I have read all the news articles about our children watching too much TV. I have discussed it with other moms (all the while keeping our TV habits to myself). As I was reading another moms blog recently, who is also a Pediatrician, I realized none of my kids watch TV the way discussed in these news articles and the way these other moms children do.
The key line that brought on my realization was "they sit in their favorite chairs to watch their favorite shows". Well that's where it seems to be all wrong to me.
I am going to give a full confession right here all about what my 5 kids do, what both my husband not only allow them to do, but what we enable them to do.
All of our girls have TV's in their rooms. Last Christmas 3 of them got updated with flat screens that are both their TV or their computer screens whichever they may be using. (Our oldest still has a large TV and a separate computer screen.) So they have DVD players and basic cable for their TVs. We have a huge library of DVDs for them to watch when they chose to.
We do monitor their computer use and we have very strict rules about the internet, which for fear of losing their internet they all follow.
I am one of those noise people. I don't like total silence. I think it has to do with growing up in a very old Victorian home that made a lot of noise and I was just sure the place was haunted (but that's a story for another day). Anyway, before our youngest was born I would have the TV on (mostly news) when I was in no way watching it. I am sure if you are not one of these noise people you know someone who is and you know what I mean.
Our TV in the living room is on almost all the time when we are home. The only time we have a rule it must be off is dinner time. We have dinner as a family at the table every night without interruptions. No cell phones (even for daddy), no home phone, no TV, nothing...just 5 very vocal children.
I rarely watch any TV for myself anymore. If I get a chance I really do prefer news or a few specific shows that we DVR for the occasion I may want to watch TV (and have an opportunity to do so). My husband has many Sci-Fi shows he loves and there are even a few we watch together. Other than that the DVD player is usually on and our 2 year old son has command. WHAT? That's just plain bat crap crazy you say?!
Well not if you understand how everyone (but my husband) watches TV in our house.
We turn it on. We pick out what will be played. Currently my son is fascinated with Toy Story 2. It plays more than a few times over and over again. I don't like the TV very loud ,(which is like torture to the older kids when they are watching something) so its usually only on 10.
My son plays, runs around, goes upstairs to his room, back downstairs to the living room, plays, climbs in the pantry to find what he wants to eat, eats, plays, climbs all over me, runs around some more, helps me clean something, then messes something up I just cleaned, we play together and thrown in there intermittently he looks up and glances at the TV. Sometimes he even makes a comment. Like "uh,oh" or "Oh, my gosh" (which is my favorite). If you were to change the TV to something else (cause sometimes the other kids do this and sometimes my husband) my son immediately comes in and says "hey". He notices when its not on, but doesn't notice it much when it is on.
We do have shows we have DVR'd like Jacks Big Music Show on Nick Jr, he like to dance to this show and very occasionally if we are paying attention to time he may watch Sesame Street. Which I will have to rewind for him to see the parts he cares about, like Elmo's World.
Our other children...since they have been watching TV longer and should be by all reported standards really messed up are the ones I am sure you are more interested in hearing about.
Well, they watch movies in their rooms at times. The DVR has shows they have requested to be recorded on there. Daddy is the only one aloud to delete anything so there is no miscommunication on who has watched what. Because our internet provider gave us free basic cable in every room we tried it and because there is no DVR they don't watch it. I guess you get used to being able to pause the TV when you have to pee (I know I have).
When we sit down to watch a new movie as a family it drives my husband bonkers. None of us can sit still. He is the only one who is kicked back relaxing watching TV. The rest of us are doing something. The baby is playing. The 7 year old is up and down playing with the baby, going to her room, coming back, talking, and playing with her toys. The twins are playing with the baby, arguing about something, going and getting something, coming back, playing with the baby again...the oldest usually tries to watch, plays with the baby, cuddles with daddy, argues with a sister, gets a text, goes downstairs and then she watches the movie later on her own, maybe (she had friends that were more important). I of course am cleaning up after the baby and everyone else, loading the dishwasher, trying to sit with a child to cuddle and watch but they can't sit still so I can't either. After all I will see the movie a few other pieced together times with a child here and there.
Now that's when we TRY to sit and watch a movie together. Can you imagine when one is watching a show and the others are around? Our living room is a revolving door...people in and out constantly.
Ok, well I am sure you are asking yourself well with all this TV available to them when do these kids do their homework and such...well they do it. And they do it on their own. It is very rare we have to ask them if they have done homework yet. All our girls excel in school and are on honor rolls.
Our children are NOT overweight. They eat well and get lots of activity. They have a hard time sitting still so I think that has something to do with the activity levels.
We have a Wii and a PS3 in the living room also. You know who plays these more than anyone in the house? My husband. Occasionally one of the older girls will play a Wii action game with the 7 year old. But for the most part its daddy. Our 2 year old loves to watch him play Maters Tall Tales.
Reading is actually the problem in our house. No seriously! The reason its a problem is how do you tell your teen to put the book down and go to bed? Well trust me I do, but come on it doesn't always work. If they are all caught up in a book they will figure out how to continue to read it. My mom gets emails of book wish lists and mysterious packages show up at random times with a book. There is a squeal of delight and then a disappearing child.
They do share their books with each other and our 7 year old is in a very advanced reading group. I think its because she wants to be like her sisters and read what they are reading that she has pushed herself to learn and absorb more. She can read a 90 page chapter book in one evening very happily!
There are also a lot of book discussions in this house. And a lot of fights about book discussions because of "I don't want to know I am going to read it when your done!" Its like a teen book club stuck on fast forward. Thankfully my husband reads a lot of what the girls are reading, he likes to know what they are reading and be in those discussions with them. He can be very judgemental though, don't ask about his opinions on the Twilight Series...not so good in his mind.
The older girls also enjoy writing. They are all involved in writing fan fiction on some of their favorite websites with their friends. They each have their own books on their computers in the works. And there are a lot of arguments about these too...stealing each others ideas and such. Its a crazy world with 3 teenaged girls in one house let me tell you!
I would also like to add that our 15 year old has not even plugged her TV in since we moved here in July (she is the one with a large TV and a separate computer screen). I have asked her if she is missing a cable or something, asked if she needs help. "Nah: she says. "There isn't anything I really want to watch." OK! Her TV is sitting in the storage area in the basement (near her room). And this girl spends a lot of time in her room. Reading, writing, talking and texting on her phone and doing her homework and such. But no interest in TV.
Anyway, after all my rambling and going on and on's my point and question is "What if you aren't sitting down and vege'n out in front of the TV? What if the TV is on and the toddler has his favorite movie on all day but he is playing and running around? How do you classify the TV viewing time? Is it possible that this "watching TV" the experts are talking about is just watching TV the wrong way? You know as your total focus point doing nothing else (except eating, that's a big no-no)? Maybe we are watching it wrong, which makes it ok. Hmmmm?
We have so much TV available, our kids really don't care about TV. When I was growing up there was a girl across the street who wasn't aloud to eat sugar (not for a medical issue). So everywhere she went without her mom, she gorged herself on sugar. Maybe its like that? By having so many limits and being so concerned about it, are parents making it into something their kids will "gorge themselves" on?
I have given this a lot of thought and worried back and forth I have messed my kids up. But how could they be messed up if they get good grades, prefer reading over TV, are in good physical shape, and even though they are hormonal and can be pains in the butt- they are good kids? I don't think they are! They all have great imaginations and can hold great conversations and arguments. So I guess we are watching TV the right way and all those "other kids and families" are doing it all wrong. That must be it.