Screen time for kids. Is the TV really so evil?

little girl watching cartoons at laptop

As the ongoing parenthood debate about screen time for kids rages, I’m finding it harder to suppress the thoughts that keep cycling around my brain: I – and many others I know – largely grew up on TV. We are all ok. We don’t have language problems, or behavioural problems as a result of screen time parental control. Do we?

I think the thing here though is to look at the parenting advice and thought on this subject relatively. OK many in my generation DID grow up with a lot more TV; BUT we were also to be found bumbling outside a lot more, getting physical, running around in the then safer streets, spending hours looking for bugs and so on. So maybe more TV back then was OK. Because it was better balanced out by other activities which promoted being active and imaginative?

These days, as everyone keeps on harping on about in the media, we lead a far more sedentary lifestyle as a population, kids included. And so maybe with that in mind, it is not OK to be watching so much TV because I guess there is not enough physicality and social interaction during the day to offset it. And we all know little ones need to burn off steam otherwise…uh oh…KABOOM!

It’s true, little ones might not be getting as much exercise today, however many are parented in a much more hands on fashion than many of my generation were, when we were just left to get on with it – it seems most parents I know spend far more time making things and doing things with their little ones, not to mention taking them off to various playgroups and soft play, which I never had the pleasure of doing when I was my daughter’s age.

So when you look at TV relative to everything else little ones are doing these days, how much more time they are generally spending learning or doing things like craft, then perhaps in those circumstances, we need not be so militant about how much TV they watch? However, if they are literally plonked in front of TV with nothing else to offset screen time, then clearly there will be ramifications of being passive in this way for too long as reported in the media.

I must admit, I myself do try to keep TV/screen time at a minimum in our household – no more than 1 –  2 hours a day which just so happens to be in line with the overall recommendation of 1 – 2 hours (but really, is set by my own common sense). However, I have to say I do see the benefits of TV for providing stimulus and learning possibilities within an overall framework of an engaging toddler life.

Little ones can’t go and see everything out there in the world for themselves at this age, and of course while books provide a fantastic way of doing this, age appropriate TV does too and I am amazed at how much language and understanding of objects and concepts my little one has picked up in her limited screen time. I have also noticed it has been a good way for her to cement and connect the dots on what she may have already learnt.

I am of course no specialist or academic in this area, but guess the upshot is, I don’t think TV is all that evil so long as it is age appropriate, and in the right dose. It certainly serves its purpose, has its benefits and quite frankly, sometimes needs to be used when things need to get done around the place or when our kids are frazzled from a busy day it can be a great way of winding down for a while. I wonder whether perhaps we have gone a bit too far with all the worrying? Perhaps a more sensible approach would be to keep it all relative within the framework of an otherwise stimulating life?

What do you think – is this TV/screen time anxiety gone too far? Do share your thoughts in a comment….

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  1. I don’t think it’s evil either, I say that as a TV director and also a mother of two. I do think my eldest is watching too much of it though so I’m limiting it to an hour and a half max after school as he needs to chill out as well as do a little homework x

  2. It’s all about common sense, isn’t it? To be honest I’ve never felt the need to monitor screen time because it’s just never been a problem. It’s rare for little children to sit still long enough to watch too much TV surely? Mine always had the concentration span of a gnat 😉

  3. My boy has dropped his naps and sometimes will need a moment if we’re not in the car to just sit. I need it too so i can cook dinner or load the dishwasher or something. Television is so helpful for this. I definitely think it is stimulating (possibly over stimulating, who knows) for him so it’s not in place of a nap but actually we both need half an hour sometimes just to at least look like we’re chilling. I am amazed by what he has learnt from it too. His shape knowledge and i assume his ability to draw said shapes are entirely down to Mr Maker’s dancing/bobbing people ‘i am a square’ etc etc.

    I don’t like some of the gadgets that force children (or more specifcally babies) to look at a screen but that’s a completely different thing. So no I definitely don’t think it’s evil. We have a lot of FUN the rest of the day so a bit of telly here and there is fine.

    And also i think that some of the programmes are seriously good…educational, interesting and a lot of variety. Not all, mind. Some are atrocious.

  4. I don’t think TV is evil, in fact some TV is very good. Like most things, it’s about balance and moderation isn’t it? My kids have pretty full on lives with school and activities, so a bit of chilling out time in front of the TV is sometimes needed! #thetruthabout

  5. I think it is fine for kids to watch TV and it is up to each individual parent to decide what is best for their child. It also depends on what kids are actually watching too… there are some very good kids TV shows which are very educational which is a fab way to get younger children learning before they attend nursery / school.

    It is only about limits and knowing as a parent when and where to set those limits. All parents are different.


    Gemma xxx

  6. If I didn’t have a TV to baby sit my kids, I would never get anything done around here. Then society would be blaming their problems on their crappy mom who can’t keep up with housework. So pick your poison I guess. Us parents will never get it right. 😉

  7. I completely agree. Trust your instincts, make sensible choices. There are loads of educational programmes for kids and I’m pretty sure my children have learned loads as well as been entertained (and given mummy the chance to cook dinner/do the washing up/tidy!). Thanks for linking up to #thetruthabout X

  8. Interesting post, I don’t think there’s a wrong or right approach to the whole TV debate. Each to their own. Saying that, we did give it up over the summer. Now we only have it on at weekends. I found that it was stifling my son’s imagination, the more he watched the less able he seemed to be amuse himself. I do miss it though! And am considering bringing it back now he’s gone back to school. He’s shattered when he comes in and knowing he’s been doing constructive things all day makes me less concerned about him vegging out when he gets in… who knows! #thetruthabout

  9. I allow the TV/tablet to be watched but it’s only for short periods, I really encourage him to play and be outside when possible, thankfully he’s an active boy so enjoys that but he does sometimes expect to watch TV which then results in a tantrum when I say no! I agree with alot of the comments already, great post and got me thinking. Thanks for linking up to the #bestandworst 🙂

  10. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that its about balance: screen time is not evil as long as it is coupled with healthy activities with flesh and blood people like friends, siblings and parents. I’m not a big tv watcher so it’s maybe a little easier to make less tv the norm in the house, but my toddler watches a fair amount of TV, almost exclusively the Sprout channel. They learn a LOT with age appropriate programs, and as long as they are interacting with actual people as well, I see no harm in it. The problem is with age appropriate. I love watching Crime drama but have literally stopped watching it completely because of Lilly: when she’s in the room (which is almost always is) I don’t want to put it on because if she’s picking up things from Sprout, she’ll pick up stuff from Criminal Minds and that can’t be healthy.

  11. I wrote a post about this a while ago and I did a fair amount of research on it. After a certain age, television time can actually be beneficial to a child’s development. The idea is that before this age children don’t have the capacity to understand what is going on, that being said I personally think saying no television time is completely unrealistic in today’s society and as long as they aren’t plonked in front of the TV all the time and are doing other things as well as watching television, it actually isn’t that bad.

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