Before Gus was born, when I was an amazing parent, I had the rule many parents had that I did not want him to watch tv before 2. That clearly died. I watched the entire Gilmore Girls series during maternity leave, mainly with him on my lap/boob. We have football games on on Saturdays, hockey on during the Stanley Cup, and sometimes if something big is going on I try to sneak in the news. Things have always been this way – not a lot of tv on, not a lot of stuff for him, and not a lot of active tv watching.

As he has grown we’ve started to experiment more with tv. He has a show he loves, Big Block Sing Song, that consists of 2-3 minute music videos. He watches 3 or 4 at a time, maybe twice a week. (Mainly on the weekends when we don’t want to get up yet.) He LOVES to watch videos of himself but those are also usually under a minute long. He’ll get excited about sports being on but will only sit for a minute or so and then moves on. Same with cartoons. He’s intrigued but after a couple of minutes he is done. (One morning he got up super early and watched an entire half hour cartoon with Lesley but that happened once.)

I’m sure his lack of interest is related to lack of exposure. He doesn’t have tv at daycare. They only time they ever have tv on there is if kids wake up early and other kids are still sleeping. I think he’s fallen into that category twice. At home we don’t have it on much while he is awake. We get home from work around 5:30-5:45, make dinner, have dinner, and are in the bath around 7:15. There just isn’t time for tv. On the weekends we go do things – we as a whole aren’t home much.

I don’t really have concerns about Gus watching tv but I have noticed that it is now kind of strange that he doesn’t. I’m not sure when he will notice. His friends wear clothing with tv characters on them. His best buddy had an elmo birthday cake (He does know who elmo is because school has an elmo potty book and we got the same one for home but that’s about the extent of it. That book is the only thing he owns that has a tv/movie character.) I know that he doesn’t care/notice and I am sure at some point he will like tv and not be the odd man out but it’s kind of this weird thing: Am I doing my child some sort of disservice by not exposing him to these totally normal childhood things?

I don’t think tv is the devil. Heck, at this point it would be great to have him sit quietly by himself somewhere for a while. But it’s just not something my kid is into. Everyone I have talked to, everything I have seen, said kids get into tv by essentially being “trained”. They watch a few minutes, then a few minutes more, and then eventually they will sit and watch a show. I don’t know that I want to (or have a reason to) do that. I 100% understand that people do have reasons to. Single parents. Stay at home moms. Those situations are so different than mine and are situations where it is very much needed.

I’m not sure when he will ever be into it. I’m not sure if I am doing him a disservice. I don’t really think I am but at this point he is the only child we know who doesn’t watch tv (or I should say watches an extremely limited amount of tv). I wonder what will happen when he discovers this difference. Will he want to watch the things his friends watch? Will he not care at all?

At this point it is what it is. I might be the only parent in the world who has never seen Frozen. I don’t get a lot of the kid’s pop culture references in the mom world. No one will see pictures of Gus’ first trip to the movies anytime soon. We’ll continue to wade through this parenting thing wondering if we are doing our child a major disservice.


Posted on November 2, 2016, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. This is a timely subject for me because we have been relying heavily on Sesame Street to get us through this patch of teething misery. My normally sweet kid has been a tantrum-throwing, screaming, miserable monster, BUT if I turn on Sesame Street, she will come over to me and cradle herself in my arms like when she was a baby and she will quietly watch endless episodes while we snuggle. I have been torturing myself over it. On the one hand, there are the voices of a thousand child experts saying BAD MAMA. On the other hand–cuddles. My kid hasn’t cuddled with me since she was an infant. This is a totally new thing. Her cuddles are like a drug. I have a problem.

    • I think sometimes you just have to do what you have to do and that is totally fine. Lots of kids watch tv and are just fine. I don’t think it is a bad thing and I don’t think you are doing anything different than the majority of parents!

      • I was raised on cartoons and my brain seems to have developed adequately, so I’ve been trying to get my mom guilt to take a chill pill. As an added bonus to TV time, Charlotte constantly steals the remote and does weird things, so the next day we’ll sit down to watch something after she goes to bed and realize that Charlotte has recorded Dr. Phil, the morning news, and a couple of soap operas.

  2. Darwin has about a 1-hour attention limit, and has ever since she was about a year old and we took her to a movie with friends (her first extended screen experience). Television at our house is mostly a special treat – like a movie night, where we watch the first part of a movie and have popcorn, or if the kiddo is feeling poorly, or if she uses the potty. The Duck Song (parts 1-3) and Honey Bear on YouTube was genius for potty training. We’re lucky to be surrounded by other parents who don’t do much television at this point (what we do is more than most of our circle here), so currently Darwin doesn’t seem to notice a difference. I hadn’t even considered that she might not be getting the social information she needs to succeed in mainstream friendships….

    • Yeah, it’s a weird social capital thing. Yesterday he came home saying “Paw Patrol”. They had “pets and leashes” as a toy choice yesterday (they get to walk stuffed animals around on leashes) and I am guessing one of the older kids was talking about Paw Patrol because of that. He doesn’t know what that means or care but at some point will he? I guess he will just watch tv if he wants to know about it.

  3. We’re the opposite. I grew up watching whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, because I had a single mom and was a latch-key kid. I’m used to having TV on in the background and now that I’m home all day, that’s what I do. Despite having unlimited access to TV though, Gus is maybe paying attention for 10-15 minutes? He never just stops and watches tv. He goes and plays with toys or brings me a book, and now that he’s older, he’s starting to pretend to be some of the characters her knows. He wants to play pretend with us, and he talks a lot about things we learned. He’s learned so many random things that I know I didn’t specifically teach him. There are for sure times when I ask him to watch on his own (or I’d never get a shower) but 90% of the times we’re watching with him and talking about everything. That all being said, I used to worry constantly I was ruining him. But doctors have basically told me he’s a perfect little genius so I’m not changing anything now, haha.

  4. He’s still so young, I wouldn’t worry. I like media programming at this age to support skills kids are struggling with, like if you have a kiddo who is having transition or potty training difficulties, but otherwise if there’s no interest I don’t see any real need to encourage it. It is great you’re thinking of this and sensitive to this already, though, just in case it does start to affect him. And honestly, pretty much all television for this age group can be completely picked up on in the space of one episode, so if it does turn out he wants/needs more exposure to be socially with it, it won’t take too long to catch up.

    • Yeah, each episode seems to be pretty much the same thing. I am not upset to not have to watch/listen to children’s programming… Also, to make life extra difficult we are a “no disney, no winnie the pooh” household so half of the stuff he’ll never get anyway. 😉

  5. You are definitely not doing him a disservice by not exposing him to tv shows. Keep doing your thing. Wallace has slowly learned about tv characters and has watched it occasionally with friends or me (sick days). As a single parent, often at home, I can attest tv isn’t essential but if it is how someone was raised and they don’t have strong feelings against tv (like I do) then they turn it on. Wallace has a thomas dvd and a kids yoga dvd as well as we occasionally, like once a week, turn on cosmic kids yoga. The most tv he has watched was during the olympics and it is still influencing his play, in pretty adorable ways. He has read some books based on shows and has some Thomas toys. The “odd kid out” idea isn’t enough to sway me in my views of all the negatives of tv for young kids. As for myself, I don’t even know how parents find time to watch shows. I have house work, school work, personal reading and writing, interacting with friends, sewing and sourcing to keep me busy.

  6. I don’t think you’re doing him any kind of disservice by not doing much tv, it will be 2-3 years before he’s aware enough to compare his situation with anyone else’s anyway. I’m pro screen time, but if we had your schedule we probably wouldn’t watch much either, the time in the evening is so short!

  7. The TV thing is so fraught! I think about it SO MUCH right now. Both Ansel’s TV watching and my own. I have a love/hate relationship with it, for sure.
    The pattern we have settled into, which I mostly feel ok about, is that he watches it in the morning when we are either getting ready for the day and need some support in the way of distraction or some easing into parenting in the early morning. We limit it to PBS and the occasional Disney channel show. About 75% of the time, it doesn’t really hold his attention but does seem to be an ‘anchor’ that allows it to be the TV he gets distracted by instead of us feeding the dogs or getting ready for work. We also frequently watch MSNBC (Rachel Maddow, be still my heart) in the evenings when I get home from work, so he’s exposed to that but doesn’t care about it or engage at all. We have also, on occasion, used Sesame Street in ’emergency’ situations when we had to do something (flying, waiting at the DMV) and needed him to be more focused.

    I think it sort of depends on the kid, too. I know my friends kids will sit and watch, jaws agape, at almost anything. Ansel doesn’t seem to be rooted like that. They’ve had similar exposure. So, some of it is likely temperment?

    Finally, my mom asked what A wanted for Xmas and started throwing out all of these characters and I was like . . .Uh, he knows Sesame Street and Daniel Tiger but WTH are all those other things and how does my mom know them?! I think the branding of stuff like that is kind of weird. But also, I don’t like it aesthetically so I’m not-so-secretly relieved that he’s not into it.

    TL;DR: NO, you are definitely not depriving him of anything. ❤

    • We act like there are these black and white’s of “good” and “bad” but really everything is so grey. I hate that parents feel bad for having their kids watch tv. I think it makes total sense why you do and when you do. The branding thing is huge for me. I think it is really what drives a lot of my anti tv feelings. But, some of that may come from the fact that I think the stuff that you can buy to go with tv shows is ugly – is it about consumerism or aesthetic? Probably some of both. I think that a lot of it does have to do with temperament. We took a 90 second video of Gus at a restaurant the other night to show his pediatrician and ask if his activity level/bouncing/ect is normal because it seems more intense than other kids. He likes watching sports (to an extent) because it is fast and moving – just like him.

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