Raising Our Kids TV-Free

Go ahead, roll your eyes.  Say what you like.  But we are raising our kids without a TV.
Did you know that greater than 99% of Americans have a TV in their house?  That 66% of Americans have 3 or more TVs in their house?  And that the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV a day which adds up to two months (24 hours a day) a year?  What does this have to do with the price of tea in China?  A lot, actually.
The average American youth spends 900 hours a year in school.  And 1500 hours a year watching TV.  By the time a child finishes elementary school they have seen 8000 murders, and by the time they are 18 they have seen 200 000 acts of violence.  The number of Americans surveyed who believe that violence on TV can trigger violence in real life: 79%.  Now can we understand why people riot for no reason?  Why kids join gangs?  Why vandalism occurs?
The average American, by the time he reaches age 65, has seen two million 30 second commercials.  The percentage of people who think that ads aimed at children are too materialistic: 92%.  Now can we understand why we have overflowing landfills, trash-filled oceans and massive, cement-block shopping centres?

Fast food is the number one ranked commercial aimed at kids.  Now can we understand why obesity and diabetes are running rampant amongst our children?  Why teens choose fries in the cafeteria instead of vegetables?

There have been over 4000 studies done on the effect TV has on children.  A parent spends on average 3.5 minutes a week in meaningful conversation with their child.   Children watch TV 1680 minutes a week.  53% of 4-6 year olds choose to watch TV over spending time with their father.  Now can we understand ADHD?  Childhood health problems?  Psychological problems?  Motivational problems?
Television-watching promotes racial, ethical, sexual, and body image stereotypes.  75% of American women think they are too fat.  Now can we understand anorexia, bulimia, OCD, depression and anxiety?

The statistics mean that it is time for a change.  The majority of parents agree that there is a problem with TV content and hours watched.  I don’t see a whole lot being done about it.  What are YOU going to do to protect your kids’ childhood innocence?

My oldest child is 8.  We have never had a TV in our house.  We don’t watch movies either.  The kids play with toys, read books and play outside.  Coming up with things for them to do on rainy days is more challenging than turning on the TV but much more rewarding.  Obviously it’s a lot harder to remove a TV from the house than to have never had one before.  If you are interested, try some baby steps:
  1. Limit the time watching TV per day.  Set a timer.
  2. When you are done with the TV turn it off
  3. Don’t allow children under 2 to watch TV at all.
  4. Watch only movies instead of TV.  (Eliminates advertising and allows for parental previews).
  5. Lead by example
  6. Join Parents Television Council

And this article doesn’t even touch computers and games…

Interesting links for further reading:

1 Hour Of TV Can Shorten Life by 22 Minutes
Watching TV is Bad For Children
Children’s Computer and Television Time Linked To Psychological Problems
Turn Off Your TV

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  1. My kids watch very little TV, too. I find that not spending time watching TV makes them more creative and more independent. They can just play and play for hours.

    There used to be a time when TV was part of our routine, but I chose to stop it because our son was getting really addicted to it, throwing tantrums every time we turned it off and not knowing what to do with himself if he had to play independently.

  2. Muscle_in_the_arm says:

    Good article! Another benefit of not having a TV in the house is that it saves electricity! (Plus, then when the kids do get to watch a movie its a real treat, the way it should be. )

  3. Free Range Mama says:

    Thanks for your support! Children learn a lot from what they see and when they see too much they learn too much. The innocence of childhood is a precious thing and once it's gone it's gone.

    Physical, social, and mental stimulation are vital to children's health and all of these together are only there during natural play.

  4. We were TV free with my daughter until my twin boys came into our lives. Spending 100+ days a year in the hospital = TV and at times way too much of it. I have no regrets about it though. I love our family and believe that my daughter is a better person because of our adventures in raising medically fragile kids.

  5. Free Range Mama says:

    Abbey, I have great respect for parents who face such huge challenges as you did. At times like that you certainly go into survival mode. I am sure your daughter has learned valuable life skills such as empathy, care and love from your experiences. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I Thought I Knew Mama says:

    Such compelling info! Good for you for being a TV free home! We're not TV free, but Baby doesn't watch it.

  7. We have a no TV during the weekdays and only watch netflix on the weekends. I think for our family that is the balance that we wanted. They get so excited Saturday mornings and are bored of it by the afternoon and go and play outside!

  8. I was not raised t.v free but my grandmother (I lived with her) always made sure that the programming had some sort of lesson in it weather it be Barney teaching shapes or pokemon teaching you to never quit and trust yourself. She did make sure that I played outside and did arts and crafts when it wasn’t tv time. I mostly grew up on the old shows like the price is right, columbo, hawaii 5-0, and all those other old shows. I also grew up on animal planet, discovery, and NatGeo. Tv isn’t all bad it just depends on what you are watching and how long you watch it. If something is on that you don’t like they did invent a remote and the ability to change the channel.

  9. Pretty ridiculous, IMO. Taking away TV completely, for no true reason at all, is taking away a part of culture. You must realize that TV is not always about murder and scenes of violences, but offers so much more. You might as well take away reading entirely from your kids because they might happen to stumble upon a thriller containing murders, too.

    Fact is: forbidding TV entirely is withholding a LOT of relevant information from your children. Living a socially normal life now and in the future seems very unlikely for a child raised that way. I hope you are well aware of that and the shortsightedness of your actions.

    • Dear Peler: Thank you for strengthening my goal with your comments; I don’t want to raise my children in a way that is currently the “social norm”!

      • You’re right Peter. It does take away a part of culture. An awful part of culture! As a parent its your responsibility to shield your children from messages and images that aren’t appropriate. Even if a TV show is appropriate for a certain child’s emotional and social age, often the advertising is not.

        Whether a parent chooses to limit TV exposure – time limits and/or programming choices – or opts to eliminate it altogether FOR THE EMOTIONAL AND SOCIAL WELL-BEING of their children, it is not a bad thing.

        Fact is: forbidding (or limiting) TV entirely is withholding a LOT of IRRELEVANT information from your children. Living a socially normal life now and in the future seems very unlikely for a child raised to be desensitized to the violence and adult content they’re exposed to when TV and other media aren’t monitored. I hope you are well aware of that and the shortsightedness of your actions.

        • A good friend has a quote on her wall: it is no measure of health or normality to be well adjusted in a profoundly sicksociety

  10. In searching for support for raising children without tv, I found your article. Our daughter is over 3 now and I have to say it is the societal pressure that is making it hard for me, but then her ability to play and play that makes it easy. I have just been down and out with the flu and my daughter has not once whined or cried to watch tv when I am resting on the sofa. Instead, she is running all around playing and coming to me for snuggles and books or to put on a babies clothes. What I do notice is that we aren’t invited to play dates in our neighborhood anymore, The little one that I watch has started to talk about the tv shows she watches at home, which makes me uncomfortable, but my 3 year old thinks its funny b/c she just thinks it is all make believe and that the little one doesn’t really watch tv. Luckily I do have a couple moms that we are with frequently that also do not watch tv. How do others deal with the outside influence? I know that when my daughter is older, she will watch something at a friends house, but for now, I would not want that to happen.

    • It gets tough as they get older. I think that the best thing you can do is provide them with the environment you think is best at home, and the exposure they get at friends’ houses as they get older won’t be too much of a problem . Good luck!

      • somethingsomeone says:

        You said that they didn’t watch movies at all. Are you actually not gonna let them watch movies for the rest of their chlildhood? I mean by high school or college, they have to had watched a couple of films or tv shows. There are a lot of good tv shows that are not your usual canned laughter sitcoms, and really good movies out there, too. Not trying to offend, just asking by curiousity,

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