Wednesday, May 30, 2012

screen time

 It's a funny thing this thing called technology.

I think it's both a curse and a blessing. I know I struggle with the balance of it. I struggle with my kid's balance of it.

I know some of you are in that wholesome realm of the no tv world. I truly take my hat off to you. I wish we could do it. But the reality of it here is that if you walked in my door, the big tv on the wall might be the first thing you would see.

Then there is my least favourite, the playstation2 (a remnant of our city living times) and the newer iphone (which keeps mysteriously disappearing) and of, course, the computer.

I really struggle with the screen time for the kids. If I let them I don't think they would be doing much else. I know it hasn't made me terribly popular around here. There's quite a bit of that torn motherhood guilt going on. But despite my best efforts, there is still a few hours spent daily, between cartoons (the rule is ABC only) and games.

There is a fine line between wanting our kids to have the simpler kind of life we grew up with or aspire to, while not wanting them to fall too far behind in a lightning paced world that is geared up for technology.

I can say that I don't mind a bit of tv myself. What would Wednesday night be like without a dose of Offspring? Monday without Revenge? The new season of River Cottage? I am missing Parenthood. But not to worry too much because Downton Abbey is back. It's becoming quite clear that I am also quite attached to that thing my mother likes to call the idiot box.

I guess the important thing is to not let it all take over. I try (sometimes unsuccessfully) to set limits. I encourage the kids to play outside and read or play indoors.  But we do have our moments of pushing these boundaries. Where the balance is way off kilter. All of us.

Do you have a tv? Games? Do you struggle with screen time balance too? Do you have any tips?


  1. we have a tv tania. it runs on abc pretty much all the time. kids shows for penny and the news for us. i love to watch castle and levi likes spicks and specks. apart from that we don't have it on. we have a couple of iPads at home - peter and levi use these mostly. i was gifted an iMac for mothers day a while back and rarely use it. i stay away from the computer after work hours and during weekends. i sit in front of one all week. i squeeze in blogging time then and at the end of the day walk away from it all. i think we have a good balance as a family. my kids love to be outdoors so that is what we do. the last thing i need is Facebook and twitter and letting people know my every move. its just not me. i have even given up on instagram. i believe the balance is lost with so many social media outlets. my tip is to keep doing what you are doing. we operate the same and set by example. xo

  2. we have tv. and wii. and ipad. and ipod. and pc. lots and lots, but try to use mindfully. it's ABC on the telly for the kids, but limited time, no set rule, but when i feel like they have sat staring for long enough, we flick it off and do something else. we are looking forward to moving to a place with a yard, to help the yin/yang a little! (very relieved to find i'm not the only one!) :)sarah

  3. Screens! The death of me!
    We have them too, we EVEN have a huge one in our bedroom.
    Whilst I don't particularly like it alot of the time, Tuesday night Rafters is most favorite time of the week. Also Saturday morning cartoons...all kidlets cuddled in bed, me crocheting with a cuppa and kids and hubby laughing at the antics of that ridiculous Tom & Jerry (when will that cat learn?!)..
    It's become something we're enjoying in the cooler months...we are adveturers when the sun is high..but right now I'm just going with the flow.

  4. Obviously I meant *adventurers!

  5. Tania, the balance is right there in your photo - just look at all those books! I think the tv problem is with multiple sets and unsupervised access to them and to other technology. Don't worry too much. Sounds to me as though your children have loads of alternatives.

  6. Sorry, that was a bit rude of me - I'm Anonymous.
    Linda (NZ)

  7. Your attitude sounds very similar to mine Tania! We have a big screen that is all-too-easily the focus of our main back kitchen/living area. I am so grateful for ABC Kids a lot of the time (my kids are not exposed to kid product advertising, hooray!) but sometimes I wish it was simply not available so much of the time so the kids couldn't even ask for it. We have a Wii which is 'only for the wii-kends'. I would like to put some stricter rules in place around TV time because it's so much easier when the kids know the answer and don't have to ask/beg.
    The thing I worry about most lately is setting a (bad) example to the kids with the amount of time my husband and I spend on laptop/iPad, so we are trying to cut that back dramatically. Last weekend was much better. It's a constant process of assessment and adjustment, I find.
    Whew, that was an essay, sorry! You got me started :)

  8. We don't have a tv, haven't for years but we do have a pc with a large monitor and a laptop that are used for playing games and watching movies and the odd episode of spongebob.

    The thing I like about computers over television is that we are far more selective of what the boy watches (the little one is too young for now) and he watches things without the advertisements that go along with tv programs. I also think it doesn't hurt for him to know his way around a computer. We don't miss tv at all but then again, J does use the computer daily. Not having tv works for us but probably not for everyone.

  9. Same struggle here except for games. Mine are still young enough to not know about playstation etc. But yes, where to pull them back for beneficial simplicity and where to let them join the pace of the rest of the world is that fine line that eeks at our guilt gland as mothers. You are not alone in this struggle/challenge. My tip is simply to plan a fun alternative to the screen and inject yourself into it with the kids- they seem to love our attention :) I come undone if I turn off the tv and offer no alternative as the tv seems to drain their creative initiative at least for 30 mins! xx Fi

  10. We have a rule here that the tv doesn't go on for the girls before or after school until Friday afternoon. At first it was a bit tricky getting used to it not being on and changing the routine but now they don't ask for it much at all. As for technology with my oldest in Year 8 she is always on the computer after school for at least and hour or 1½ hours but I don't think we can avoid this. I have to say I wish I was as strict with the tv I have my shows I would really miss watching so once the youngest is in bed it's turned on. My only tip is to just change the routine slowly once it's established they probably won't miss it much at all.xx

  11. Like everyone mentioned, it's all about what works for you. And again it's age related with kids as well. I have 2 teenagers and even though I've restricted the xbox and computer screen time to 1/2hr a day, I realize that with their ipods/mobile phones, they are still 'switched on' despite my best efforts. So I find that they are holed up in their rooms listening to their ipods when they've finished with the TV/computer. We have established a Saturday night 'Board Game'/Cards every week just to 'reconnect' with each other and when the TV is on I do try to sit down with them just to involve myself in their 'world' even if it means watching something I would never have done myself. I've come to realize that this is their world and it's how they relate - we used to spend hours on the phone chatting with our girlfriends. In their world it happens via Facebook. It's easier to get girls off technology (involving them in crafty pursuits) but with boys it's a lot harder - especially if they aren't that interested in sports and all those 'outdoor' type activities that were once their responsibility eg chopping wood, hunting etc just doesn't happen in suburbia.

  12. Hi Tania,
    We were going without a tv before the kids were born, I got so fed up with the commercials, that when the tv broke down we never replaced it.
    I get my series/movies/documentaries through Quickflix (DVD in the mail) and watch them on the laptop when it’s convenient for me, without any commercials. The kids get to watch 10minutes of something on the laptop as a reward for brushing their teeth just before bed. We have a projector we can watch a DVD “on the wall” on a rainy afternoon, a real treat with popcorn about once a month.
    My kids are 2,5 and 4 years old. The eldest plays games on my husbands Ipad, only in the weekend for 30min as rest time.
    They do “read” a lot of books and just play, the games they come up with together.
    I think no mum want to alienate their kids form their peers. But we also want them to be happy, creative and able to play. The passive VS active. But believe me there are moments where I would love to plonk them before the tv just to get some rest...

  13. Yeah I agree its definitely all about balance. We've had times where there was just too much tv/computer. So it was hard for a little bit cutting it back but I found that once you break the cycle they adjust to a different routine. My kids only go on the computer, maybe once weekly. Watching tv is never before school but they'll usually watch a movie or ABC2 around 4-5ish to chill out before dinner. Our tv is huge and is unfortunately the main focal point in the lounge room. I would love to get rid of it altogether, but there are times when I appreciate it for the kids and definitely love chilling out myself watching Offspring, Revenge & Rafters in the evenings.
    Sometimes its easy to be hard on ourselves about things like screen time but I honestly think that as long as theres a balance all is ok.

  14. no tips here - we're struggling to find a balance! Way too much ABC2 happening at the moment. There'll be no TV when we move though since there is no reception in the valley where the house is. It's going to be a major detox for all of us!!

  15. We have 1 TV in the lounge, far away from dining table and it is NEVER on during mealtimes. In fact my kids have to ask if they can watch something and like you, ABC2 only. We only just got a Wii and there's the laptop which they also have to ask for. But with the space to run around, animals to play with, crafty things, books etc, they are not watching TV every day. If they watch in the morning (my boy gets up early and watches till we all get up) it's off 1hour before we have to leave for school. Screen time is the first thing I ban for discipline. But I also know that, especially my boy, would watch TV/play PC games for hours if I let him.
    I guess providing plenty of alternatives, suggesting board games or reading sessions (that is what we call them when they all cuddle up to me on the couch and bring a few books each which I read to them all), setting limits and having screen-free days is what we all need to do.

  16. I only have the 1 child (5.5yrs) and we have always been strict. It was no TV until he was 3. He can watch 40 minutes of tv at the end of the day while I'm cooking dinner. This is always pretaped and Abc2. He gets to choose the shows (ie Grandpa in my Pocket, Sesame Street, Octonauts)

    We watch a movie together on Saturday nights.

    Otherwise he has audiobooks on ipod to chillout to and plays/crafts etc the rest of the time. As for computers we have laptops and he is only allowed on the computer twice per week to play Reading Eggs.

    We know that when he goes to school we will probably end up with a Wii but again we'll limit his time.

    It's all a balance. I think it depends what you're used to...we've never had the tv on during the day (even before kiddo) and neither my husband or I are into computer games ourselves. Love our fav tv shows at night but its all in moderation.

  17. I fully believe it's like everything else in life, moderation and standards (I agree ABC only) xxBrenda

  18. Thank you all for so many wonderful suggestions - will definitely be taking them board. Oh, and I forgot to add the Rafters to that list :)

  19. We have a tv but it isnt hooked up so we can only watch dvds on it (and's one of those super old box ones!) I too struggle with the balance. Especially with a very inquisitive, sticky beak feeder at the moment, the only way I can get him to have a decent feed is to pop on a play school dvd (the only ones we own for her) and go into my room to feed Remy. After a few blocked milk ducts and a nasty bout of mastitis I've decided that one of two episodes a day ain't gonna kill her and gives me the much needed time and quiet to feed Remy properly. Will be interesting to see how it unfolds as they grow. Also don't want them to get left behind. You always share such thoughtful and inspiring posts. I adore visiting your space...thanks so much! :) x

  20. HI Tania, let it be known that I could not cope with out it!! Where would we be without ABC ... Using Technology when you need it is not such a bad thing as long as it is properly monitored and moderation is the key ingredient...
    I sometimes have to make my older children come and watch Tv with us just to get them off the computer?? Does that make any sense? :)

  21. I'm not a TV junkie. I only watch it when I really, really want/need to. It's my escape from reality and, let's be honest, we all need a bit of an escape every now and again.

  22. @ Teaching of Torn - yes, I did forget it:) It is of special interest to me because it's set where we lived for a number of years.

  23. We decided to try a TV free life about 5 years ago! The best part initially was how many options we had for arranging our furniture - it had ALWAYS bugged me how our TV became the focal point of a room, ultimately dictating how lounges etc could be arranged. Well just 12 months ago my husband came home with a huge flat screen TV. But this time round we aren't connected to channels. This way I'm completely in control of what they view. My kids watch a DVD on the weekends and my husband and I watch a few down-loaded programs mid week when the kids are in bed. This works really well for us. My ten year old son earns Wii or computer time through piano practise (bribery works a treat).

  24. This is a biggie for me. I drive myself bonkers trying to limit TV time for my kids, but then resort to it as the only chance in my day to not have to 'entertain' them. I know they'll be better at entertaining themselves as they get older, but then I don't want them to get older and think the TV is the only thing available. I used to watch so much of it (have really just switched it for the computer if I'm honest).

    I've heard some amazing stories first-hand of families who decided to get rid of the TV entirely and the change that came over their kids was amazing, just in terms of their creativity, their desire to play with siblings etc. I'd love to get rid of ours...but what about me/the hub and our shows? AAARRGH! Bonkers again.

  25. TV....I can't live without it. I too love Offspring, which is recording at the moment as it isn't my husband's favourite show and Revenge (which I might add was a cracker on Monday and looks like it might get better and better). I'm a bit of The Block fan, must be the sad side of me enjoying seeing other people renovate like we are. Otherwise it is only ABC or SBS for us.
    I don't have children so I'm afraid I can't give any tips. I do have one cat that loves to watch Miniscule though, but I don't think counts.

  26. I have a long running love-hate relationship with TV. I used to have it on all the time, just running in the background. I then discovered audiobooks and essentially stopped watching TV. (Though now I have a love-hate relationship with my ipod, so whatever).

    When we bought our house in March we opted to put the TV and video games downstairs and that too has really helped. They are not in our main living area so we just watch/play it less. Actually, I guess we just set it up two days ago so we hadn't even used it in three months....and last night we stayed up until nearly 1am last night playing video games! Screens.... they are crazy. And fun.

    But, I don't think it has to be all or nothing. As with so many aspects of life I think moderation is key. When it gets in the way it is something to worry about, but otherwise a little dose seems okay to me now and again. I also have found I enjoy it with more intensity now that it isn't just background.

  27. We have a tv, but we cancelled cable service before the kids were born. We use the tv for dvds only, and I have set a schedule that I *mostly* stick to. My children are 2 and 3. My 3 year old son would watch his dvds 24/7 if I let him. The rule is no tv until after nap - while I make dinner. Then sometimes after dinner, but mostly not. The exceptions are if they are sick, or if it is library day. When they pick new dvds out at the library, they are too little (I think) to wait to watch them until that evening, so they get them when we get home.
    We also let them play age-appropriate games on our iphones for maybe a total of an hour a week.
    It is a huge struggle!! I have a love/hate relationship with all of it, too.
    My husband and I don't care for tv, but we could spend hours on the computer.

  28. I was raised without a tv and well, I never missed it. My parents never even allowed us to play games on the computer. The computer was for business only. We read books and played. My husband and I each have an iPad, an iPhone and we have a laptop that we share. We use our phones for everything like list, calendar, photos... It's a wonderful invention. The iPads could be lived without but at the end of the day, it's really nice to curl up and read my favorite blogs and the news. We use our computer for business only! It's in the office and stays there. We try to live without being so dependent on our technology. I really enjoy your blog, thanks for blogging!

  29. If I let her, my four year old would watch tv all day! But if I turn the tv off (and hide the remotes!) she soon find something else to do. I'm can be quilty of letting her watch too much tv but as you say I think I do too! how funny was Offspring last night!

  30. I feel similarly to you. We have a big screen TV too- I would be happy to ditch it but it is Legoman's pride and joy. I pretty much watch The Block, The Good Wife and Offspring and that's it for the week.
    Our house runs on a pretty strict routine for the sake of my son who needs that- I mainly use tv as a reward. They get 15 mins before school once they are dressed/bags packed teeth brushed etc as it massively reduces my need to nag. They get another 20 mins after school- all abc kids and then it's either outside or craft/boardgames time. We have an ipad and Roboboy gets this for 15 mins while I tuck his sister in at night or he can do mathletics. He is 6 and has no idea what a playstation/ds/wii are and I like it that way. I just bundle in all screen time as something to be kept and eye on and limited. melx

  31. @Teaching of Thorn - it's set in the northern beaches of Wollongong (we lived in the south part though).

  32. Hi Tania,

    We have a tv but my husband and I rarely watch it. I let my little girl watch Playschool while I prepare dinner. I have a baby and in the early days I would let Skye watch a cartoon or two in the morning while I got my baby back to sleep...but I soon realised how this impacted on her...and it made the rollercoaster ride of looking after a toddler worse. So I stopped this and she's much more balanced.

    It's not easy is it? Sometimes I'm craving some peace and quiet and I know tv can give that to me. But I've decided not to cave in for my childrens sake. But a little bit is ok, no?

  33. We have a tv & are currently deciding whether to get rid of foxtel or not. It's $50 or so a month that we really can't afford but we've had it forever & are not sure how we'll go without it. I think i'll enjoy not having it but i'm not sure if hubby will cope.
    I'm 5 months pregnant with my first baby & i really don't want my child to grow up being completely dependent on the tv.

  34. My kids love screens. If they could they would be on them 24/7. So we keep it simple. Wii days (this means computers, DS, Wii). are allowed on Thursday after the homework is done and all day Sunday (with jobs scattered every 1.5hrs).On weekdays if the homework is done ABC3 is fine. It works for us. The kids Skype their cousin and play computer games together. Its their generation. They socialise more over the computer with their friends and cousins than we did with the phone. My boys are 10, 8 and 6yr. Love your blog

  35. Perhaps a cover over the TV would make it out of sight, out of mind; or at least make the effort of taking it off to watch a deterrent for the kids?

  36. Hi tania,

    I think that you are not alone in your screen time styling, we are about the same here at my place. We try to have designated computer days for the kids and we try to have screen free days as well. It's becoming really easy to leave our 2 year old glued to the tv or I veiw. I am penting up some guilt on this issue, I could write for ages about this guilt.

    I will say that to my horror last year my husband suggested a screen free November. I nearly died at the prospect, I thought how will they cope, I dreaded the nagging and the thought of them all being bored. To my surprise they didn't nag at all, there was no bargaining they didn't miss it at all. Even now I think how did we do it, but I tell you it was actually easier. Read my post on it, I am going to re read it as I remember when the month was over we actually kept the tv away for 2 extra weeks and we said we would do this regularly.

    Here's the post.

  37. It has been interesting to read everyone's thoughts on TV watching. My girls are 12 and 14 and as they have grown older there is less on ABC that I am super-happy with them watching (or perhaps the good shows are on at times that don't suit us?). My girls usually watch DVDs of old shows eg Bewitched, Brady Bunch, Flying Nun, and they sometimes watch one episode after school during afternoon tea, and one or two on the weekends. While I teach piano two afternoons they may watch one hour of DVDs provided their homework is done first. On Friday nights they have their own tv dinner with a movie from our collection, and we have our own tv dinner date night later with a DVD. So ... Most days their tv is limited to one hour. They have iPods and Emily has a school laptop and it varies from day to day how much these are used and for what purposes. We are trying to encourage more physical activity in our afternoons, but otherwise i am happy with the amount of screen time the girls have, and happy that they love the old shows which seem much mo wholesome than some of the ABC shows for teenagers. (and I enjoy the 1960s fashions and decor :-)

  38. Hi Tania,

    I don't mind the tv so much but the games consoles and computer games drive me mad. When the kids were small I just let them watch the ABC only, and only for a small amount of time, but now that they are approaching teenage years it is all about the computer, xbox and ipods.

    We have a rule that they can only play on the computer and Xbox on Friday, Saturday and Sundays, within reason. And they are not allowed to have ipods for more than 10 minutes on weeknights and definately no ipods before they are ready for school in the mornings.

    As much as I don't like it, I think it is just a part of their generation, and that theirs will be a very technology-based future.

    Our television rarely goes on before the six o'clock news though. We are not big tv viewers in our house and would rather listen to music.

    Great post.


  39. I have a tv but I no longer struggle with the issue of screen time. I grew up tv free and for a long time as an adult, felt guilty for watching and enjoying it. No more. I watch the shows I've DVRed as time allows after everyone has gone to bed. My kids don't generally have screen time during the week b/c between school, loads of outdoor play, and the evening routine, there just isn't time. They watch it on the weekends, and if I feel they're getting too much, I have no problem telling them to go do something else. They don't have a problem with it either.


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