I’ve never been overly concerned with the amount of television my children watched – and it was evident.  Sometimes they’d watch a few shows in the morning and a few more in the afternoon.  I thought it was a good way to keep them occupied while I worked blogging or writing articles.  However, they still interrupted me more often than not, and that was frustrating, of course.   While we were in Washington, though, we watched very little television.   Certainly much less than we were watching at home.

So, upon returning home, I instituted a new rule – no TV.  Simple and to the point.  It is difficult but the kids aren’t suffering and I think they’re actually doing  better without it.  They’re playing on their own and honestly, they don’t interrupt me as much as they did when the TV was on.   And now, instead of letting them watch TV while I work, I actually interact with them more.  I work for a bit (15-30 mins), then we read books, play a game, or go outside.  I steal moments here and there while they play on their own or together and it’s been working out quite well.

The AAP recommends no more than 1-2 hours of quality programming for children for all entertainment media – this means not just TV watching, but video games, computer games, etc.  Let’s just say my children were in excess of that on a daily basis, and I really do think their behavior suffered for it – maybe not all children do, but I think mine did.

I have a friend who’s probably smarter than you and I combined and she has a brilliant system for TV/movie watching with her children.  I asked if I could share it, and she said it was okay – it’s quite ingenious.

The Credit System for TV/Movie Watching Guidelines: 

1 Credit = 1 show (appx 22-25 mins), 3 credits = 1 movie

Credits are earned for learning a specific skill

Credits are not taken away for bad behavior, nor a reward for good behavior

Credits can only be used when all children are watching TV

Child can earn 1 credit per day

Credits are kept in jar by television (visual reinforcement) – use monopoly money or beads – different colors for each child

The way it works is quite simple – my friend uses the credits to encourage her children to learn a skill – brushing their teeth upon waking up or using utensils properly.  As stated in the guidelines above, they are not used to punish bad behavior and they’re not removed for bad behavior either – they’re a device to be used to encourage skills.

For instance, I want Jeremiah to work on writing his name.  Every day we practice, and when he writes his name 5 times, he gets a credit.  The credit (say, green monopoly money) goes into the jar by the television.  Sarah needs to work on using the bathroom on her own – so if she does, she gets her credit (pink monopoly money) and it goes into the jar.  They can choose to save their credits for a movie on the weekend, or use them.  Of course, parents ALWAYS have discretion as to when the credits are used – and the parents must remember to remove the credits from the jar!

I think this is a great way to motivate children to not only learn a new skill but to limit their TV exposure – and this can extend to computer games and video games, too.  We have a Kinect that the kids still play – it’s more active than television, that’s for sure!

How much television do you or your children watch?   Do you make an effort to limit their electronic media exposure?  

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  1. For the last few months we haven’t been allowing any TV or movies in our house (except now because of the Olympics). We’ve noticed that our 3 year old’s behavior has improved and her skills have increased. I’ll remember this for when we do decide to allow TV again. Good luck with your challenge!
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  2. Rachel, wonderful post on your blog. I grew up without a TV from 11 years old until I left home and got married. My husband and I chose not to have a TV in our home while raising our children also. My dad simply felt that there were so many other creative ways to learn that would help us “grow our character” than the TV ever offered. When I was little and we had a tv, my parents monitored what we saw. We watched things like “Green Acres”. “Petticoat Junction”, “Gilligans Island” and for our exiting shows we watched “Mission Impossible” as a family on Sunday nights. Sounds pretty innocent compared to what kids are watching today. My parents weren’t being mean; they were just watching out for their children’s best interest. They saw TV as a big “time-waster.” Throughout the years, I can honestly say the only times I really missed a TV was during the Olympics or when an event happened (9/11). Nowdays, most computers can pull up anything you want to see, and also things you don’t want to see. Computers can be “time-zappers” too. I’m constantly having to watch myself with that. Before you know it, you’ve sat in front of the thing for 3 hours or more. Wow, think how much time I could have spent praying or reading my Bible? Just sayin!

  3. Quite honestly, we are so use to the sound of the television in the background even if we are not actively watching. It makes it hard to kick the habit. What I am able to do is keep the television off all morning. We definitely seem to be able to move faster and function better without the tube. Small steps…
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  4. It’s a hard habit to break… we’ve certainly tried. A year ago, we switched from cable to streaming Netflix through our Wii. It’s helped because the tv is only on when somebody is watching a show. And,. at $8 a month, you don’t feel bad if you leave it off.
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  5. I wish I could adopt this for my husband!! He watches too much TV and it’s hard to tell the kids they can not. I love the idea of maybe a TV free weekend just to get started.
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  6. We do really well w/ TV around here but on the weekends its like a free for all. During the day the TV is mostly off and I only let charlotte watch 2 channels since she was born….so….that probably gets old. LOL

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  7. What an awesome system! I’ve been trying to limit my son’s TV watching lately- it doesn’t impact his behavior but I’d still much rather he be playing. He usually plays while he watches, but we’ve been shutting the TV off a lot more anyway.
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  8. I personally watch way too much tv. My kids…a show here and there. they would much rather play games and be outside. I like the credit idea though!
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