with a chart for him to follow) and then one day a week he could have unlimited access to TV. I know that seems very controlling and not in the spirit of unschooling but I'm pretty stymied. We live in a small apartment with very little access to a yard (we have one but it's really a pain to get to and we aren't really allowed to do anything in the yard : ). It's really been hard to access all of our fun supplies. We are going to be moving to a larger place in a couple of months (with a yard being the very necessary componant - at least for me). Another issue is that my son is such a homebody - and I'm not - but that's another thread. It's really a challenge to get him interested in going outside (we live very close to a huge park) and this concerns me to some degree.

So, I'd really appreciate some feedback re: TV usage. I have read lots of research about the dangers of television - and I do believe that it can be bad for brain development. But I don't ever see my dh being willing to give up the TV. He's a performer/comedy writer and feels he needs to keep on top of the media since that is his field - so it's here to stay.

At any rate, since we are such young homeschoolers (just started in the Fall - after ds attended preschool) I'm still having a hard time with trust - but I do believe (in my mind) that it's the right way to go. Just reading these responses has given lots of food for thought and I'll be having my dh read it as well as I'm sure it will spark a lively discussion.

So, any words of wisdom - oh, bright shining hsingmamas?

Edited to add: Perhaps I'll start a new thread about this so as to keep this one on track.


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