Life without TV

I’ve learned, over the years, to attempt to live each day without regrets.  Of course, that is easier said than done.  Just as making mistakes is a way to learn, regret can be a great learning tool as well.

One thing I am able to do with this mentality is to look back on my life as a child and recall any regret that I might have.  One that is re-occurring and, seems to bug me more than any other, is the fact that I watched TV.  Not only did I watch TV, I watched entirely too much TV!!  And while these programs were funny, educational or just plain entertaining, I now wish I would not have watched any of them.

“What would life without TV be like?” I thought.  No more sports, game shows and dramas.  No news or weather updates.  Nothing to stare at while attempting to unwind after a busy day.  Two years ago I bit the bullet.  Unhappy with my provider, a new little girl crawling around and two seemingly full-time jobs coaching basketball and running the SDHSA prompted me to call it quits on TV.

But my decision was more than just the reasons mentioned above.  After thinking so much about all the time that was, and is, wasted in front of a television screen, I thought about all that I was missing as a result.  I eventually asked myself…”If I were to do it all again, would I do it differently?”  Of course.  So why would I allow my daughters to make that same mistake?  It had to be done.  And I couldn’t be happier!

The benefits so far have been unmeasurable.  I’ve saved money (a lot of money), had more time to enjoy the outdoors, played with my daughters more, gone on more walks with my dog, and made more time for friends and family.  Now, considering this is a blog about early childhood, what are the benefits for young children?  What are the downfalls? I’ve made a list below.  This is not a revolutionary thought, but I believe it is bucking the current trends.  I’d be interested to hear what others think of my list below and if they have any additions to either side.

Benefits: 

  • More Play – Play is a powerful thing for young children.  The longer they sit in front of a TV, the less time they have for Play.
  • More Parents – According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 88% of parents with children 2 years or younger watch TV daily.  Children will typically not need much motivation to get up and play, but sometimes it’s the responsibility of the parents to get them up and out of the house.  How are they going to do that if they’re on the couch beside them?
  • More Imagination –  This is specific to my situation, and I have nothing to base it against, but my daughter’s creativity amazes me!  The dialog and situations she creates when we play is a spectacular display of her brain hard at work.  Yes, she could have been like that with TV, but at least I’m not wondering why she is with limited imagination.
  • More Motor Skills – Fine motor skills are so important for young children as they develop, especially when moving toward school readiness.  It’s difficult to draw and write when you are staring up at a television screen.  I’m just saying…
  • Quicker Development – While some studies have shown that high quality programing can be effective in teaching language and some create valuable learning opportunities, the majority of research suggests that children under 22 months will learn fewer words from interactions with television as opposed to interactions with actual people.  Recent research even suggests babies’ ability to read lips in order to learn.  Better get the 50 inch in HD if you want TV to help with that.
  • One Less Media Channel – It’s difficult to comprehend some of the programs showing on TV today.  Children are curious and (in many cases) able to turn on a TV by themselves before the age of 6 (77%).  I would not want my 4-year-old to have access to cable television if even for a short time.  Who knows what she would see.  Snooki and the Bachelor can keep their antics.  We’ll have none thanks.
  • Research is Rarely Wrong –  This from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

“Pediatricians should urge parents to avoid television viewing for children under the age of 2 years. Although certain television programs may be promoted to this age group, research on early brain development shows that babies and toddlers have a critical need for direct interactions with parents and other significant caregivers (eg, child care providers) for healthy brain growth and the development of appropriate social, emotional, and cognitive skills. Therefore, exposing such young children to television programs should be discouraged.”

Follow-up article in the NY Times

  • Develop Positive Habits – Watching TV can become habit-forming.  With a TV not in the way, there is more time to develop healthy habits that will last a lot longer than an impression of Dancing with the Stars.
  • The Other Options – The vastness of the internet provides numerous outlets for research, education and, of course, entertainment.  There are a number of television shows online that are free to watch and easy to access.  This also allows you to pick and choose the programming your child watches.  More options also means…well…MORE OPTIONS!  Nature, sports, cleaning, reading, writing, letters, social interactions, swimming…you get the picture.

Downfalls of No TV (and yes, there are a few):

  • No TV, no Message – At some point a child is going to have access to television.  Related to one of the benefits above, it will be difficult to help the child develop healthy television habits and teach them about the importance of moderation if there is no TV to be watched.
  • More Work – It is very easy, as a parent, to turn on the TV just to get a little free time. Sad but true.  Next time you’re feeling frustrated or worn down, try pulling out a book or game to enjoy with the kids before pushing the power button.  You might find that more relaxing than listening to the TV in the background.
  • Educational Programming – Yes, there are educational programs that are age specific and beneficial to the development of a young child.  I will admit that even without television, my daughter and I have sat down on the computer to watch an episode of Micky Mouse Clubhouse or Curious George.
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