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Twins/Toddler Tuesday

The Day I Turned Off The Television

tv dangerI have always know television is bad for my kids, and I hate the amount of it that they watch.  So yesterday I decided it was time to make a change and I turned it off.

When he was young Sawyer never liked television.  Never glanced at it or took interest, even when other kids his age did.  Unfortunately, once he turned two he started taking notice of some cartoons like Special Agent Oso.  I encouraged him to watch because I thought it was an educational show and because I was in the thick of it working full-time and heavily pregnant with the twins.  Ditto once they were born.

Now he is a cartoon monster , and even when he is not watching he wants them on the television at all times.  It doesn’t help that its winter (and -21 today) so going outside to play is out, and just getting out of the house to the mall or something is nearly impossible by myself with all the kids.  Still, I absolutely hate the fact that he feels entitled to it, rather than it being a privilege and have wanted to change things but it wasn’t until recently that I read an article about children and television that really opened my eyes.

I had always assumed television was bad for kids for the same reasons it is for adults, but not so.  It is actually much worse.

Here are some of the excerpts from the article I read on Aha Parenting (one of my favourite parenting sites).

Drawing from the research, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest that children under age 2 not watch any TV and that kids over age 2 be limited to an hour or at most two, daily, of quality programming.

That comes out to about ten hours per week.  And yet, toddlers and preschoolers in the US watch an average of 32 hours of TV every week.

Why is this a problem?

If you’re protesting this as an extreme position, consider it from another perspective. Would you let your child engage in any other daily activity likely to change the way his brain is developing, or damage her body?

TV and computer games stimulate your child’s brain to develop differently, and many of those changes seem to have to do with shortening attention spans, reducing impulse control, and heightening aggression.  There’s increasing evidence that the more TV kids watch the more likely they are to have ADD and ADHD symptoms.

Young children’s brains were designed to develop optimally by engaging with the physical world, and with the imagination–being told stories, for instance–rather than to be fed passive viewing that bypasses the need for imagination.

Toddlers and preschoolers may not look busy, but they have important developmental work to do. Fantasy play, building with blocks, artwork, social interaction with their peers and siblings, cooking with their parents, climbing, swinging, looking at books. These activities help your child’s brain develop  as it’s designed to, giving her people skills and problem solving creativity, as well as the foundation for math and reasoning.

Television and Aggression

We have solid evidence from hundreds of studies on the effects of children’s TV viewing, and there is no question that “violent” programming causes greater aggressiveness in children. Think your children aren’t seeing violent programming?  Think again.  According to the University of Michigan’s Health System:

  1. Even in G-rated, animated movies and DVDs, violence is common—often as a way for the good characters to solve their problems.  Every single U.S. animated feature film  produced between 1937 and 1999 contained violence, and the amount of    violence with intent to injure has increased over the years.
  2. Even “good guys” beating up “bad       guys” gives a    message that violence is normal and okay.  Many       children will try    to be like their “good guy” heroes in their play.
  3. Repeated exposure to TV violence makes children less    sensitive toward its effects on victims and the human suffering it    causes.
  4. A University of Michigan researcher  demonstrated that watching violent media can affect willingness to help others in need.
  5. A 15-year-long study  by University of Michigan researchers found that the link between childhood TV-violence viewing and aggressive and  violent behavior persists into adulthood.
  6. Even having the TV on in the home is linked to more  aggressive behavior in 3-year-olds. This was regardless of the type of    programming and regardless of whether the child was actually  watching the TV.

If this doesn’t scare you, well, it scared me.

So, I have decided that on my watch we are not going to watch any more cartoons.  I am going to allow one movie a day since we can’t go out, but that’s it.  We already decided a few months ago that when our contract expires in April we are going to get rid of the cable and just go to a basic package with Netflix, so this will be good practice anyways.

After by parents left, I bravely reached up and turned off the television.  It actually went better than I thought.  He got mad, said he wanted to watch tv, and I explained the situation that we were not going to watch cartoons at night and I was going to play with him instead.  He got mad and punched the fireplace.  He immediately apologized and sent himself for a time out (pretty good eh?)

The rest of the night we all played together on the floor, me without my phone and him without his television.  You know what, the night went by so much faster and I did feel that underlying annoyance I get from watching the fourth episode of Jake and the Neverland Pirates in one day.

The icing on the cake was that Sawyer was even having so much fun, he declined my offer of a movie and just played.  He was so well-behaved and helpful, I was so happy.  I plan to keep this up, so I will let you know how it goes.  Since we are all the outdoorsy type once the good weather hits I am sure it will be much easier.

SIDENOTE: Of course the moment you think you have it all under control life laughs at you.  After playing with the kids all night, on day five of my six day workweek, I somehow had enough energy to start cleaning once I put the twins to bed.  I was vacuuming and mopping, and loving it.  The as I was moving our wooden side table Sawyer yelled something at me about a muffin (you know toddlers and their freak outs, mommy this muffin has a crack in it) and I looked up at him and the table collapsed on my foot.  It smashed all my toes, and I think the big one is fractured.  After writhing on the floor for a half hour I realized there was nothing I could do since I couldn’t leave the kids and I had to work today because I have my forklift recertification today (luckily it was my left foot).  Cross your fingers it isn’t broken and my nail (which is now blue) doesn’t fall off.

Thanks for reading!

Stay tuned for my three week update on this and all my project me initiatives coming next week 🙂


About Shannon

I am a university educated full-time working mother of four children. Proudly Canadian, I freeze my butt off along with my loving partner, two dogs and a cat. I hope you enjoy reading my posts as much as I love writing them, but if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all.


27 thoughts on “The Day I Turned Off The Television

  1. Reblogged this on I raise my kids and commented:
    Great inspiration here from Game of Diapers to TURN OFF THE TV!! Who else will follow suit. I’m currently cutting it back from Master 4.

    Posted by heidelightful | March 11, 2014, 7:56 am
  2. So glad you have decided to do it too! I don’t want to ruin my update post but you would not believe the changes I have seen in my kids and myself over the past two weeks.

    Posted by Shannon | March 11, 2014, 8:09 am
  3. I need to try this too, tv is a good distraction when you need to get housework etc done but izzy constantly want to watch dvds and cartoons all day. Im going to make a conscious effort to turn off the tv more often, and me and hubby need to spend less time on our phones too

    Posted by Kiri | March 11, 2014, 8:40 am
    • Good for you! Trust me, it makes a huge difference. I think my fear of coping without it was keeping me paralyzed until I learned more and the love of my children and want for what’s best for them overtook the fear. You can do it!

      Posted by Shannon | March 11, 2014, 8:44 am
  4. Ouch. I hope it’s not a fracture and you start feeling better soon. Good luck!

    About the TV, we are a Netflix family all the way. My daughter’s big on Jake too and has gone through all the episodes available on Netflix several times over — I’ll any day take Jake over Mickey’s squeaky voice 🙂 She is now watching Caillou (if you haven’t tried it yet, see if it’s something Sawyer takes to… it’s the perfect calm-down antidote to all the hyper-active cartoons out there!). Another series that she likes is WiId Kratts — my daughter and some of her friends (including the boys) love it! And I like how much they sneak in about nature and animals 🙂

    Posted by afineparent | March 11, 2014, 9:44 am
    • Ha ha, Caillou! My husband’s side is French and the orginal Caillou is french so we have lots of the books etc. I like bubble guppies and special agent oso myself. Still after reading all that I have a realize that while it is “educational” it comes at a price and there are lots of other ways to learn. And thanks. Turns out it wasn’t broken the pain was from the heamatoma. Cheers 🙂

      Posted by Shannon | March 11, 2014, 10:13 am
      • Glad to know the toe’s not broken. Take it easy for a few days, anyway… We limit the TV to 1 episode per day on school days, and 2-3 episodes on holidays (~1 hour all together). It’s working out so far… without it I think we’d both go a little crazy… 🙂

        Posted by afineparent | March 11, 2014, 3:05 pm
      • Glad you are on board. But yes I would die if he didn’t watch anything 🙂

        Posted by Shannon | March 11, 2014, 4:59 pm
      • I was rereading your Tiny Buddha article again today and I just wanted to say how much I love it and I go back to it frequently so thank you. 🙂

        Posted by Shannon | March 11, 2014, 7:39 pm
      • Awww, Thanks! I like both reading and writing for Tiny Buddha…. helps me sort through things. Have you written for TB?

        Posted by afineparent | March 12, 2014, 9:23 am
      • No, but I do enjoy reading the articles
        Some are hit and miss, but I find those I like I will return to as needed. I also use it to find good sites, and that’s how I found yours 🙂

        Posted by Shannon | March 12, 2014, 9:47 am
  5. Interesting!
    I guess I have always been one of “those” parents who has thought spending loads of time in front of the tv is not good for kids, as it is time away from other things. Why would it be good for kids, when something as sedantery as that it is not great for adults either? But then we don’t have the tv on all the time anyway; I’ve read too many research results on how kids pick up things form tv’s that are on in the background without actually processing the information, at it just doesn’t feel right. And then there is my brother, who after an accident has a brain injury that makes him get overtired very easily: when he is tired, he can not read a novel but he can watch tv. I suppose that says something about how passive tv watching is – even with educational programmes. So we’ve stuck to a rule were kids can watch 30minutes/day some time after the day sleep/rest, only special treats on weekend mornings (e.g. when we skype to family living on the other side of the world) or longer moments (e.g. really crappy weather/ over tired kids or parents). Also, if they watch something from the tv, at least one adult keeps an eye on the programme as well. Has happened more than ones that a kid has had nightmares and that it is easier to figure out what is going on when we know what they have watched. So we use a lot of DVD’s too, our kids don’t mind the reruns. I think it may be hard to start something like this but when you’ve always done it, the kids know the rules. And I think it is good to learn to do e.g. home chores even when kids are not watching tv/actively entertained – but this obviously gets easier when they get a bit older (and nothing works always…). Oh no, you got me ranting. But your post was thought provoking, I haven’t been thinking about this for a long time and it is good to go through wether I like the way we have it still! Thanks!

    Posted by freebutfun | March 11, 2014, 2:29 pm
  6. Ouch sorry about your toe! Hope it heals quickly. About the article–good for you! Sounds like a lot more work. I need some phone-free time for myself, too. It’s a good reminder not to be too Internet addicted.

    Posted by sparrow | March 11, 2014, 9:39 pm
  7. For TV shows I found that Strawberry Shortcake is a good violence free show that shows when you work together anything is possible. I will admit that my family does watch too much TV but even when it is on we are always doing other things. I find myself lately telling mu children no when it comes to turning it on during the day unless I am trying to clean downstairs. Even with the TV on they always want to be around me so I guess I can say as of this point my younger two like TV but can find something else if there is no TV but my oldest he loves TV so much that he refuses to use the bathroom if he is watching it. It has come to the point that he is with me most of the day to solve the problem and I do not watch much TV. We no longer have cable and rely on Amazon Prime, Netflix and DVDs for our TV Experience. All in all, there are good and bad points to TV and young children and adults.

    Posted by tiggerwv | March 12, 2014, 8:25 am
  8. Great reasons to turn off the tv! It is easier to say than to do. Here’s to committing to more screen-free time for all of us. Hope your toe is ok! How painful!!

    Posted by livinginthedeepend | March 13, 2014, 12:06 am
  9. Reblogged this on Kizzy and Izzy and commented:
    I’ve been concerned for a while about how much television Izzy watches. The more she watches, the less quality time we spend together and the less time she spends doing things that would better help her development. DVDs and Disney Junior are good  babysitters when I need to do housework, make tea or get ready in the morning. But I’ve become to rely on it too much, just like Izzy has become to rely on it as a constant source of entertainment.

    So, inspired by Game of Diapers’ blog, I’m going to make a conscious effort to reduce the amount of tv Izzy watches. But its not just Izzy. I need to make a conscious effort to put my phone down and spend more time aware of what is going on around me. There are much more interesting things going on than facebook and candy crush. Of course I am not suggesting I’m going to give up technology and become all hippy, far from it. I’m merely making an effort to reduce its hold on our life. A little bit. One step at a time.

    Posted by Kiri | March 13, 2014, 7:22 am
  10. YAY for this awesome post. MY boys are not into anything on TV yet (as they probably shouldn’t be yet at 10 months huh?) They actually used to LOVE the Baby Channel but when we switched providers we lost that channel. I almost always have TV in the background but the boys do not seem to pay attention to it. I keep it on to fill the house with noise because my husband works nights at times. Perhaps I will try music instead!

    Posted by Tales of a Twin Mombie | June 11, 2014, 11:28 pm
    • I cannot tell you how much better my son has been since we cut out the television. I don’t regret it because hey with newborn twins and a two year old you do what you have to do. But now we have turned the page and its onwards and upwards. Good luck!

      Posted by Shannon | June 12, 2014, 4:48 pm
  11. Thanks for sharing! 😉

    Posted by Monika Ribeiro (writer/poet) | August 28, 2014, 7:32 am
  12. Thanks for sharing.

    Posted by Shannon | April 1, 2014, 6:48 am


  1. Pingback: Switching off | Kizzy and Izzy - March 13, 2014

  2. Pingback: The Day I Turned Off The Television | Nosy Mums - April 1, 2014

  3. Pingback: Giving Up the Cable T.V. | A Game of Diapers - April 4, 2014

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