A study was released today by a UK company that stated that of 2,138 British parents surveyed, all of whom had kids aged five and under, the average time they spent in front of the TV each day was a whopping 6 hours and 48 minutes. That’s nearly SEVEN hours. Per day!
Take a moment to digest that please, I know I had to. Now, I’m all for some TV – I’m a single parent and sometimes there is literally no other way to ensure there is a moment to go to cook dinner, or even go to the loo alone without switching on the TV, but seven hours?! No way.
I firmly believe that parenting in general is an ‘each to their own’ scenario. I know I threw out my entire shelf of parenting books after my kids were born, as all I felt they did was make me feel inadequate and as though I was eternally getting it wrong. But still, there are some inherent parenting instincts that come naturally. Using seven hours of telly to babysit your kids while you do something else is not one. So have a think – does your child watch too much TV?
Now, I am not a parenting Nazi in any way, in fact I’m quite chilled and lax – the naughty step only makes a rare appearance, the star chart is oft left unfilled. That’s all more my fault than theirs of course, but I will put the foot down about hours upon hours of screen time.
When my eldest daughter was a baby, she had colic and cried without stopping for nine months. It was truly stressful and throughout that period, I did let her watch TV as it sometimes distracted her and dried up the tears slightly. Mainly though, I paced the house, walked miles around my town with her in the buggy and apologised for the noise out of her when we were in shops.
To this day though, she is screen crazy. Absolutely mad for TV, and now YouTube, where she watches Minecraft videos and would, if let, watch them for 7 hours per day too.
I do think that in her early years (she’s 6 now), she did watch too much TV and it turned out that she was later to talk than quite a lot of my friends kids (oh the guilt, the never-ending guilt!). But also, that could have just been her and her way. I don’t know, but I do slightly blame myself for it as I needed a bit of a break from the endless colicky crying, but when she eventually stopped crying I admit I allowed her carry on watching CBeebies, and yes, for probably a bit too long.
The study today states that of the parents surveyed, they responded to these questions like this:
‘Do you try to limit or monitor the amount of time that your child spends in front of the TV per day?’ to which 78% of respondents stated ‘no’, and only 22% stated ‘yes’. Those who stated ‘no’ cited ‘it is too easy and convenient’ (40%) and ‘I don’t believe it is detrimental’ (34%).
Eh hello 34%! Not detrimental? Hours and hours of TV? Call me crazy, but what about books, jigsaws, colouring, messing, having a kitchen disco?
Parenting is a tough gig – one of the toughest in fact. The juggle is insane, the tasks and duties even more so. Time disappears and for the first few years we’re all mostly bloody exhausted, but there are other ways to entertain kids. And ones that they will actually enjoy more. Yes, they may look entertained in front of the box – but it’s passive entertainment – they’re not talking, not engaging. Whatsmore, so much sitting can cause fitness issues, the blue light of the screen can cause sleep problems, their eyesight can suffer as their eyes are not adjusting to short and long views enough, and they are essentially having a solo experience when childhood is about sharing. They are just watching, not taking part. You wouldn’t want that for them in the big picture of their lives, so turn off those small screens.
A slight disclaimer is required here on my part; I am not a virtuous no-screen mother – very far from it. One of my personal parenting mottos is ‘whatever gets you through the night’ – you gotta do what you gotta do to get by – but we recently imposed a rule that there are no screens from Monday to Thursdays and it’s working out quite well. Yes, it means they binge watch Netflix throughout the weekend, but we all do that, right?
Whatever gets you through the night – but not the telly!