In some homes, a little television can be educational, entertaining and even a family-bonding experience. In others, it’s a mom saver—a much-needed tool for getting dinner on the table, laundry folded or just a few minutes alone. And then there’s the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends that children under 2 years of age not get any screen time and those older than 2 watch no more than a couple of hours of quality programming.
We all know the saying about moderation, but let’s be honest: How much TV do you let your kids get away with? And is what they watch just as important as how much?
Ray Pearson: My son is in high school and loves movies on television. Depending on the content of the movie, it can be historical, educational, and a reflection of culture at the time the movie was produced. Other times, the content is questionable. We have set boundaries on the type of content that is acceptable and have seen him make good choices.
Since my son was young, we have taught and now coach him into setting priorities with his time. Carlsbad High School has a challenging and demanding curriculum, which means a lot of time for studying, research and homework, Monday through Sunday. He also plays violin and needs to practice daily. The amount of time he watches TV depends on his priorities on a given day.
Jennifer Zeglen: I have friends who don't even own a TV so compared to them, we watch a lot. My kids watch anywhere from 0-2 hours of television on a typical day. As long as they also do some brain work (like homework or reading), some physical activity and have some imagination/creative time, I don't feel too bad about it.
Of course, it's not just how much, it's what they watch. I encourage educational shows and nature shows and I avoid commercials like the plague. I love the way kids programming has changed. The shows I used to watch always had a bad guy being mean and violent for no reason. Now it seems there is always one peer who isn't bad, just misguided, and the focus is on learning social competence. Although there are no studies showing social benefits from TV-watching in kids, I feel like it has been a positive influence on our family.
Anastacia Grenda: I feel like these are formative years for my kids (ages 4 and 7) in terms of setting habits, and we really need to monitor what and how much TV they watch now so that the TV is not the "go-to" entertainment when they're older. We tend to steer them toward KPBS Kids or movies; my son likes watching shows on Animal Planet and National Geographic Wild, but even those we need to be judicious about. (Fatal Attractions, anyone?)
There have been Saturday mornings when the kids wake up before 6 a.m. and we've let them watch TV while we slowly come to consciousness, but then they decided it was OK to watch TV every morning when they wake up, so we had to start putting the remote away the night before. Of course, if they would just sleep in a little longer it wouldn't be an issue. (Since I've become a mom, I've found more sleep can pretty much fix any problem—probably because I now get so little of it!)
Genevieve Suzuki: I always believed I wouldn’t be “that parent.” You know, the one who let her child watch TV before 5. Or 8. Or 18. Alas, I’m that mom. I have to be. I couldn’t do everything I needed to do without distracting Quinn for half an hour.
The good news is we only allow her to watch Yo Gabba Gabba!, Sesame Street, Fresh Beat Band and the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Wow, that list sounds pretty long. But the shows at least attempt to engage kids in learning, so I don’t feel too bad. Also, when we watch TV together, I always ask Quinn questions and interact with the program. It’s not like we’re sitting her there to be left to her own devices.
Meet our moms:
Genevieve Suzuki has one 2-year-old daughter. In addition to having her own law practice, she writes feature stories for Encinitas Patch. She is also the author of "The Original Poi Cats on O'ahu," a children's book published in Hawaii.
Anastacia Grenda is mom to a 7-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter who never fail to make her laugh every day. She is a longtime writer and editor.
Jennifer Zeglen is a mom to two imaginative girls, ages 4 and 6. She is also a local naturopathic doctor with a family medicine practice.
Do you have a question for our Moms Council? E-mail them to editor Jennifer.Reed@patch.com.