Monday, August 25, 2014

Keeping our cable package and screen time.

For years I've been pushing to get rid of cable TV. Mainly to save money but also to cut screen time.

There is a whole body of literature on the effects of television and screen time on health, wellbeing, etc. Especially when it comes to children. I won't get into that here but when B was a baby, I tried hard to limit screen time - even passive screen time. I'll admit now that I was a bit on the extreme side. I would get agitated when R would watch TV with B in the same room. With N we took a far more relaxed approach since B was starting to watch some educational programming and it was difficult to let one watch and not the other. As a child I spent hours in front of the television each day and so did R. We also grew up with multiple video game systems, and the beginning of personal computers and the internet. Our parents never seemed concerned about screen time but then again we also spent a ton of time playing outside.

We don't have strict rules around screen time in our house. We have two TVs. One in our bedroom is rarely used. We have an older PS3 which we mostly use to play movies from an external hard drive. We own a few kid-friendly video games for the PS3 but they aren't often played.
The boys each have older model Nintendo DS systems. One was dropped in a bucket of mop water and didn't turn on so we bought a replacement the next year as a Christmas gift. However, the broken system dried out and magically worked again. These mostly get used for the cameras and sometimes the odd game on a long car ride.  We also have a Leap Pad (also a Christmas gift) with some educational games which N will sit and play with on occasion.

Given the opportunity, my kids would rather go outside and play than sit in front of a screen but the option has been there either way. It's funny though because I notice a big difference between my two oldest boys. B isn't much of a TV watcher and craves constant social interaction. N will happily sit down to watch TV. He'll call out answers when watching one of his favourite shows, Team Umizoomi, and I'll often hear him reenacting scenes with scenarios and/or characters from a TV show in independent play.

So..we've decided to keep cable. I'm a big fan of living life with intention and I'm glad we're making an intentional decision to choose to invest in cable. R enjoys coming home from work and watching TV to unwind after working hard outside all day long. Just like I enjoy reading blogs or connecting with friends on social media. Cutting cable wouldn't really affect me at all since I rarely watch but it is a pastime the rest of my family enjoys.  I find now that I actually like coming home and seeing the boys completely into programs like Shark Week on Discovery Channel or How It's Made. I love hearing them ask all sorts of questions about the shows they've watched. Retrospectively, I think the TV was a fantastic educational tool for me growing up. I remember watching Sesame Street at my baby sitters house and the Magic School Bus. When I got a bit older, I learned many life lessons watching shows like Full House or the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. I hope that our family can benefit from having cable TV while avoiding the trap of sedentary life style, etc. If we see the scale start to tip then we'll have to reassess.

I'm curious how others feel about television and screen time and whether you always felt the same way. Do you have cable? Any rules around TV in your house?


Amanda said...

Very interesting! I'm glad your boys still want to play outside, even with TV/screen time available. I rarely watch TV so I'd happily give up our TV service and pocket that money every month! But my hubby enjoys his shows and sports coverage so we compromise and keep the TV. It'll be an interesting conversation when we have kids and have to figure out how much screen time we want to allow. I think some is okay - but with a balance of more active (and social) recreation.

Kristy said...

Ohh I like how you mentioned social recreation too.. also very important! I agree, a balanced approach is key. Every family is different too. If neither parent actually enjoys watching tv than it might seem silly to keep cable just for the kids to watch. There may also come a time where we have to put some real limits on screen time and programming.

Sarah said...

I love this post Kristy. I have felt a lot of pressure to limit (or even remove) screen time but the truth is that my husband and I both like TV, and I don't really mind if my kids are tired after super busy days at school/daycare and want to watch tv for a bit. I understand that hours upon hours upon hours of screen time is unhealthy (same would go for anything else, right?) but it's not our reality yet.
And I too grew up with a lot of screen time and no one ever worried about me!

Kristy said...

Sometimes I have a super busy day and wish the boys would sit quietly and watch a movie for a bit! I don't know if I'm just getting worn down but as the years pass I feel less and less inclined to give into those pressures to parent a certain way. Parenting can feel like being right back in high school all over again sometimes with the judgement from other people. Healthy and happy children are the goal and I think there are many routes to get there.