I think my biggest question one year ago was, “can I really do this for an entire year?” The answer: YES. In fact, I have no plans to reinstate television in our household. I loved being TV-Free, even as a stay-at-home Mom. Here’s why:
1) The kids are used to, and good at, finding their own entertainment. I can tell them it is playtime and they will come up with something fun to do. They are neither dependent on me nor screens for amusement. I can take them places, and they do not need to be entertained.
2) There is no sensory overload. My daughter is very sensitive (which is part of why we started this whole TV-Free thing, anyway) and gets overloaded easily with screen time. She has been far less clingy, fussy and whiny than she was when she watched television.
3) My kids don’t ask for stuff. I can remember watching commercials as a kid and telling my parents how much I wanted/needed/had to have the latest thing (which was never quite as cool as it looked in the commercial if I ever got it). They waited until my birthday or Christmas to get me anything, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t ask. My kids? They see things at the stores or at other kids’ houses, but they usually don’t think to ask for them. It is very peaceful having children that do not know what they are “missing out” on. My thoughts? They aren’t actually missing out.
4) I don’t have to explain the news. Some of the horrible things happening in the world right now just don’t need to be on my four-year-old’s radar. She would have nightmares for weeks if she heard about some of the things that have happened in the last few months. I will not shelter them forever, but we can add lessons about the world at a pace of our choosing.
5) My little girl is still a little girl. When she plays, her stories are about families doing fun things together, kids overcoming fears, kids learning to play together, saving animals, and helping each other. There are no boyfriends or dating. There is no prince coming to sweep the princess away. The word “sexy” is not in her vocabulary or her mannerisms. She couldn’t care less about how she looks. She’s four, and exploring the world at her level – not trying to make sense of a world that wants her to grow up too fast.
6) There are less bad habits to overcome. We are trying to set respect and kindness as the reactions of habit in our kids. I have seen some Disney shows where the children speak to each other – even their friends – with snark and derision. And how they treat their parents and teachers? I am sure she will come up with plenty of snotty remarks on her own, and doesn’t need any help.
7) There is very little worth watching. I don’t think that all television has to be educational, but I think that kids’ programming should have some kind of point. Friendship. Working together. Reasoning skills. School readiness. There are a few shows that do those things, and a few that try to tackle all of them (Sesame Street, you’ll always have a place in my heart). Really, I don’t feel like they’re missing out by not watching.
8) My kids have a noticeably longer attention span than you would expect. My almost 18-month-old (boy) will sit through entire books, repeatedly. He will play with his trucks for an hour or more at a time. He will look at books for an hour or so by himself. My four-year-old can work for hours on projects, playing with toys, or reading to herself. I don’t think this is all personality. My boy, at least, is quite boisterous. I think that the slower pace of a day without television has something to do with it.
9) One less thing to budget. When you’re down to one income (with two master’s degrees in the household), every dollar counts. College loan payment or cable bill? No contest.
10) They are developing excellent fine and gross motor control. Several unrelated people, including teachers and doctors, have commented on my kids’ motor control since we stopped watching television. I think that the increase in time outside, and doing things inside like drawing, playing with play dough, playing instruments and weaving has had a lot to do with this. They both have good body awareness, balance, muscle tone, and fine motor skills.
11) I feel less tired. It seems counterintuitive, but I was actually spending more energy dealing with stressed children over TV issues than I do coming up with things for them to do during the day. I don’t have to deal with tantrums over decreasing TV time, pouty responses to “no, we can’t watch the movie again,” or wheedling about “just one more show.” They come to me wanting something to do; I dole out craft supplies, pop open a puzzle or read some books. Easy. Whine-free.
12) I get more quality time with my kids. We have real conversations. They aren’t zoned-out and unresponsive. They are in the moment and so am I, and that’s the way I like it.
I don’t know if going TV-free is going to have lasting effects on my kids, but so far I am enjoying it. I don’t think any less of any parent who uses the television, either. I turned out just fine on a significant portion of television watching. If you are thinking about turning off the television, however, I would offer this piece of advice: stick with it! The first two weeks were the hardest. Plan ahead and have some special things to distract them with and you’ll be fine. You might even be glad you did.
Have you ever tried going TV-free? Did you love it or hate it?