I had my fair share of TV watching growing up of which I have fond memories. (I was a child of the 80s!) But I also spent a great deal of time playing outside, having loads of imaginative play indoors, and going for many long walks in nature with my family. (My mom was a huge advocate of exploring.)
I still enjoy watching movies and television shows I like - sans commercials if I can! And while my children and I enjoy being entertained like everyone else, I need to constantly remind myself that my children also need to learn to entertain themselves. I try to be cautious in how much TV face time they get, especially my toddler. And I try very hard to not let the TV be a babysitter, though I have resorted to it from time to time. The temptation to just sit them in front of a TV show is so strong sometimes, but I am getting better at ignoring that temptation by just telling my kids if they're bored they have to go find something to do or I'll find something for them to do. I'm met with grumblings of course, but eventually they're playing happily (with or without bickering). I've also tried to make an effort to only allow television on Tuesdays and Thursdays, although I've been slipping up the past couple weeks. I should consider it a good sign that my 2 year old daughter comes wandering in to find me instead of watching her favorite "doggy talk" show (Martha Speaks).
I love technology. I really do! I just don't want us to be a slave to it. We are the masters over technology, not the other way around. At least that is my constant goal.
My mother sent me this article about why TV is a bad idea for kids under 2. It is positive encouragement for my efforts and gives me more determination to have less TV time in our family life in general.
One last thing, is that I am concerned by how many young children are plugged into technology - MP3 players, phones, texting, internet, TV. There is something constantly entertaining them. But what about being with their own thoughts? What about forming their own thoughts without constant exposure to someone else's? It is no wonder that children's attention spans are shrinking as the use of technology is growing.
I feel a valuable way to counter this is to have real quiet, contemplative time for children. This usually comes through unstructured play time. Even driving in the car, I've noticed my son quietly looking out the window or talking to himself as his way of using the car time. I am also a strong advocate against movies in cars - unless it's a car trip longer than 2 hours. I don't mean to put down people who use the little TVs in their cars. I just find that idle time in the car to be a good exercise for our children's patience and creativity in the enclosed space. I myself didn't grow up with movies in our cars for long trips (though my husband did, as well as listening to radio dramas). I remember much of the time spent playing travel games, eating, listening to music, feeling the wind on my face from the open window, thinking, and sleeping. (I was easily motion sick, so no books for me!)
Reading a lot of books to your kids and also having them read by themselves is great in developing attention span. I also find using a different technology - audio radio dramas - develops great listening and imaginative skills. The mind is engaged, but because it is all auditory, their mind is left on its own to imagine the pictures, people, and scenarios. What a lost art this is becoming!
I'm excited whenever I come across audio dramas. I grew up listening to American History radio dramas and my son enjoys them now. Here a few links for audio dramas:
The Living Principles of America
My Audio School
Your Story Hour
We're looking forward to using these in our homeschooling.
I'm writing this post as much for myself as for anyone else - to re-encourage myself to stay strong against overusing the TV and to get the kids playing, reading, or listening!