New Boob Tube Rules for a New School Year

The approach of the 2012-13 school year means changes in some children's screen time. What are your plans?

People who don’t own a television always impress me.

Right now it would be difficult to miss the exciting Olympic action or be on top of breaking national news. There’s got to be a balance.

Through the years I’ve seen a direct correlation between our boys’ behavior and the amount of screen time they have.

We purchased a Wii a couple of years ago with hopes that it would provide us with some indoor activity during the cold months. It did, but with it came an increase in aggressive and disobedient behavior. 

After 20 minutes of play, when we told him time was up, our oldest would become red in the face, jumping up and down and begging us for more. It was as if the thing had possessed him.

The Wii has since been unplugged.

When my oldest was six, we realized he was losing his interest in anything but TV.

Do you have plans for restricting screen time this school year?

There had been a time when he would sit at the kitchen table and draw for an hour straight. He enjoyed painting, doing puzzles and reading his many books. All of that went down the tube as soon as he started getting hooked on TV.

We told him that if he gave up TV for six months, we would allow him to go on a trip to any destination.

Surprisingly, he agreed to the deal. He went the entire six months without ever asking once to watch a TV show. We were flabbergasted!

Upon completion of his task, he informed us that he wanted to take a trip to, of all places, Costa Rica to see the rainforests -- a little more than we expected.

We still owe him that trip. But we sure were proud of him!

Last month, we drove to western Montana and up to the Canadian Rockies. As we packed, the question hung over me like a dark cloud…should I bring the case of DVDs?

Was it worth opening that can of worms? You know once you watch one movie, looking out the car window for the next pronghorn antelope isn't nearly as exciting.

Part of my brain told me “Don’t do it!” while another part screamed, “Are you crazy? You’re driving clear across Saskatchewan. YOU’RE going to want to watch a movie!”

I caved. I brought the DVD case.

But here’s the kicker – in 7,300 miles, the boys didn’t ask, nor did they watch one movie. I’m still blown away by it.

Instead, they read, worked on activity books, played car games, built backseat forts, looked through binoculars, and listened to books on my iPhone.

Together we listened to the kids’ version of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and learned about the life of Abraham Lincoln. We were educated on Niagara Falls and listened to the silly stories of Carl Sandberg.

It was an amazing month-long journey.

So, as we enter this new school year, my goal is to make huge cuts in our weekly screen time.

I want our boys to regain their creative side that has been hiding. I want them to improve their reading skills. I want to play more games with them, to bake with them, to sing with them, to be with them.

Ok, I’ve convinced myself. Someone get me Service Electric’s number.

I’m cutting the cable.

Jenae Holtzhafer August 01, 2012 at 04:36 PM
This is SO true, Missy. My instinct is to truly cut the cable so none of us are tempted. Takes a lot of will-power! I think, like with anything, once you do something for a while - or do without something for a while - it becomes normal. Imagine - a TV-less life!
AnnaMarie Zeravsky August 01, 2012 at 04:56 PM
We allow our 2 year old to watch 1 half hour show in the morning, which she uses this as her "Wake-Up" time. She is still half asleep, hardly watching and by the end of the show she is not even paying attention and is playing with her toys. We then allow 2 half hour shows in the evening, after bath time, an hour before bed. I use this as "unwind" time. I only allow Disney Junior or Nick Jr shows, which I have convinced myself are somewhat "educational", absolutely NO Sponge-bob . My biggest fear is that we allow her too much TV and she end up not wanting to play outside and wanting to stare at a tv instead! But I think we are in pretty good shape, since we are the only people I know who only have 1 TV in the entire house (that's right, no TV in any bedroom!!). People always ask "how can you only have ONE TV?" I just see no need for it other than in a bedroom. But I can't lie...I could never survive with out my American Idol Obsession!!
Sarah C August 15, 2012 at 11:46 AM
Did you do it, Jenae? Did you cut the cable?
Jenae Holtzhafer August 15, 2012 at 12:07 PM
Not officially, but the TV has been OFF 95% of the time since we returned from vacation. Once things settle with our Fresh Air trip I'll be giving SECTV a buzz. ;) The more I talk to people, the more I hear of 'weekend-only' TV time which would be OK with me and we could just stick with Netflix for that. I really do see a change in the boys' attitudes and creativity when we keep the TV off. It's amazing!
Lanya August 15, 2012 at 02:29 PM
I own a TV and a Wii which I use to stream Netflix...but I got rid of my cable years ago and I don't miss it. Mostly, I don't miss the advertising (especially around this time of year when nasty election ads are all the rage).


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