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Confessions of a TV-watching Mom-Psychologist

February 27, 2011

Last week was winter break for many schools in my area. While listening to a radio show offering ideas of fun, low-cost activities with children over this school break, I was struck by how many of the parents featured on the show said that they did not have televisions in their homes. I started going down a path of self-doubt. Am I being a “bad parent” by letting my children watch TV? Shouldn’t I know better as a psychologist than to let my kids watch TV? I cut the journey down that path short though.

I do respect, and even admire, people who choose not to have televisions in their homes, and I certainly believe you can have a satisfying, enriched life without television. I also believe, however, that television can be managed successfully in a family. I’m sure that many of you have found your own ways to do this, and I’d love to hear about them. Here’s what has worked in my family:

  • The kids are not allowed to have televisions in their bedrooms and only watch out in the common living area of the house.
  • My husband and I are in control of whether or not the TV is allowed to be on or not and are empowered to turn it off at any given moment.
  • My kids are involved in many other activities and TV-watching is not central to their lives.
  • My kids enjoy reading, imaginative play, and other creative activities.
  • At this point in our family’s life, we don’t have a set amount of hours that are permitted per day or similar structural limits (although we have in the past), but it is well-established in our family culture that television watching is secondary to most other activities.
  • We have a few shows that we watch together and enjoy as a family. Sometimes these shows have us all laughing together and other times they can serve as springboards for discussions about important topics (e.g., sexism, drugs and alcohol, poverty, and greed).

I think we all have those moments when we doubt ourselves; when we hear something that someone else is doing and start to question our own parenting practices. Sometimes those moments can be useful to help motivate us to make beneficial changes for our families. Sometimes those moments can make us pause and emerge more confident upon reflection about our own decisions. And sometimes those moments really serve no useful purpose at all! I would love to hear about your experiences with television and your family and/or with those moments you’ve had where you’ve questioned your parenting after hearing about what others are doing.

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