May 21 2012 The day my family went cold turkey
It’s one thing to say you don’t want your children to watch TV, but it’s quite another to actually introduce such a huge change to your family life. We know it’s not good for our kids and wish it wasn’t such a big part of their lives. However, it takes a lot of bravery to swim against the massive tidal wave of popular opinion and attempt to resist the allure of TV.
I made the decision to bring up my second child ‘TV free’ after researching a number of articles and books. I thought it would be really hard, but surprisingly it was easier than I imagined. In fact, it was probably me who missed TV the most!
I am extremely lucky (though, admittedly this has come through hard work!) to have two kids who would now rather play outside than sit in front of a screen. My one year old hasn’t been exposed to TV, except for a short stint in hospital and even then he decided he’d rather play with toy cars anyway. My ten year old daughter enjoys spending her time on art projects or with her head in a book.
My daughter was old enough to understand the reason for my decision and although she resisted the change, before long she had almost forgotten we had a television. At first I didn’t really know how to go about changing her viewing habits. We slowly replaced TV time with other activities to the point where we now have no rules regarding TV at all. We may watch the occasional movie together, but most of the time our television is just a giant ornament!
Here are 3 quick tips (based on our experience) that may help you nudge the TV out the door.
Make a plan.
Will you go cold turkey? Will you introduce a TV free day each week? I’d recommend you start by reducing it a little each day and increase the length of time TV is off as you go along? Have a plan, write it down, discuss it with your family (and get their input too!). Track your progress and set rewards every few weeks- maybe a family day out or some new sporting equipment if things are going well. Acknowledge setbacks and look at what can be done to prevent them next time.
Have a substitute for TV.
It’s no use telling kids they can’t watch TV if there is nothing else to do and believe me, they will insist there is NOTHING else to do!
Cater to their interests, don’t expect crafty kids to run around all day or sporty ones to be content at a table full of art supplies. Definitely mix it up with a range of activities, but encourage your kids to do things they enjoy. Make a list of any ideas you come up with or that prove a hit and jump online for inspiration.
Be prepared to get involved.
Don’t think you can limit kids’ screen time and proceed to catch up on work at the computer. Initially at least, they will need you to help them to stay busy. They will adore the attention and you can have some excellent family time as a result.
I love that we don’t watch TV any more. Yes, it makes the kids a bit more high maintenance and there are days I’d kill for an hour to clean the kitchen without a limpet stuck to my leg, or a toddler doing aerial acrobatics off the couch.
However, to see my two kids playing, reading, drawing, running, dancing and climbing… it makes me mushy.
And never again will I have to face 30,000 reruns of Dora the Explorer!