I don't know about you, but my kids get a little crazy after they've watched a lot of television. I notice an increase in tears, a lack of cooperation and sleep troubles.
Overall, we're pretty conservative when it comes to screen time. I was recently listening to Rhonda McEwan, a communications expert from the University of Toronto on the CBC show Fresh Air.
What she has seen in her research is that screens are able to draw and hold our children's attention (I think we all know that, right?) The problem with this is that TV takes time away from the person-to-person communication skills that are so important for children's development. Some people can manage these attention deficits, but for other people it can be really difficult to break the habit.
The host asked Rhonda how much screen time her kids are allotted each week. She said that she veers to a very conservative amount - six hours per week. Her children are allowed to use those six hours whenever they want, and her 9 year-old son tends to hoard his hours for the weekend.
I was so interested in this piece on CBC because we just starting a "no TV week" in our house. We do this periodically, when we feel like television is starting to take over our lives. Here's what our kids' TV viewing looks like for a typical week:
- Weekday Mornings: 15 minutes before it's time to head out the door
- Weekday Evenings: 45 minutes before dinner
- Weekends: I haven't timed this, but I'm guessing at least 2 hours each weekend day (sometimes more if we're having a special movie night)
Total: 9 hours
And I haven't even included what they may get at school (yes, there are screens at our school.)
It was time for a break, so No TV Week was implemented. We can't control what they get at school, but it's the occasional computer time and special movie days - so not a lot. And we're not gamers in our house, so we have no other games that the girls use.
We are always surprised at how well our girls do without television. They spend extra time in the mornings playing or doing crafts, and after school they work on homework (if necessary) or have free playtime. They seem to get along a lot better, and there are less tantrums. I will say, though, that I don't get a lot of work done. My kids are still at the age that they want to show me everything and talk to me All The Time. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, but it would be hard for a parent who needs to work from home (outside of school hours!)
My oldest declared No TV Week a huge success, and asked if we could do it again! I'm not ready to turn off the TV forever - I really enjoy my own occasional shows, and I think some television is OK. I'm one of those people who can easily handle the "attention deficit" that is associated with TV. I love the idea of a weekly "allotment," and the freedom to decide how to use it. My 4 year-old will need a lot more help with this, as she can't tell time yet.
This week we're saving our time for a family movie night, and the girls have asked for TV after school for one day.
I'm curious how you manage screen time in your house? Leave your ideas, tips and strategies in the comments!