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TV and Screentime for Kids

OK, LET’S TALK ABOUT SCREEN TIME. I’m a parenting article junky and I know the data, facts, opinions and consequences. But despite my intellectual knowledge about the relationship of TV and small kids (I know nothing about older kids),  I can’t seem to pull the plug on the electronic babysitter. My views have changed over time and it’s generally been a good lesson in being flexible yet consistent, smart but not rigid, and using common sense not compromise. It’s also a good reminder that when parenting you should NEVER SAY NEVER. If you want to read an excerpt from my never to be published book called ‘Our Screentime Journey with Small Kids’ here you go:

When we first had Charlie we were pretty anti-TV or device in general until he was about a year and a half, when we discovered the ease of parenting with Sesame Street. I had read enough articles to know that fast-paced stimulation (both visual and audio) is bad for their brain development, blah blah, but the slower stuff felt ok when necessary/desperate. Up until when Birdie was born it was limited to weekend mornings and probably lasted about 1/2 hour – an hour at most.

LET ME BE VERY CLEAR ABOUT SOMETHING – Up until a couple months ago we had full-time childcare, a nanny and/or preschool. If either of us worked at home for the family it would be different (my way of saying ‘stay at home’ – but I HATE that term because it implies just ‘staying’ without accurately reflecting the amount of ‘working’). I know that showers need to get taken and parents need far more breaks if you are with them all day – in order to be a good parent. But when you are paying someone else to care for your children, watching TV is not part of their daily schedule. Besides, that emergency babysitter is reserved for us parents 🙂 We felt/feel that we should be able to parent 2 hours in the morning and 3 hours at night without using the TV as a crutch for any of us. It was allowed on weekends only and super limited.


The first few months of having a newborn and a 22-month-old was challenging to say the least. We kept up mostly with the ‘no tv during the week’ thing but then on the weekends it was honestly like 3-4 hours for Charlie – maybe more. I know. It would be like being a vegan all week, then flying to Texas and stuffing your faces with pork and unpasteurized cows milk beef for two days. But we were so exhausted on Saturday mornings (hell, every morning) that usually Brian was asleep on the sofa (if he even made it out of bed) and I was breastfeeding for hours while Charlie marathoned Daniel Tiger. This did not make us feel good about ourselves at all, but we were scrambling to stay above water so we gave ourselves a break. I didn’t take a maternity leave with Birdie (no pity, I work for myself so it was my choice) so we phoned it in on weekend mornings so I could take a break from both my ‘jobs’. To be fair we were pretty strict about what was on – usually Daniel Tiger, Thomas The Train or Blue Fox – we even outlawed Bubble Guppies (too repetitive and was strangely addictive to Charlie and he was turning into a MONSTER when we turned it off) nor did we allow Peppa Pig (I only saw two episodes and in one she lied to her parents about being sick so she could stay home from school and in the other she body shamed her dad – I realize I sound like the most annoying alarmist hipster helicopter parent ever, but why send either of those messages to 2 or 3-year-olds?)

Are you still reading? Great.

Wait. Why are you still reading? Hopefully, it’s not because you are a parent of a small kid and are hoping for me to say it’s all ok. But maybe it is. WHO KNOWS??? (keep reading if you want advice from my mom – mother of 6 lovely and successful adults)

When we moved into our new house things got better and we scaled back the TV, mostly because Birdie was one year old and while we didn’t feel bad about having Daniel Tiger in the background when she was a 3 months, once she was actually wanting to watch herself we made changes and watched far less on the weekends (maybe an hour here or there – more when friends were over because we wanted to actually have conversations – some days were FAR worse or better than others).

Charlie’s 3rd year was very difficult for us in general. His incessant begging, whining and then screaming for the TV the SECOND he woke up, even on the weekdays made us seriously think about getting rid of it altogether. Our trips to the mountain house where there was no TV solidified this decision. But we were weakened by our exhaustion and the ease of the electronic babysitter. Thus the projector screen – it’s more of a “special occasion” – which we will watch on weekend nights or in the morning for movies. It has gotten better, a lot, actually but that might also be because they are getting older and understand rules and boundaries more.

So here is where I’m at right now and why I’m writing this post. I’m concerned that our strictness might have other negative consequences:

  1. It’s giving them early onset ‘TGIF’. To them, weekends mean ‘TV’. It also means when mom and dad are clearly the most relaxed (despite our best efforts to pretend that “Monday’s are so fun!!”). It’s also when they get all of our attention, so to say that they only want TV on the weekends is inaccurate, but if you asked them what they want to do on the weekends they’ll say ‘WATCH A MOVIE!’ in unison. My heart sinks every time (and yet I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT I WANT TOO)
  2. By only giving them their true love on the weekends, are we setting up an unhealthy relationship with TV? Are we those people who are putting a lock on the snack pantry, thus creating an unhealthy relationship with food that leads to potential obesity?

OR ARE THEY JUST YOUNG and will tantrum at something regardless – whether it’s TV, sweets or toys?

But we can’t just let them watch TV willy-nilly, right? One of my best friends let’s her son watch a show or two after pre-school to wind down (their school ends at 12, not 5 so understandably she has 7 more hours of parenting). And another friend gives their pre-school aged kids 1/2 hour in the morning and 1/2 hour in the afternoon. So maybe we were being too strict and needed to do more moderation?? Maybe a little bit every day would normalize their relationship and reduce the withdrawals and obsession?

Recently we decided to try this new thing – we let them watch a short PBS show before school IF/WHEN they finish all their “jobs” – get dressed, toys put away, breakfast eaten, 5 minutes of piano (pounding on keys) and teeth brushed. I thought this was a decent idea until they started WAKING UP AT 6 A.M. BECAUSE THEY WERE SO EXCITED TO BE WITH THEIR BEST FRIEND – THE TV. Sure, they finished their jobs by 7am, but they totally missed the point. It’s like their brains aren’t mature or something …

To be fair, that only happened a few days, and about a week into this it got better because many days they don’t have time to watch a show or they don’t think about it (Is it a good time management lesson? – I think so). And now the rule even on the weekends is that there are no movies until 7am, in hopes that they don’t wake up early just to watch TV. Last Saturday for instance, Charlie woke up at 5:30am from a nightmare, got out of bed at 6:15 and they were allowed to play til 7am, but no TV before that. They understood and we watched something from 7 – 9 and shut it off with only a short protest but nothing too annoying. It’s getting better.

So besides the “weekend only” rules, here are our boundaries (as taught to me by my mother and a few articles):

  1. We tell them how long they can watch before we turn it on – 1 show, 2 shows, 1 movie, etc, and we DON’T LET THEM EVER CHANGE OUR MIND. There is no negotiation or compromise – there is only CHOICE. UGH. We learned this the hard way.
  2. Yes, we give them choices but we really try to be in control of the choices. We’ve definitely made the mistake of saying ‘What do you want to watch?’ while on a large kid cartoon menu and it turns into a big fight when they choose something that looks like garbage, or they don’t agree and they end up fighting amongst themselves.
  3. We avoid anything fast paced with lots of edit cuts. There are so many good shows out there these days. There are times Brian and I are like, “Wait, could this possibly be even really GOOD for them?” They will still watch Daniel Tiger, Sesame Street and frankly any PBS show that we let them, but the two they LOVE that we also love are Wild Kratts and Little Einsteins. We also like the pacing of Charlie Brown (but sometimes I’m like – is it super negative and such a downer?) oh, and Peter Rabbit. I recently heard that you can get the 1970’s Sesame Street on HBOgo, which is pretty awesome. I’d love to hear other suggestions.
  4. For longer sessions (weekend mornings or nights) we opt for movies over TV shows. Just like us they get addicted and sucked in and while most of those shows don’t have over-arching mystery plot lines (remember the time I watched 18 episodes of Veronica Mars in a row), having a movie with a beginning, middle and end and is slower paced I think helps their brain understand storytelling better and also makes it easier to switch it off. It’s just one plot, one group of characters and story to keep track of and I think it helps keep their attention longer than a 20 minute show. Our/their favorites are Moana (best messaging of any Disney movie for little kids ever), Robin Hood (the Kevin Costner version – just joking the original cartoon), Aristocrats, Sing, Frozen, Secret Life of Pets although that scares them sometimes and Monsters Inc. We’ve watched them all, but the Disney shows from our childhood (Little Mermaid, Aladdin) are uninteresting to them and the classics (Bambi, American Tale, Cinderella) scare them or ‘make us sad’. I think we’ve mined this category pretty well, but if I’m missing some positive messaging, non-scary quality movies please suggest. We try to make it a ‘family movie’ which is why we nix the bad cartoons.

I asked my mom what advice she had, and she gave me the above advice a long time ago, but the one thing that shocked me was this:

She said that the 5-6 o’clock time is called the ‘arsenic’ hour because everyone is hungry and tired so it can be really helpful to create a pleasant dinner time by letting them watch a show while you are winding down and making dinner.


My mom has taught parenting classes for decades, so I thought she would be fairly anti-screen time especially on a day to day basis (family movie night is cherished and doesn’t count). But this made so much sense to me. All I want to do after work is chill for a bit, and obviously, our kids do too. I just thought by coming home and turning on the iPad we were being lazy. We thought that we should be able to engage them or they should be able to play independently for that hour (and they often do). But no one is less of a lazy parent than my mom. She practiced piano for 30 minutes with EACH CHILD on Saturday mornings – that’s 2-3 hours she sacrificed. That is by any person’s account, WORK. Both my parents sacrificed all of their “free time” to create a loving but consistent schedule. We learned math by folding towels into halves and thirds and learned counting by unloading the dishwasher and putting away ‘6 forks’. If my mom says you can give your kids 1/2 hour of TV while you make dinner I pretty much take it as doctrine.

But since my favorite thing in the world is to open up a controversial topic and discuss it in a very non-judgemental open way with hundreds of thousands of my friends, I’d love to hear from you. Some of you are child psychologists (I know because I’ve read your comments and taken your advice). Some of you are new parents and many are parents of older or grown kids. You are all over the globe and your philosophies vary widely while your opinion is equally valued. We all know that letting small kids sit for hours in front of a TV is not a good thing, but I’d love to hear what you have done, what has worked, what has NOT worked, what your regrets are and of course, what were your successes – what worked for you.

I wish we watched none. But I cherish my Saturday mornings where they watch Moana and I sit at the dining table, drinking coffee and writing my more personal posts like this. Besides, I need the time when they are zoning out on TV to read about how to be a good parent 🙂

IN SHORT; how much, how often and with how much control do you let your small kids watch TV?


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329 thoughts on “TV and Screentime for Kids

  1. I “work at home for the family” (perfect name for it!) from NJ. I have a 16 month old and this is a constant debate for me and my hisband (who spends about 90% of his time working outside of the home) as well. So, while I don’t any grandiose degrees or philosophies on the topic, what I know for sure is your mom’s dinnertime TV advice is spot on! I dont usually let my little girl watch TV that close to bedtime because even with the slower paced shows, i find it hard to get her to wind down enough come bedtime. But more often than not, I do let her listen to some music. The peaceful hush that comes from this – versus a steady cry, scream and/or peas on the wall despite my dancing and singing while balancing a spatula, a sippy cup of milk, and begging the baby to please just eat…is just magic. Thank you for this post. 🙂

  2. I had many of these same thoughts when my kids were small (they are now 7 and 9). My advice to you is to just relax and set boundaries. Kids get tired too and frankly burnt out so if watching a show every day for an hour helps the whole family reset and be happier you shouldn’t worry about it. Also watching a movie together as a family is great family time and creates lots of memories. Every Friday we have pizza and snuggle up on the couch with popcorn and a movie and we all love it. Trust me soon enough your kids will be going out on Fridays or have sports and you’ll miss that time. And this issue only gets harder as they age because frankly they lose interest in tv and those sweet PBS shows and want video games, internet games, YouTube and other things that you aren’t always monitoring on a big screen. So enjoy this time with Daniel Tiger and let your kids enjoy it too. When you have loving and engaged parents and active kids TV is not an enemy it is a fun relaxing distraction. We aren’t talking about tv watching all day every day which is a whole different story. Moderation is key and a good lesson to teach your kids when they are small.

    1. Totally agree. We have family movie night on friday nights, too – pizza, popcorn, etc. its soooo lovely (although I’m secretly waiting for when they can watch live action and not just animation – we are running out of movies so fast). I can’t WAIT to have the discussion about social media and phones. As of now I just want to check them into a Waldorf school and never let them get on the internet 🙂

      1. Not the OP, but You should add Trolls to your list, btw. And maybe zootopia? Although that one might be a little scary/sad?

        1. Regarding Trolls- my kids are 8 and 4 and we had to turn it off. The whole premise is about not getting eaten. It gave my son nightmares.

        2. seconding Trolls and Toy Story (all of them). Also my son loves The Red Balloon, we found it on YouTube.

      2. The movie choices definitely get better as they get older. We have been having fun watching some of the movies we watched as kids in the 80s with our kids…Honey I shrunk the kids, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Big, Back to the Future etc. it’s hysterical to see them respond to how things looked back then.

        1. My kids (7 and 10) go to Waldorf school and they are very happy with 30 minutes of fairly carefully chosen video (never TV, no ads please) a week. They do look forward to it and yes, sometimes they whine for more or have a hard time agreeing on what to watch. We are still pre-phone and internet use, no computers in school., so this is sacred time for PLAYING. Soon enough, their play goes away. One statement that moved me so much, from The Coalition for a Commercial Free Childhood is this: if they are using media displaces other things they could be doing. When you have school-aged children, there is very little time after school to play, do chores, help parents, be together, read, do homework, practice instruments, and be in nature, all things we want for them. If you choose to cut out use of TV for minding children, it’s just no longer a way that you parent them, and other solutions to those same problems are invented. Not meaning to be smug here, just that soothing them after a long day has many faces. Good luck! The detox period is only a month long, btw.

      3. Hahahaha. YES! I have these same Waldorf school fantasies! Or “Forest School” which is even MORE crunchy. I mean – knowing how to crochet at age 5 is a pretty cool skill, right?

      4. I recommend cars 1 and 3! And my daughter is currently obsessed with leap, but it isn’t Disney quality. Still, good message, good music, and she gets up and dances while watching.

        1. I noticed that you left out Cars 2, and I couldn’t agree more. My issue with it was that the level of violence (even being car violence) was too much for young kids and didn’t deserve a G rating. (Plus it just wasn’t a great movie.)

      5. Parenting is such a crazy, awesome, insanely exhausting gig that above all else have grace for yourself and the choices you make for your family.

        We’ve got three kids ages 7, 6 and 3. We completely cut out screens 3 years ago and it was a total game changer. Our Waldorf school, which I heart, persistently recommend it. All I could think is that’s great for you hippies knitting and making candles, but in the real world Mama’s gotta get stuff done. And sometimes that means the kids watch movies. When we cut out screens, we saw tantrums radically decrease and creativity increase. It might not work for everyone, but it’s changed our family.

    2. I totally agree with you!! And then there are times when the tv simply becomes part of survival (my three year old currently has a broken ankle, don’t ask). So I think it’s all about being aware and conscience of the quality and amount of the tv. Sounds like you are doing great!!!

      1. Do NOT allow the trolls movie under any circumstances!!! I’m 38 and I felt like it nearly gave me a seizure from all the stimulation (not literally, just illustrating a point). I can’t imagine what it does to small, developing brains.

  3. Every family has to form their own rules about this. One thing I do know (now that my kids are grown) is that banning something or being too rigid about it only makes children (and adults) want it more. Whether it’s TV or something like candy. Thanks to my husband’s sweet tooth, we are a candy house. Throughout my kids’ childhood, we had a candy bowl that was always filled (by my husband, not me) and available to any child or adult who visited our house and walked by the candy bowl. And you know who always gorged on the candy? The children whose parents were food nazis and banned or rigidly controlled candy consumption. The parents who weren’t uptight about sweets tended to produce children who didn’t stuff their faces from our candy bowl. My own kids were the ones who ate the LEAST candy. In hindsight that bowl my husband insisted on filling taught the kids to handle their own consumption and made candy nothing special.

    Teaching kids to moderate their own behavior — whether it’s about TV time, candy, or alcohol — is a good life skill. So perhaps set up a TV system that has some boundaries but also allows the kids to make some choices and to learn how to moderate their own TV time.

    1. I agree with you fivebyfive! I grew up in a home with basically no tv at all and in my first apartment at university there was free cable. I couldn’t get enough tv! Ha!
      My husband grew up in a home where there were no limits on tv viewing and he just was never that into it. We have two teenage boys now and we didn’t make a big deal out of tv watching. They’re were allowed a few shows a day when they were little and as they grew we watched a few shows throughout the week as a family and we’ve always had family movie night. Now that they are 13 and 16 they hardly watch any tv at all. Too busy with friends and activities. But if they feel like a down afternoon and want to watch a movie or something-no big deal at all. They regulate themselves very well.
      Close friends of ours kids (who don’t have tv) come over and BEG watch a show or movie whenever they are here. They are absolutely entranced by the screen. Funny how that works. And obviously it depends a lot on families and individual personalities. Interesting topic!

      1. SUCH A GOOD LESSON. See. this is what I fear. When my parents banned me from dating my high school boyfriend I fell in love SO MUCH HARDER and my obsession for him skyrocketed. I love that my mom said 1/2 or to an hour before dinner….

        1. I’d like to weigh in on the “forbidden fruit” aspect of screen time. II’m 42 and my family had no TV until I was about 10. Even back then, that was weird. After we were gifted one. we snuck watching TV (granted, the 2 channels that we got clearly) whenever we could, although that was still pretty limited. Now, as adults, my 6 siblings and I run the gamut for interest in TV/movies. Some watch a ton and some have little interest. My point? It’s easy to ascribe later habits to early exposure/banning, but I think that’s over-attribution. I think it’s just more personality and character.

          I now have a 16, 13 and 10 year old. We’ve never had a TV (but have netflix and amazon). They can use the Internet for 20-30 minutes after school once they’ve practiced and finished homework and chores. They watch shows, Youtube videos, games, etc. We’ll watch something together sometimes in the evening. In terms of regulating screen time, it gets SUPER tricky now that their homework is primarily online and the school issues them an iPad (in HS). Have fun regulating that! No electronics in the bedroom at night. That seems to be a good start.

          p.s. I teach college and my students are literally (to use their word, ha) incapable of not checking their screens during class. It doesn’t matter if I call them on it, beg them not to, or give them breaks. They are addicted/habituated to checking in. Usually they’ll tell me it’s their mom texting, ha. My point is they have a lifetime of figuring out their relationship with screens , and my opinion is that the less they start with, the better.

          1. Haha…I also teach college and can TOTALLY relate to the screen addiction among my students. I find it hilarious when they think they are being super sneaky (tucked in a book, sitting on top of a backpack, that it is being used to “take notes”) and yet it is woefully obvious.

          2. I totally agree with this! I have a 17, 14 and 11. I was always very strict about tv. My older one could take it or leave it, my middle one could spend the entire day watching Netflix if i let her and the younger one would give up anything AT ALL TO PLAY FORTNIGHT! I agree the more it’s limited the more they want it but TV, media and the their phones are addictive. Your kids are obviously not there yet but kids and teenagers are simply by virtue of their brain development not capable of policing themselves. My feeling has been i will police the heck out of it until they have the brain capacity to make good decisions. It does get harder and harder as they get older because starting in grade school the kids are given iPads or computers by the schools (even if you request they don’t). Start as you want to end.

          3. I teach (taught, just resigned) college too, and I had the same problem! My only rule was that they could not watch TV during class time (I taught Interior Design studios). I just could not comprehend how they could be creative with Meredith Gray chattering in their ears.

        2. I wish it were as simple as “ban / don’t ban”! Maybe the point is just to be relaxed BUT still set appropriate boundaries. I grew up in a house of unlimited junk food and TV and computers and video games. As a parent now I can see why that my parents probably did it so they could avoid dealing with us… They let us watch TV or play video games all the time to the point where I kind of feel like TV raised us (when we weren’t outside doing scheduled activities). It did not teach me nor my two brothers self-control. We all have issues with screen addiction (then again everyone seems to have this problem nowadays), and we all have “food issues”. So it depends on additional factors. Maybe some parents who ban Tv/junk food also taught their children to really enjoy other activities and other foods so those kids weren’t desperate for it. Maybe some parents who banned Tv/junk food did it in such a way that the kids really resented it and wanted to rebel. Having a “no limits” upbringing has made it still very difficult for me to have self-discipline… :/

        3. SO TRUE! I grew up without a tv in my house (mid 80s – not sure “screen time” was a thing? Just had weird parents 😉 and when we went to friend’s houses my sister and I BEGGED to watch tv while friends wanted to play – tv just wasn’t very exciting to them. IT WAS OUR FAVORITE THING. My #1 memory of visiting grandparents is being so excited to watch tv… I mean that can’t be healthy. I remember one summer my parents RENTED a tv to watch the summer Olympics and it was the best two weeks of our childhood. I recently asked my dad where did you even reant a tv?? That was so weird!!! Now that I have a 7-month old I’m thinking about this a lot. My husband grew up in an unlimited tv house and could not be less worried about this subject and I’m over here reading the whole internet. At the end of the day, I don’t think it really matters – my husband and I now have a pretty similar relationship with the tv despite very different tv upbringings – although I am a much bigger reader…

          An unintended consequence of my upbringing – my pop culture references from my own time is SO BAD. Still when people talk about beloved childhood shows, movies, or funny commercials they remember I am clueless. In elementary this was actually sort of embarrassing for me. TV is very cultural, and talking about shows is a bonding experience. (Hi bachelorette!).

          Don’t worry, I don’t think you can ruin them, the fact that you think about it at all and are intentional I think means that you are doing a good job.

    2. Yes!! Honestly, I had anxiety just reading that list of ‘rules’ and also how often they have changed. There is a whole bunch of research around scarcity that show human react in extreme ways when they perceive that their options will be limited in the future.

      Addiction is thrown around so freely with screens. When your child throws a tantrum because you have to leave the park, nobody talks about park addiction. They just accept that they were doing something they really enjoyed (likely increasing dopamine levels like all enjoyment!) and they didn’t want it to end.

      I think rather than placing limits, start a conversation around mindful use. I have three children and no screen limits *gasp*. There is no anxiety and they choose screens sometimes just like they choose a whole range of healthy activities. I blog about respectruly parenting and have written about the research on screen time. I get uncomfortable with self promotion but if you want to read about it Emily my email is included.

      1. I agree with this general thread. When I was growing up, there were no specific rules (except, I’m sure what shows we could watch, obviously more limited in the late 80’s, early 90’s), about TV. I don’t ever remember my mom telling us we couldn’t watch a movie, or TV, or whatever. We were also a heavy “reading” family (several books before bed each night when we were little), so more often than not you could find my brother and I in bed reading for 30-40 minutes before bed. Not sure if this was because we just got shown another way to entertain ourselves, or if because we didn’t have limits on our screen time, but–honestly these days, I’m not great at watching TV. I’ll watch on HGTV on Saturday mornings sometimes, but it drives my husband crazy that I can’t get into shows or “binge watch” with him-I get too antsy.
        This is slightly unrelated, but for what it’s worth, I’m a female who was raised in the 90’s watching all the Disney classics that might have “bad” messaging (aka Cinderella, Snow White, etc), and I grew up to be a relatively successful human, believing in equality for women, etc etc, so I sometimes wonder if we get a little too protective about shows like that. My parents never enforced that messaging, and I think I turned out ok? Just my two cents 🙂

        1. Courtney and Ki, I really appreciate what you both wrote. Neither my husband nor I grew up with limits on tv time. We’re both avid readers and successful individuals who appreciate a good show/movie, but as parenthood has proved, can go months without watching anything. Screentime on my phone is another story — it’s daily and I love reading blogs and articles. This post is particularly timely — at this very moment, my preschooler is watching tv, and I’m holding a sleeping infant and “connecting” to the adult world. Up until age 2.5, my older child had no idea what that large screen was and never asked; it was always off. My philosophy is that we flex with the various needs in our lives at a given time. As for myself, I consciously put my phone aside, because it’s good modeling for my children and they deserve my attention. Thank you for opening up this discussion, Emily!

      2. Any chance you can share the blog link for the rest of us, please, pretty please 🙂

      3. Technology addiction is a real thing with real physical, brain responses. It’s wise parenting to be aware and guard your little ones, while also teaching them how to navigate screens. Read this (although to get some reading time you might need a sitter),+Low_00000000&2sid=Google_&sourceId=PLGoP79700&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIlcbZ64bc2gIVzF6GCh2Ajwi4EAQYAiABEgKJ-_D_BwE

      4. I would like your blog. Please self promote. This is why I’m taking the time to read the comments.

    3. ^^ Loving this comment. My own parents were super strict about TV and guess what happened when I went to college? I watched wayyy too much TV (an insane amount). Do you know who didn’t? Everyone else who’d watched a normal amount of TV in high school. However, strangely, my parents were very relaxed when it came to alcohol. They always had a FULLY-STOCKED liquor cabinet, and wine up the wazoo (they weren’t actually big drinkers – it was mostly for guests / entertaining). Anyways, I never really felt that pull to ever drink too much / too frequently because it was always there. I’m basically a teetotaler 95% of the time.

    4. I get what you’re saying, but our house was rigid about food and one of us grew up binging and the others of us didn’t. I really think there’s a strong genetic component to food and body weight. I’m not fat because my genes tell me when to stop eating, no matter what is available to eat. My very active brother is fat….because he’s just got a different set point than I do. We were raised exactly the same way.

      Same really goes for TV and bingeing. Some kids go crazy for TV and other kids don’t seem to be too into it. We know my 4 year old is OBSESSED with ipad, so he voluntarily set a schedule and checks the calendar for “ipad days.” He loves the schedule for some reason, so we go with it.

    5. Yes! When I was a kid we never had cake or other baked goods around the house – probably because my mom never baked, more than because she didn’t want us to have it – but my aunt across the street was always baking and there was always cake on a stand on her kitchen counter. Her kids never wanted any because it was ALWAYS THERE and not a big deal, but my siblings and I would devour it whenever we got to go over. Now as an adult, I never tell myself I can’t have something because I know it will make me want it so much more. I will obsess! I just tell myself to wait (1/2 hour or whatever) and 95% of the time when the wait time is up I have forgotten about it.

    6. I grew up with a candy bowl in the kitchen, but I never ate out of it b/c “it’s Dad’s candy”. Not that we weren’t allowed to eat it or anything, it just didn’t seem like we should eat it b/c then it wouldn’t be there when Dad wanted it. My friends who came over thought I was crazy that I never ate the M&Ms that were constantly on the counter.

  4. oh blimey it is a real can of worms and who knows what is right. I teach 5 and 6 year olds and also have my own 8 year old son. I was super restrictive when he was younger but it then got to the point where he wouldn’t know what his group of friends were talking about because he hadn’t had the screen time to be familiar with the things the other kids knew from watching/ playing on screens. It’s hard because I don’t want him to be at a disadvantage but equally don’t want him having too much. He felt left out of the conversations his classmates were having and I felt sad for that reason and decided to lighten up a bit. That said as a teacher I see that this is part of their generation and how they navigate the world will be different to how we do. However the immediate gratification from iPads and Tv sometimes takes away the joy from reading and that is sad. I will always be proud that my son is an avid reader and gets lost in books…. something which may not have happened had I allowed him free time on iPads and TV??? But as parents when can only do our best and not judge others..

  5. Kids are 9,11,13 now. And I’ve learned that there are seasons….tv consumption time has ebbed and flowed for various reasons. But whatever they watch, it can’t be twaddle (which is a word that applies to books and speech, but I apply it to tv.) I don’t let them watchin to just watch. There has to be some message or usefulness to what they see (education, religious, etc.) Thomas the Train was my favorite for them as littles — it teaches hard work, team work, being useful, consequences for poor choices AND it lead to hours and hours of play with thomas the train toys. In my eyes it’s the perfect show. Sid the Science Kid is another one I miss. My kids also enjoyed BBCs planet earth from a really young age. Popular Mechanics, Mighty Machines — both old school but my son LOVED them.

    We also got rid of netflix and opted to invest in DVDs instead (yeah…we still have that) of high quality family friendly movies, tv shows & faith-based shows.

    Also, crying has always earned them less screen time with the instruction that, “We aren’t going to cry over screens in our house. Screens are fun, but getting this upset shows me that you’ve forgotten how to find something else to occupy your time. Not being able to occupy your time another way shows me that you’ve had too much screen time.” And naming off a list of all of the fun toys.

    I highly control what they watch (my teen isn’t really into tv at all). And if I give a couple options and they say no, I don’t offer more. I say, okay, well, then go find something else to do!

    It’s a balance, and tv has amazing qualities. In and of itself it’s not bad, but how we use it can be. And your mom is right — the witching hour never ever goes away!

    Great conversations! I have a feeling lots and lots of people will weigh in on this!
    ps-as always, i love your refreshing perspective on people who work for the family. 🙂

    1. Ditto to this; I’ve stayed at home with my kids (now 4 and 7), and my only hard rule has really been—if you start crying over TV, it’s gone. I’m also with your mom about the tv while I make dinner, but that’s sort of a seasonal thing. That happens more in the winter because I live in Oregon, so I don’t need to explain to you, Emily, that once it’s not 45 degrees and raining at 5:00, the whole house collectively sighs and those kids are outside before you can say Doc McStuffins.

      Random TV suggestion: Julie’s Greenrom on Netflix (Julie Andrews, theater and the arts, Henson puppets.) It’s the best. My kids love it, and it’s nice to have a non-cartoon option.

      Anyway my rules are that I don’t have many rules, but have always just encouraged the moderation. I try not to let them “veg” on shows they’ve seen a million times. And I trust that I also take my kids to the library, museums, parks, etc…their tv viewing is not their whole life. Also, for what it’s worth, all kids are different, too. So you may need to monitor one kid differently than the other. My 7-year-old, for example, just doesn’t abuse it. She self-monitors because she knows she gets cranky she watches too much. My 4-year-old would sit there for hours if you let her. So I have to be more careful about her.

      My sister is just like you…her kids (who had a nanny) never watch during the week, and then watch a lot on weekend mornings. But in our house, because I’m with the girls all week, I don’t like this system because I enjoy Sat morning family time. But my sister’s system works for her, and mine works for me. So I do tv throughout the week in small doses, and the weekend they don’t get much more, unless it’s movie night.

      Last thing I’ll say–it starts to get so fun when they watch live action. Try Mary Poppins!!

      1. Thanks so much, Anne. Agree and love your perspective. We JUST tried Mary Poppins and there literally isn’t a song or animation for 25 minutes. Charlie was like ‘why are they talking about a Womens benefit for so long?’. Brian and I thought it was hysterical. But to be fair they are used to Moana. (They were also super tired and at a friends house). We’ll try again 🙂

  6. I’m a full time work at home for the family Mom with four kids. We were very aware about the amount of screen time our oldest son had, limiting it to a couple of short shows in the late morning before we left the house DAILY for hours and hours of outside play time (teeny apartment, high energy toddler, ideal San Diego weather…) he was also our child that we really focused on diet with (breast feeding, avocados, etc. Aaall the things you read about). He’s also our child that has been diagnosed with ADHD and deals with attention span and impulsivity challenges daily. I’ve learned that we, as parents, just have to do our best. Whatever that may be. And that fact that we are even considering the brain development of our children, says something. Also, I’ve learned that there are ‘seasons’ in every part of life. Sometimes the seasons are longer (recovering from 4th c- section and severe post partum anxiety) and more tv is watched and sometimes they are shorter (we’re moving in two days and we played outside all day yesterday and I really need to get some things done). I come here for your design expertise but I appreciate these personal posts and love hearing others experiences and points of view! So, thanks!

  7. Your parents sound lovely. Consider this: do you think you or your siblings were more impacted by the smaller choices and rules they made as parents (e.g. screentime, piano time) or by the fact that they were generally very loving and dedicated parents? Another thing to consider: despite your loving and dedicated parents, are you or any of your siblings perfect, without faults, anxieties or vices?

    With each child, I’m learning that the little sets of rules I try to create about small things make very little difference in our life and often only serve to make me feel better (or worse) about my skills as a parent. You are a good mom! You love your kids, you’re present, you fret over their health and safety. What more can be expected of us as busy modern human beings?

    We don’t all need a PhD in child psychology to raise great kids. And guess what! They’ll probably turn out pretty much how they turn out no matter what we do. Relax, enjoy the days (as much as possible because, toddlers, wow.) If that involves a little more screentime than our educated, parenting article-overloaded brains would like, well whatever. We could be doing much worse.

    1. I’m sure you are right. The smaller choices I think helped shape responsibility, work ethic, etc, but many of us have ADD despite our lack of TV growing up and none of us are perfect. The small stuff is what we can monitor right now, its what we can use as a gauge that I much easier than understanding the macro. Thanks for weighing in. 🙂

  8. Emily, YOU know what’s best for your kids. The fact you’re really considering this particular challenge demonstrates that you’re a caring mommy. We were super strict with the oldest 2 (only a show or 2 every few days in the dark Alaskan winters!) & emphasized reading (bc *I* am a bookworm & really enjoy it). Fast forward to a surprise baby #4 (!) who is 3, and my cousin who is an excellent mother gave me “permission” to just use the fricking tv so I could have a break. That’s one thing I emphasize with younger moms–that you matter just as much as your babies & you sometimes should put yourself first so you can continue the process of providing for the kids. So guess what–not only do we watch more tv, we actually all look forward to watching it together. I think you’ll appreciate that my oldest 2–both girls– like to watch Good Bones & Fixer Upper with me. Clearly I’m raising them right. 😉

    1. I love that. I can’t WAIT to watch HGTV with my kids. I was thinking about this the other day – why aren’t there more family shows that the whole family can watch? I’m not talking about toddlers, I mean live action but with really good messaging, and entertaining for all? I remember TGIF growing up and while it was kinda garbage and even at the time I didn’t love it, the intent was a family TV night together with shows for the whole family. I wish there was a ‘This is Us’ that skewed a bit younger. Whatever happened to Little House on the Prairie? would love to hear if any of you have a family ‘show’ that you look forward to watching. Again our kids are probably too young but it seems like with the current political and cultural climate there would be more ‘family friendly’ shows that encourage a weekly ‘tv night’ instead of a movie night …

      1. America’s Funniest Home Videos always makes sunday a night full of laughs- 2 yr olds can even crack up at people falling down. The kids know it’s coming on Sunday and look forward to it.

      2. I’ve often had this wish. Your kids might be a little young for it yet but ‘Gortimer Gibbons: Life on Normal Street’ on AmazonPrime is excellent. Magical realism at it’s finest! Great lessons, wonderful friendships and solid storytelling.

        1. I love Gortimer Gibbons, one of the best shows for families. Did you notice that in that show no kid has ever a mobile phone in it hands or watches TV? When Mels mom died it was too much for my son. He is 9 years old.

      3. My daughters and I (9 and 11) watch shows with me like The Great British Baking Show on Netflix (REALLY GOOD TRUST ME! Except I blame any weight gain on snacking while watching, yum!) and other friendly competition shows. MasterChef Junior also great. It is really fun when you all enjoy shows together, for sure. My boys (3 and 6) will get there; they do love the shark episode from Planet Earth though. 🙂

        1. Ditto this! My boy/girl 11 year old twins and I LOVE the Great British Baking Show, The Next Food Network Star, and Master Chef Junior. My son has gotten really into baking and even helped me cook dinner the other night because of it. My kids and I also like that Trading Spaces is back on TLC!

      4. For what it’s worth, our family (with four kids ages 6 – 1) LOVES MasterChef and other weekly cooking shows like that!

      5. Try “Heartland,” which is on the UP tv channel. Charlie and Elliot may be a bit young, but it is a really lovely and gentle Canadian drama about a ranch family with horses as a central theme. The stories are very child friendly, mostly non-violent (the occasional bad guy, and the endings are happy. It was the #1 drama in Canada for years and won lots of awards. UP just finished broadcasting season 11, so lots of episodes to discover.

        Also, try the film “Two Brothers,” starring Guy Pierce. It’s about two tiger cubs. It is a really wonderful film with a surprising, but happy ending.

        Disney films did not work for my daughter – too many deaths of moms and other beloved characters, so they made her cry.

        Your mom sounds wonderful.

      6. Try old episodes of full house (on Hulu) and then there is the new fuller house (on Netflix), it’s not always 100% kid friendly, but most of the more adult jokes go over their head and my 5 year old lives both shows.

      7. There are so many shows for families for weekly TV night!!

        These are our favourites:

        1. Survivor. With my 6yo, we talk about team work, the importance of trying, never giving up, accepting differences, no bullying. My 4yo and 2yo just look for snakes, monkeys and waves.

        2. American Ninja Warrior. This show is incredible!! The backstories provide lots of discussion (“why is his sister in a wheelchair?”, “what is dyslexia”, “how come she grew up on a farm/beach?”, etc), the contestants are diverse (ethnic, socioeconomic, gender) etc, and then when they start actually doing the challenges, it’s thrilling (“beat that wall!”). My kids choose certain contestants to really get behind (my girls adore the female competitors like Kacy Catanzaro and Jessie Graff) and follow them for the whole season/s. The competitors are all very supportive of each other – and importantly, many fail at the challenges. So we talk a lot about the importance of trying, picking yourself up and trying again, supporting your friends, etc. I can’t recommend this show enough.

        3. The Great British Bake Off. Again, it’s a competition show, but it’s so wholesome and the contestants are all so diverse. And the hosts make excellent adult jokes that go right over the kids’ heads!

        4. The Voice, Project Runway, So You Think You Can Dance, etc. Again, diverse contestants with back stories, and a talent that the kids can appreciate or emulate/be inspired by, etc. Project Runway in particular is wonderful for talking about being nice, teamwork, appreciating people of different backgrounds and inclusiveness. It’s a subtle way of showing diversity and inclusiveness at work.

        5. Fixer Upper. I’m interested in the real estate and design, but my kids looooooove Chip and demo day; and their kids, the reveal!

        We also watch a lot of sport — Olympics, Wimbledon, Tour de France, Formula One, etc. They showcase different countries, abilities, etc. We often just flick on the sports channel to see what’s on. My daughter once became obsessed with weightlifting and woodchopping!

        1. American Ninja Warrior and sports! All the sports! We adults like them, and the kids like them too – and we talk about them, which I think is key. You can learn all sorts of lessons from sports – biology (my daughters know a lot of muscles and how you get them), math, teamwork, etc.

          My little ones gets 1 show on the Disney channel in the am because she wakes up too early for me to get ready for work for before hand. She snuggles into my bed and looks so cute watching Mickey while i get ready. The big one gets a show in the afternoon while her sister naps – everyone likes to veg for a bit in the late afternoon, kids are people too! And we do pizza movie night on Friday. I like our approach – it’s not a big deal so it’s not a big deal. Fingers crossed this continues!

      8. My kids love When Calls the Heart, we watch that together. We love watching the Brady Bunch together and they even have liked Dick Van Dyke. They are 7 and 4.

  9. Our 4-year old watches 1-2 shows while I get ready in the morning. We’ve stuck to the big TV and only use IPads or phones when we travel. Then we have weekly movie nights where we all pile on the sofa together (even if I’m actually working on my phone) to watch together. This has felt like a good balance for us. I think no tv at all for kids will just set them up to be crazy about it and binge later in life, so I’m all for teaching them it’s a small part of our day and it’s a treat!

  10. It sounds like you have a reasonable system for your family – maybe I think that because its somewhat close to what we do at home! We are a no screen time on weekday family for our younger kids (5,6.5) But let them watch TV on weekend mornings. That started because my 6.5 year old has woken up by at least 5:30 every morning since he was born and it’s the weekend – I NEED TO RECHARGE MY FRIENDLY BATTERIES. I was also pretty limiting on what they watched at first but now that they are more school aged I’ve backed off because I had the NO TV mom growing up and at times it became kind of a social issue for me. Every kid at the lunch table or playground was talking about some show and it left me feeling very left out and didn’t give me as many openings to get into conversations. I think its ok to let them watch a few “popular” shows for that reason and I tend to try and watch those with them. When something on screen makes me cringe I just try to make it a teachable moment and discuss with the kids the parts I liked and didn’t like.

  11. “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” This is my parenting mantra. I have three girls ages, 9, 6 and 4. I homeschool all three of them, so we are at home all day, most days. Like most parents, I have a love/hate relationship with screens, but they have their good points. I use dvds and quality/slow-paced iPads games to reinforce topics learned. To be honest, some days there are several hours of screen time, while other days there are none. I figure it will all balance out. Also, because they are at home more than most children, they get a lot of instructed free play, both inside and outside. I figure that trumps any amount of screen time they have. Personally, I think a bigger problem is lack of adequate free play.

    Now, after saying all of this, my youngest does have a (necessary) addiction to screens, which we will have to break. She was diagnosed with leukemia two years ago, and has been home bound the majority of that time. The times that she does get to go out, we are so paranoid about germs that we travel with a tablet. It keeps her occupied and prevents her from attracting unwanted germs. She also uses the tablet at every hospital visit. In this capacity, I am so grateful that she has this option. But yeah, over time we will have to wean her off of the screens. (

    If you worry enough to care this much, then you’re doing better than you think. I have no doubt that you’re a great mama. Your kids need YOU, and it’s clear that they get you. I love your blog, and these “controversial” posts are always my favorite.

    1. I love that ‘moderation’ quote. And GOOD FOR YOU to homeschool. I truly have thought about it, but then I know I can’t so then I think – “can’t you just find a teacher and have then do it in your home?” and then thats just crazy. I mean, thats a whole other conversation and not one that we are considering in LA, but when ever I fantasize about moving to the mountain house permanently and commuting the homeschool thing comes up (homeschool is huge up there strangely). Anyway, good job mama. And I hope all is good with your daughter and no shame or guilt about her TV habits – EVER. A HUGE hug to you. xx

      1. I used to work for a family where the mom stayed home and homeschooled their six(!) kids. I was the nanny but helped her homeschool too. Was pretty crazy but lots of fun.

    2. That was supposed to be “unstructured” not “instructed”. Quite the oxymoron.

  12. So many great points made in this article, thank you Emily! I have a 5, 3 and 1 year old, and I work at home (I’m glad that I’m not the only one that loathes the “stay” at home mom description). We’re those weird parents that don’t have a tv or ipad, so similar to your mountain home, out of sight-out of mind as far as technology goes with our kids. We’re huge on letting the boys play outside the majority of the time, or with open ended toys inside. I do miss the days of our childhood where all the neighborhood kids were outside playing together and we wouldn’t come in unless it was to eat or sleep. I feel like with how prevalent technology is today, you have to make a trip to the park in order to interact with other kids instead of just taking a step outside your front door and seeing other kids ready to play. Once when we were potty-training our oldest, and he was scared of going #2 on the toilet, we showed him a short clip of Bob Ross painting and his voice was just so soothing, that it helped relax him and get over his fear. Now whenever he sees a sunset, he exclaims, “look what Bob Ross did!”. And then for his 5th birthday, we took him and our 3 year old to a 40 minute, 3-D movie at the iMax theater called Dream Big: Engineering. It was such a fun experience for them both, and it was the perfect amount of time for their attention span too. We still have no plans at this stage to do anything further with technology, but that being said, once they’re all in elementary school, I’d love to carry on the tradition that my technology adverse parents had with us. (Sidenote – it never felt strict growing up because we were always busy playing outside or practicing/playing sports. I had never even heard of or seen an episode of Friends until I got to college , and frankly, that was ok.) Anywho, every Friday after school my super health conscience parents would splurge and buy pizza for us and we would watch Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman together. Then on Saturday evenings, we would fold laundry together as a family while watching an old school movie (think The Ten Commandments , Swiss Family Robinson or a Doris Day/Audrey Hepburn movie) and we would always eat popcorn with peanuts, raisins, and m&m’s along with apple slices. Once we started playing competitive sports and started traveling every weekend, this stopped, but I still have such fond memories of this time. Oh, and in case this comes off as super preachy or unattainable, I most definitely feel every minute of the arsenic hour, and I don’t begrudge or think less of some of my friends who do expose their kids to more technology than we do. They are still winning at this parenting thing and have amazing kids!

    1. Yes to all that you said, Natalie!
      I grew up in the 80s in the former GDR. After school we were out on the streets with our friends. Almost nobody had a phone so we just went to all the houses in the neighborhoof, looking for whatever child was free to play. We could receive the 2 channels of western germanys broadcast. Those channels started broadcasting at 5 or 6 afternoon and showed one science show or one older american show like “Scarecrow and Mrs. King” and nothing more. I think that was a pretty healthy way to be raised.

  13. You are BRAVE for bringing up this topic! I have found that I am a pretty relaxed mom about TV. I am a stay at home mom and have three boys (11,9,4) for reference. We have a family movie night on friday nights. We eat huge amounts of stove popped popcorn for dinner. I know, I am Bad. WE LOVE IT.

    I have tried the after school hour a million ways and every year is different. Sometimes its right to homework, then 1 hour of TV then outside to play until we have an evening sports thing or dinner is ready. one year my son had a really tough year socially and whenhe got home he needed to veg out before diving into HW. Every season demands something different. We all deserve an escape once in a while to unwind. Escaping everyday and all the time is unhealthy. Find the balance for you.

    Your mom is right. Cooking dinner is hard enough and a daily challenge for parents. Why not enjoy the experience? Hangry Tired kids at your pants leg while you pull dinner together? no thanks. My kids like to help me now, but when they were little TV all the way.

    I have found that my family doesn’t always do things that other families do and thats what makes us happy unique and sometimes a hot mess, but CONNECTED to each other. Thats the end goal, isn’t?

    1. That IS the end goal. These comments are making me feel SO GOOD and empowered and just generally worrying less. Thank you all so much.

  14. We just had our second child five months ago and yeah, our screen time went through the roof for our three year old. We’ve recently scaled way way back … mostly as punishment/incentive with potty training and it’s been nice. Now it’s a big treat.

    One thing a parenting expert told me was to use the sleep mode on the tv. Set it for 30 minutes and walk away. When it turns off it’s the tv’s fault.

  15. I woke up at 4:45 this morning to sneak a few minutes of work in before my kids wake up. I tiptoed into the living room to grab my laptop and was greeted by my son hollering “MOM” from his room next door. Needless to say, I am now sitting next to him watching Daniel Tiger while responding to emails (Creative Galaxy is also a favorite in our house–imagine Daniel Tiger as an alien who likes to make art projects on various planets…Amazon original!). This is an aberration from our typical routine (kids are 4 1/2 and 2 1/2–just a bit older than yours) and our general rule is they get one show in the afternoons when we get home from preschool or, on days we are home, after nap time. It is the way we transition between activities, helps them readjust to real life after naps (aka the zombie stage), and let’s my husband or I get a jump start on dinner. Any TV watching out of that cycle is an aberration though every once in a while we will watch a show together as a family (amazingly my kids find “House Shows” (HGTV) or cooking shows (my daughter likes to pretend to be Candice from the latest The Great British Baking Show)) or a movie (aka the only movie my daughter will watch because it has no bad guys, Sing). I started out as a no TV mom but the second kid did me in and I feel fine about our current arrangement.

  16. Emily, I feel like I could have written this! Almost every word. My own experience has mirrored yours to such an astonishing degree. I have a four-year-old boy, a two-year-old girl, and a fast-paced career that seemed to really take off AFTER having children. I too struggle with scarcity causing so much LOVE for tv. We also have a projector and our favorite thing to do is pop pocorn in the air popper (they are delighted by it!) and watch the Planet Earth series on Netflix. (and all of your favorites, too). And when my son sings the Daniel Tiger songs to my daughter when she’s upset, I can tell myself that all those hours of DT weren’t rotting his brain toooo badly!

  17. Before starting this parenting journey I too was anti-screen time. With my oldest (almost 2 1/2), she watched very little for the 18 months, usually just when she was sick and we were snuggling on the couch. My husband and I both work full time, so she’s in daycare 5 days a week, so there isn’t much time to watch TV M-F. Once she hit 18 months we started using it as a babysitter a bit too much so I could prepare dinner, get a little me time, and some of the other things you mentioned. We’ve since cut back and she really only watches it on weekend mornings or especially cold or rainy days. That said, I do now have a 3 month old, so there are times when my husband is gone and I’m home with both kids and have to turn on the TV to entertain the toddler so I can breastfeed the baby. I know I’m rambling through this post, but I think my point is to say that you just need to figure out what works for your family and what you are comfortable with. I am one of 7 kids and my parents would let us watch an hour or two of TV in the evenings (once we were school age and if we’d finished homework, chores, etc), and we could watch an hour or two on weekend mornings. I think all of us now have a healthy relationship with TV and none of us watch a huge amount of TV. My bigger problem now is that my husband is a sports fanatic, so we often have some sort of game going on in the background on the weekends. Luckily my daughter isn’t very interested, so she goes about her merry way and plays elsewhere. (P.S. My daughter loves Moana, and I feel like I would let her watch it every day because she’s such a strong female character!!)

  18. I don’t have any advice on screens/tv per se. I think every kid and family and season is different. However I do want to suggest audio books for that arsenic hour or as a wind down. It can be super relaxing and I feel like their might be scientific reasons it’s better than tv for developing minds but I have no studies or experts to quote.

    1. You know, just yesterday our preschool teacher told us about audio books. She does 1/2 hour with the kids at times (she is alone with 6 kids for 8 hours, so bless her heart she needs a break, too). the kids just sit there and listen to curious George and love it. So we are going to do that at times, too. I mean, Brian and I are both ADDICTED to podcasts. thanks for the reminder!

      1. Emily, there are some great podcasts that have stories for little kids. My girls love Circle Round and they often beg to listen to them at home!

        As far as your post, thank you for bringing it up. I always think of what the end goal is for my kiddos. I am trying to teach them to be responsible adults and make reasonable choices for themselves. For instance, at home, we don’t typically let them have treats or dessert without eating dinner. That is boundary we have set. However, when we went on vacation, we had one night where we at ice cream for dinner. Will we always break that rule….of course not, but as adults we occasionally treat ourselves. I hope that makes sense!

      2. Check out your library for audio books. Mine has lots of audio books that are paired with the actual book so the kids can see the pictures and turn the pages as they listen. Even though my kids are 11 we still listen to audio books in the car. It’s a great way to get them to “read” books that they wouldn’t normally choose (because I choose them!) and kids can listen to and understand books that are above their actual reading level. My kids have great vocabularies for their age because of this. If we hear a word they may not know, I’ll pause the book and ask them if they know what it means and explain if they don’t. I’m surprised at how many words they know now that I had no clue about until I was years older than they are!

      3. Audio books in the car are magic!

        I was pretty relaxed about TV time but did severely limit video game time for my kids when they were in elementary school. Our deal then was every half hour of reading time earned a half hour of video game time. I am an avid reader and wanted my kids to love reading too. Between this and constant audio books in the car (those 20 min errand runs add up!), my kids had broad exposure to children’s literature. They are now 13, 16 and 18 and are smart kids and excellent students. They all went through an avid bookworm phase and while that has dropped off as they hit high school and college, I do think they will return to being readers as adults.

    2. I second this suggestion for audiobooks! I don’t have kids, but I know my boss does have young kids, and she listens to audiobooks in the car with them. The last time I was in her car, she had a biography of Lincoln going. She said her kids loved it. I am also a fan of audiobooks, and think they’re a good alternative to TV. The Harry Potter series is great on audio, too!

  19. Just wait until you have a 14 year old who can stay up later than you and has a phone, internet access and knows all your Netflix logins. ?

    I remember telling my parents (ha!) not to let my oldest watch more than a half an hour of TV when he stayed at their house overnight as a toddler. LOL (at myself) now. Four kids into it, you just accept that things change at every stage, and you’re going to have to monitor, evaluate, and adjust at each stage. (Bigger fight has become electronics and YouTube kids “unboxing” videos. Ugh.)

    Limits work some days and others are days where you have deadlines, dinner, sports or whatever- we just try to say out loud what the expectations are for them turning off electronics (“That goes off in 10 minutes” or “That goes off after the show”) or why we are bending our (loose) rules that day / that time so it doesn’t come back to bite us next time (“Last time you let me…). Nothing in the AM if they can’t get ready for the bus in time. And nothing after school until homework is done.

    Ultimately it’s up to us to enforce the boundaries and we’ve learned to not stress over exact rules. We keep trying to help them learn how to make good choices on what they are watching and if it is worth their time or if they could be doing something more interesting.

    Little kids are tough – it gets easier as they start more independent play.
    Also – Your mom is exactly right! ?

    Have a good day!

  20. Wow! Great ideas and very inspiring. If I could change one thing about my son’s early childhood, I would vastly reduce the amount of screen time he had (and even then he would still be watching much, much more than your kids do in a week). Knowing that and understanding why you are fighting the good fight will do loads to help me make better choices in the future! Thanks for being open an honest, even if this is an unexpected post. 😉

  21. My son just turned last Saturday and we let him watch about 2-3 hours of TV on the weekend of his shows when he asks or accepts our offer. It wasn’t always like that though. He watches the new Sesame Street on HBO Go, which are shorter episodes than the PBS or Llama Llama on Netflix. Sometimes he will request to see more of a show, but we turn off the TV after 2 full episodes. He can sit through an animated kiddie movie too, which we have done on occasion.

    When we first introduced kid shows at 18 months it was LionGuard and his interest in that show has since waned, but we read the books all the time. Then he came home from daycare one time asking for Elmo. For awhile, we let him watch a program every evening. Then he began to expect TV and wouldn’t handle “no” well. So we stopped altogether. No TV in the evenings or weekends to just reset. We’ve done that a couple times on purpose consciously eliminated TV for us and him. Most of the time, the TV is just off.

    The window from when we arrive home from daycare to bedtime is small just two hours. Dinner, playing or reading, and changing for bed can take up the whole time. Sure, I could find 15 minutes to put something on, but the time when TV would be helpful when I am trying to finish up dinner and put plates on the table happens to be when nothing will distract him because he is hangry lol and literally on my heels.

    I will say that our screen time isn’t just TV; it includes FaceTime with loved ones, music videos where we dance too, and YouTube videos of things that interest him like kids riding bikes. Side note; his Woom balance bike arrived yesterday and I can’t wait for him to try it out this weekend.

  22. I have a 20 month old and full disclosure – he’s either in daycare or with his grandparents during the day Monday – Friday so we don’t have the same pressures of people who care for their children all day everyday. Our compromise is to let him watch ‘real’ stuff – mainly YouTube videos of animals, or trucks or planes or weirdly babies and only watch it with an adult who is explaining it to him so it is interactive. He’ll watch five minutes or so then wander off but he seems to really enjoy those five minutes! Otherwise we’re pretty strict about no screens….I figure he’ll get plenty of exposure when he’s older!

    1. OH we watch a TON of youtube videos of animals. And we started planet earth. I love the suggestion about the mechanics show – Charlie specifically is super into space and engineering. He watches this time-lapse video of how a plane gets put together over and over. its awesome.

  23. Fun topic with as many ‘right’ ways to do it as there are thoughts on it. Your mom is smart. I’m no parenting expert, but I have seven from 20-12. We actually went 12 years with no TV (we owned a TV and got free library movies) b/c we were saving for adoption and that was just one of many ‘little’ ways we could save. Last summer we added the basic back in to our lives – I don’t even know when my husband did it or why exactly, but it is great. When we had TV with our older ones as young ones, it was limited and guarded and a wonderful tool for me as a mother/homemaker/tutor/manager of our housing complex (husband went back to school to be a veterinarian). And it was educational. I cannot stand stupid, brain sucking shows/themes, but Thomas the Tank Engine was a favorite, Winnie the Pooh (every temperment shown in ea. character – love it!) and ….. The weather channel, history channel, Jeopardy, Animal planet. My kids seriously learned so much from those channels and occasional, they were scared (tornados/hurricaines) or sad (Killer whale eating a sea lion), but that is life! And….I am an extrememly emotional, sensitive woman. I cry when a cute child tells a story that doesn’t even make sense. So, I’m not being callused when I say it is life. More than the “it’s life”, it was an opportunity to walk my children through a situation (sad or scary) with the security and freedom of helping them process emotions while not having them directly affected. Does that make sense? We didn’t live in tornado alley, nor were we anywhere near hurricaines. Our natural disaster of choice was forest fire, and I reminded them often that we have LOTS of warning to safely get all our special stuff and leave. So, I used it as an opportunity to teach and guide my children through complex emotions from a safe place – on my lap, in our living room. I had terrible fears as a child and lots of nightmares, and I think this would have helped when I was young.
    Now that our children are older and just plain busy, we are lucky to get in 2 hours a week total – as a family or individually. We love it when Jeopardy fits into our schedule. LOVE the Olympics. LOVE March Madness. We sometimes watch an old Amazing Race series…we travel the world vicariously through the Race and with the other educational shows I mention below. My youngest two are 12. Those two and my 13 and 14 year olds are ecstatic to watch Wild Kratts when it works though all four would deny it to friends. I think they missed that show in the appropriate stage and find it so funny and clever while educational.
    School House Rocks. Buy it! Yes, it is fast and blinky lights but oh my gosh is it a classic and so fun when your little ones are singing Conjuction Junction while walking down the street and adults who don’t know them join in! It really is a great, albeit basic, education on all topics.
    Planet Earth. Beautiful. They will travel the world in your living room. Sad – yes…but safely sad and great conversations about animals living the way they were created…no right or wrong in their lives.
    Any educational movie at the library. Remember, you can read a book aloud to a child above their actual level. Same goes for movies…educational ones. They will learn bits and pieces. The National Parks movie series are fantastic and super enjoyable.

    1. OOH I love all these suggestions and good for you for 7 kids!! My parents had 6 that spanned 20 years, so more spread out but man I can’t imagine. xx

  24. PS: I hate the phrase “stay-at-home mom” too. It makes us sound like recluses instead of hardworking family managers. “Homemaker” may be old-fashioned, but I prefer it–it focuses on what I strive to do, instead of where I am. 😉

      1. I work all the time (at an office, at home on the family, and at home on paid projects). I still think I’m the family manager, too, so I’m not sure “family manager” is the right phrase to replace “work at home” or “homemaker.” Basically, we seem to be trying to find words to differentiate between work that earns dollars, and work that saves dollars (if I were working at home full-time, I’d be saving on daycare). So, essentially, what we all need to come around to is the idea that both parents are working all the time on something, and get over ourselves about trying to differentiate between how the work is tied to money.

      1. I love ‘home maker’. “family manager” is accurate but it does sound cold, where as just having the word ‘home’ in there makes it feel more loving. Dunno. As long as we get rid of ‘stay at home mom’ and just write ‘work at home’ instead. Such an easy switch!

  25. First off I have to say that you are an incredibly good and thoughtful mother who obviously puts a ton of energy into your littles. Em, whether they watched zero television, or a few hours a day, I have no doubt you are doing right by them. It is obvious you love them dearly and that they FEEL it, which is what matters most. The rest isn’t too important.

    Do you look them in the eyes and give them your attention when they have something to say? (Quite frankly not realistic to do ALL the time as they basically never stop talking, regardless of age, but one can gage when it’s important to do so.) Do you light up when they walk into the room? Do these things and they will know they are loved and the importance they hold in the family.

    As for screen time, I’ve never had a set schedule. TV is off limits before school, while doing homework, and at bedtime. That’s it. I have 6 children ages 23 to 3 and none of them are addicted to television, nor were they ever. It’s never been a novelty, therefore never revered. I’d say my school aged kids average watching television an hour per day, and my toddlers two hours per day. “Work at home for the family”, mom here. ?‍♀️ Over the years I’ve had friends who have strict limits on screen time and their kids come to our house and are immediately glued to the television. They get in a sort of trance and choose IT over actively playing, (which I’ve then powered off obvs). Whereas my kids would NEVER choose television over friend time. I don’t claim to be doing it “right” but it’s a little food for thought. Perhaps I’ve just lucked out, WHO KNOWS!

  26. My children are older now, 9 and 12 (almost 13). We had similar rules as you do for TV when they were younger. They have adjusted well over the years. Now they must make sure the dishwasher has been loaded or unloaded and any laundry that needs to be folded has been done before they can watch TV. That is after they have had some form of exercise or have been outside playing. After homework, chores, and play, they usually only have about a half hour to read. We make it mandatory that all electronics are turned off a half hour before bedtime, and they are required to read. Gives their brain some time to wind down without electronic stimulation. Right now we are the only parents we know that don’t let our almost 13 year old daughter have social media. I’ve explained it to her and as of now she is compliant. I feel she is too young and it will feel like competition to see all the “great” things everyone will post. It is never fun to be the strict parent…sorry it doesn’t get easier just different. I think you are doing a great job. Not because I know you personally but just because you are actually concerned about these issues.

  27. My kids (1 and 4) can have TV pretty much anytime they want it….. and you know what… the hardly EVER ask for it anymore!

    I put on a show when I get home at 5 – so I can clean up and make dinner. Sometimes they get playing nicely and I don’t have to turn it on for a while. My older son gets one show (not movie) before bed. Sometimes he chooses a puzzle instead.

    I feel like limiting them give the TV more power! I go with the flow and some days they get tons and sometimes we don’t turn it on. Depends on the weather (we live in a cold climate so winters we are stuck inside).

    Its the same with the ipad. My son used to beg for it all the time. We left it out one week and he binged it… then got bored!!!!! He uses is maybe twice a week here and there (only to play educational games)

    Every kid is different.

    Favorite movies in our house not on your list: Cars, Cars3, Planes, Planes Fire & Rescue, Zootopia!

  28. This is slightly off topic, but you said that Charlie’s 3rd year was tough in general. Did it get better as he got older? Is this the same for other parents? I have a 3 yo son (3 yrs 3 mos now), and oh my goodness. The tantrums. The whining. The inability to deal with even the slightest change to the routine. I feel like I’m drowning in it. I feel like a terrible parent because I am having the hardest time staying patient with him. Ugh.

    As for TV, he gets to watch some only after he finishes eating his dinner (so maybe an hour before bed, but now that days are longer and warmer this is slowly becoming less). And he probably gets 2 hours a day on the weekends because both his dad and I like to get out of the house and do stuff, but some days this is much more depending on the circumstance. His sister is 9 mos and gets none, though I don’t shield her from looking at any screens like I did with my son (second child, plus she doesn’t seem to care about it AT ALL).

    1. Yes, it gets better! Mine were quite pliable and sweet at two, four was hilarious and full of discovery. Three was a loooong year. I often think I would have another child if I could just ship the child off to camp for that tantrum and BIG emotion filled third year.

    2. Threenagers suck. Four and five were delightful. Once they turn six they are bigger kids and their problems and challenges get bigger.

      You’re a good mom because you are worried about being a good mom. I work with kids who’ve experienced trauma, abuse and neglect. The adults in their young lives didn’t give a fig about what kind of parents they were (mostly because of inter-generational cycles of poverty and abuse and because they were so consumed with meeting their needs after having been so damaged by their childhoods that they didn’t have the knowledge or capacity to be a great parent).

      Everyone cut yourself a break. Try your best. Love your kids. Teach them about being good people. Everyone breathe and laugh and love.

      1. Oh my gosh THREE has been the WORST!!! (And I thought two was hard – HAHA). Thankfully she’s about to turn four and I’m hoping for some light at the end of the tunnel because this Mama is READY!

    3. My son is 9years now and EVERY AGE WAS HORROR until he went to first grade.
      Honestly. Sometimes I could not wait until the weekend was over and he would go to kindergarten. But on the other side it was our own fault because we were strictly anti-TV in the first years. Live would have been so much easier with the screen but we worried that in the end all the whining and tantrums when you switch it off wouldn’t be worth it. We’ll never know.

      We introduced “Shaun the sheep”, a beautiful english show with 5min. episodes when he was like 4 years old because we didn’t want him to be totally different from his kindergarten buddys. Now with school he watches almost no TV during school week.
      On fridays we have a mother son date and watch movies. It used to be every movie about sport that you can imagine (like Jerry Mcguire or Moneyball etc), now he is into car shows (Grand Tour on Amazon, Fastest Car on Netflix).

      Our top movies that are fun for kids AND parents (pre netflix and amazon era):
      RIO 1

      We also enjoyed Fixer Upper.

  29. Read all the comments and they are all good. My only comment is that I love the picture above and especially note that Charlie is the only one who doesn’t look like a zombie. No offense to the other two cuties!

  30. I have a 3 years old and a 1 year old. Neither watches TV. This is because we have never made it an option. We ourselves dont watch much TV, so that probably helps. Once in a while we let the 3yo watch youtube videos, but not often enough for it to be a thing. The 3 yo loves books so we took that cue and run with it. I imagine kids are all different, so what work for us is simply that: it works for us. Our kids don’t know what they’re missing from not watching TV, because they weren’t introduced to TV.

    Someone here said the kids will grow up how they’re going to grow up no matter how you parent them. I shudder to think about parenting my kids that way. True we shouldn’t stress about every little decision, even though it’s very tempting to do so. But I believe being thoughtful, purposeful and consistent increases our chances of raising good kids.

  31. A topic close to my heart (or worried head). I agree with you that there are so many quality shows out there now. I don’t think we are harming our kids by allowing some screen time. Everyone needs to find how it works for their family and what messages / behaviors they are comfortable sharing with their littles.

    To counter the pull of screens we use audio stories & music for downtime, we have easily accessible art supplies and open-ended toys. AND we talk with our kids about why we don’t allow unlimited screen time. Even very young they understood that they felt tired & wound-up at the same time after watching for too long.

    I also am very aware that screens are EVERYWHERE. I have become very careful about my screen time in front of my kids. I don’t scroll on my phone or on my laptop in front of them. We are trying to model healthy screen habits because we will someday have teenagers!

    Our current favorite movies: My Neighbor Totoro, Ponyo, Winnie the Pooh (the one narrated by John Cleese), The Curious George Movie (actually all three available on Netflix are pretty good)

  32. 2 shows that I LOVE to recommend- Sarah & Duck and Puffin Rock- both on Netflix. They are slow shows, humorous, and positive for both kids and parents! I love that the music doesn’t give me a headache, a la “Chuggington”.

    For me- a mom with a full-time job that often works from home around my daughter’s nap schedule and 3 hour preschool- TV can be a necessary evil. I constantly feel mom guilt about it, but I also know that sometimes I just need to get through the day, too!

    1. Puffin Rock is THE. BEST. SHOW. My husband and I *both* love it, in addition to our 19-month-old, and we never have a problem watching it because even after probably a dozen times through the whole series (just two seasons) we still aren’t tired of it. It’s the only show my daughter loves and asks to watch, so I can’t complain that sometimes she zones out while watching.

  33. We have a soon to be 5 yo boy whom LOVES television. So we’ve had to make the IPad disappear, and our IPhone is allowed strictly to listen to music (he also LOVES music).
    What I couldn’t stand was when he’d just sit there to watch shows like PJ Masks. It had zero message and the plot was ALWAYS the same. Pretty numbing if you ask me… So I started getting him interested in movies. And not just your typical cartoon movie (though he absolutely loves COCO and SING!), but movies that have good music and would relate to something we’d talk about: BACK TO THE FUTURE was a winner for him. So was HOME ALONE I & II or THE KARATE KID (80’s version).
    One thing my Mom always did when I was a child was to allow me to explore anything that I had a strong interest in even though it might not have been totally age appropriate (like her buying me Madonna’s book SEX when I was 13 because I absolutely loved Madonna and needed it in my collection of memorabilia – or buying me the I, CHRISTIANE F. book because I had read an excerpt of it in a magazine and was curious to read the rest). And I turned out a very descent person.

    My son loves the music of the Blues Brothers, so we let him watch the movie. He loves the music of Elvis Presley, so we let him watch “Jail House Rock”. I love that he can connect the conversations we have with a movie or music.

    Any how, back to television…5pm-6pm is when our son watches his movies or music videos. It allows him to unwind and me to prepare dinner . Also, when dinner is ready, it is hardly ever a problem having him turn the TV off, because by then, he is starving!

  34. Emily, you seem like a great mom! I honestly don’t think there is one perfect way to raise a kid. What works for one family, or for that matter, one kid isn’t going to work for everyone and people can be very aggressive with their opinions of parenting. I have 2 kids 6 and 9 and we have tried our hardest to limit their screen time as best we can. Some days we do great and they don’t watch any. Somedays we are all melting down and tired and they watch more than I’d like. It’s a constant balancing act. But at least for me, I’ve learned that setting strict rules like: no tv after 5 or no tv on school days just sets us up for failure and feeling bad when we break it and sets my kids up to sneak it now that they know how to use the remotes! Good luck finding the right balance for you in his moment!

    1. I agree, that every family is different, and you should just do the best you can, and that’s the best you can do, and it’s GOOD! When my kids were younger, we allowed 2-3 show total, after they had done a quiet time/sometimes before dinner. They are now 5 and 8, and they get 1-2 shows after they get home from school, or other screen time,. That’s really all they have time for, and then it’s dinner, and getting ready for bed, etc. We sometimes do a movie night, but sometimes they have extended screen time instead (their choice). They get 3 shows on weekend days, and have to complete morning chores before those start (our kids get 3 house chores to complete every Saturday morning – we’re ogres. :)). We still screen what they can watch, but definitely have been more lax with the 5 year old. Hope that helps!

  35. Our kids are 4 and 2. They wake up, get dressed and then they watch a quality show (the ones you mentioned are great) while we make coffee/breakfast. They usually watch another at around 5 or 6pm while we make supper (thumbs up to your mom)! If one is napping and the other is not, will sometimes watch a bit more. Movies on weekends. I would say that they don’t really get excited about watching it and we often don’t really say no when they ask (they usually ask at the times mentioned above) and always give them warning when we are about to turn it off. That being said, I do feel guilty as I also rely on it…so thank you for writing this. Helps to know that others feel the same!

    1. This is almost exactly how our household operates as well with a 5 year old and 2.5 year old.

      We love Wild Kratts and Cat in the Hat. Our oldest has learned so much from both of them and will spit out random facts that she remembers (magnets have two poles! butterflies taste with their feet! etc).

      For movies my kids LOVE Paddington and Paddington 2. They are the first non-animated movies that either has shown an interest in (and they are funny for adults too!)

      1. Paddington! Yes! We took them to the movie theatre to see Paddington 2…both my husband and I cried SO. MUCH!

  36. Ahhhh, the age old dilemma. I have no answers bc it’s always trial and error and what works with my toddlers isn’t great for my big kids (8&9). But! Two more great show recommendations! Mr Rogers and Reading Rainbow. My big and little kids LOVE them. Slow paced, all available on amazon prime and I don’t feel bad if the 20-30 minutes turns into an hour or two bc they are learning so much! And it’s slow paced.
    Good luck figuring out what works best for your crew!

    1. a BIG SECONDING to Mr. Rogers! We definitely love “Dan-Dan”–but whether it’s the pacing of the show or that Mr. Rogers is more engaging, for all Daniel Tiger’s wonderfulness Mr. Rogers is in another league.

  37. I notice that my 5 yr old gets inspired to play certain things after a show
    ie. He’ll get out specific animals and build an elaborate habitat after Wild Kratts
    I think both my kids are very differently behaved from tv/iPad so I think there isn’t a One Size Fits All system but what’s most important is sticking to the rules you set while being willing to assess strengths and weaknesses in the plan and be willing to adjust the plan.

  38. I have a high school child, and I’ve been a preschool teacher for many years. I totally get your concern and wish more parents gave more thought to the screen time choices they make and their effects. At the same time, I think you are being too hard on yourself!
    Far more important than the actual amount of time children watch tv is the purpose of it. I don’t mean the purpose or message of the show/movie, I mean the reason why you are allowing a child to watch tv in the first place. There are many acceptable reasons to let children watch tv: to decompress a little bit, to have some time alone or to have a shared experience (like movie night), to satisfy an interest (like a kids non-fiction/science show), etc. Truthfully the purpose can be as simple as mommy needs twenty minutes for a shower, or someone’s got to get dinner on the table (you know, the daily-ness of life), or because sometimes it’s just fun. Conversely there are detrimental purposes for letting kids have screen time, most of which can be categorized as sanctioned social withdrawal. When kids get screen time as prevention of boredom or in direct replacement of social interaction, then there’s a big problem. We’ve all seen this more than we’d like. Kids staring at Ipads in restaurants instead of interacting at the table, or kids looking at screens while adults have even very brief conversations. Recently I was at a short classical music performance, which was totally family friendly, and the 10 year old child next to me played a phone game the entire time; he didn’t look up even once. His sibling was one of the performing musicians, and the screen gave him permission to withdraw from that social setting. It is crucial to language development that children observe/overhear benign and ordinary adult conversations. It’s a significant way they learn new vocabulary words, understand discourse, compromise, conflict resolution, manners, and on and on. When screen time interferes with that, it’s a big problem.
    I totally agree that with those who’ve said there are seasons of tv watching as your children age. My high schooler watches almost zero tv because homework and other interests take up too much time. (Fine by me!) Yet she has ridiculous amounts of screen time because textbooks are now online, and every assignment has some component that necessitates a computer.
    Bottom line, your kids are tiny, and they have people to interact with and plenty of enriching things to do. Be gentle with yourself here. You’re doing a great job!

  39. I love this! Here’s what i do:
    1. let me 4 year old watch TV in the late afternoon/evening after school while I cook dinner.
    2. Limit it to really good shows — we love PBS kids as well. he is into curious george and dinosaur train. Honestly, he learns SO much from those shows, like about how siphons work and what Pangea was and on and on. T
    3. BC of his weekday habit, he kind of thinks of TV as something that helps him relax, as opposed to an activity. So on weekends we watch at the same time of day, and he is excited to do things that are more fun and engaging during the morning and earlier in the afternoon. when 4/5pm hits he likes to relax in front of the TV for a bit. And sometimes when he has energy, he turns the TV on his own and plays instead.
    4. We have a hard outer limit of 2 hours per day — it really helped that our pediatrician had written that somewhere at some point. My son hates breaking rules from ‘the world’ and so he doesn’t argue with that. We rarely reach that point, but it’s nice for all of us that the limit is there.

  40. We have a no TV rule for school days. On the weekends we have bite size rules. 30 mins here and there scattered throughout the day. They do end up watching more than the recommended 2 hrs. Honestly, I don’t stress out about it. I used to watch TV non stop growing up and honestly, I think I turned out ok 🙂 My kids are 7 and 11.

  41. I have never commented here before (any blog, actually), but long time reader and mom to a 7 year old. We tried everything with the TV: no TV, Ipad as TV, TV hung on the wall with Netflix and have finally settled on an old TV DVD/VHS combo that we put on rollers and keep in the closet. Our daughter is much more interested in playing outside with her friends these days (yay!) and also the effort required to roll a TV out of the closet and put in a DVD normally means she finds something else to do. And, as life would have it, just when we feel like we’ve won this battle, she is begging for a smartphone. It never ends.

  42. My kids are a bit older (6 and 8) but one trick I found useful was to allow podcasts and audiobooks as a substitute for TV on school days. We’ve found some really fun science podcasts (Brains On, Wow in the World) and some storytelling ones too (Disney storybook). Audiobooks can be downloaded for free from an app connected to my local library (Overdrive). My kids often draw while they listen. We can be in the same room together and I can listen too (and then discuss with them later), but still get other things done like cook dinner or pack lunches. It’s still giving them time to just chill quietly but doesn’t seem quite as passive as TV. Thoughts?

    1. Do you listen to these on the computer? or your phone? I want to try to do this too! Thanks!

  43. Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. I know it’s on Prime, not sure if it’s available elsewhere.

    I adore Fred Rogers. I actually like my kids *more* after they watch his show.

    1. Tumbleleaf is another good one, and the more recent nature documentaries from David Attenborough (Planet Earth, Blue Planet…) are also wonderful and whatever the opposite of frenetic is.

      Mr. Rogers is in a class by himself, though.

  44. Loved reading your perspective, Emily, and all the comments so far! (Also, one movie rec that our 2.5-year-old is obsessed with and I don’t mind at all is Finding Dory).

    Honestly, the idea of setting strict rules around screentime makes me feel a little claustrophobic and like I’m just asking for guilt when I inevitably break the rules I made 5 minutes ago. We just approach TV on a day-by-day basis. On a weekday, Sesame Street is probably on in the morning while we try to assemble ourselves as adults. On a weekend, it’s a good bet that whoever gets up with her first is going straight to the couch to watch a movie and chill together.

    Getting ready for dinner, honestly sometimes I want my own noise in the background too! So I might turn on something (lately it’s been the Great British Baking Show, pretty inoffensive), which my daughter is kind of curious about (“what are they making?) but usually starts to ignore and just gets back to playing on her own or feels inspired to go bake in her play kitchen.

    I like trying to be chill and balanced and generally not make it a big deal. I like the idea of her knowing the TV is not just for her, that sometimes we don’t get to watch what we want, that sometimes we don’t watch TV at all, that sometimes it’s just on and we don’t always need to care about it.

    Whenever we decide we’ve had enough, we just say ok, that’s enough TV for today and move on to something else. If she protests (or throws a screaming tantrum), we just say maybe we’ll watch again tomorrow, or this weekend and go for distractions.

  45. Hi emily … just wanted to give you a high five on this post. I almost spit out my coffee on the ‘TV! their best friend!’ comment. So funny.
    My kids are teens (read:busier) now so this isn’t a day-to-day issue for me any more but I still enjoyed your take on this conundrum!! It’s hard!! Just know whatever choices you make regarding screen time – the kids will be okay! Monitoring content is far more important than micromanaging the number of minutes they spend each day!! I promise.
    Also — as a SAHM (I hate the term too) – I appreciate that you pointed out that the struggle is intensified by how many hours you are spending with your kids (vs at work) every day. I often feel put down by my working friends who make my life seem easy breezy because I don’t have to go to an office every day. I wish it were that simple (although of course I’m grateful for the opportunity ?).

  46. Dang, I wish my kids would watch TV! I’m at the point in my life where it’s all about phones, ipads, video games and computers. My oldest middle schooler has his own computer and ALL of his homework is on it. So for 2 hours of the day he is at the computer and it drives me insane but nothing I can do about it because all of his assignments are online, they don’t even have textbooks anymore! Also, when he goes to other friends houses and I ask what they did, the answer: play video games. And don’t even get me started on the phone thing, my 6th grader doesn’t have one but it’s so hard when all of their friends start to get them and they see other adults on them so much. You may have seen the clip where kids are on the school bus and everyone is looking at their cell phones instead of talking to one another(heck that even happens before my gym class). So I guess my point is this: since you are trying to figure out the whole TV thing, maybe also start thinking about how you are going to handle the onslaught of all the other electronics as they get older because it’s inevitable and it’s about to get very, very hard. Sorry to be a downer, but it just wasn’t something I thought about as a young mom and besides living off the grid it seems that no other parent I know knows how to handle it either.

    1. Oh, I forgot to mention that his computer is school issued- no, I did not buy my 6th grader his own computer!

  47. I’m a marriage and family therapist, and we have four young kiddos (aged 9, 7, 4, and 18 months). We let the kids watch a half hour of TV Monday through Friday, around 7 pm, but only if all homework and chores are done for the day. On Saturday morning, we let the kids watch an hour or two of TV in the morning and on Sundays we don’t watch TV at all. I think the main key is being consistent with expectations. Also, if our kids complain too much when it’s time to turn off the TV, they don’t get to watch any TV the next day. And we have parental veto rights about any TV show we deem inappropriate for whatever reason. It took a while to “train” our kids to accept the TV boundaries and expectations but things run pretty smoothly now. I know this might sound weird, but some times I feel like raising young kids is totally like training dogs. But instead of tricks like rolling over or shakng paws, we’re teaching them other “tricks” (ie, use words to express your feelings, don’t hit your brother, etc.). Lots of positive reinforcement and praise helps strengthen the behaviors you’re trying to teach, but I’m sure you already know that. Good luck and hang in there. Parenting is hard work and exhausting, but it’s so rewardingwhen your kids finally learn new tricks. ?

  48. I am not a parent, so I don’t have first-hand experience about TV from a parenting standpoint. But, when I was growing up, I don’t remember my parents really having any TV rules. There were a lot of more mature movies that my friends were allowed to watch, but I wasn’t, but that’s the only “rule” we had. We watched TV Saturday mornings for the most part. And my dad would come in and just turn the TV off and tell us to go outside if he got annoyed by the sound of it. He’d then tell us not to come back in the house until dinner time and we’d spend the whole day running around with neighborhood kids. We also had a chore schedule, and we weren’t allowed to do anything “fun” on Saturday mornings until we had gotten our chores done.

    I also think that TV is one of those things that, if you were to get rid of it, it would be difficult for a while, but then you’d find a new normal. I am a single person living alone and sometimes think about getting rid of my TV, and I always imagined it would be frustrating at first, but then I’d eventually find something else to fill my time. So, I say go for it, and cut TV out of your home entirely.

  49. One thing that I loved as a kid was books on tape– they may be a little young for it yet, but it’s a great thing to have that’s engaging (in the way that tv is) but doesn’t have the visual component, which allows for more imaginative room (or playing with toys at the same time). I don’t have kids yet, but I thought I’d recommend something I loved as a kid!

  50. It sounds like you’re doing a great job, Emily. I agree with your mom about allowing a tv show before dinner. It makes everyone happier! My daughter actually learned a lot from Sesame and those other PBS shows, and soon kids become too busy to watch too much tv. One thing we did is limit tv watching to home — no watching tv or movies on the ipad or phone while out to dinner, in the car, etc. (with exceptions for flights or really long drives). I see many parents do this because it’s easy, but I think phones and ipads can become so much more addictive. My daughter is now 11 and doesn’t have a phone, but when she’s with her friends she often feels left out because they are constantly on their screens – even at recess, at their homes, etc. Phones are so addictive (even for adults!) and it’s incredibly sad to see kids missing out on normal socializing because they constantly have access to devices.

  51. I’m a single mom, who works full time as an attorney and has full custody of my son who is 6. Because he’s an only child and I’m the only other person in our house, he watches more tv than I’d like sometimes, but it is not something I’m willing to beat myself up about. I watched a TON of tv as a child and am pretty sure I turned out ok. I allowed little to no screen time before he was 2–I was still married then and had an engaged, helpful partner up to that point. Since then, I’ve had absolutely no rules about tv time. I do limit his time on his kindle (some weeks he doesn’t even touch it) and on my phone, but otherwise, he watches what he wants, when he wants, which also means that there aren’t tantrums when I turn it off. The fact that you are thinking about what is right for your kids is way more important in the long run to their development than the actual amount of time they spend watching tv as young kids, I think–especially if you are limiting the content of what they are watching. A few educational favorites on Netflix: Word World and Super Why. If you haven’t gotten the whisper network memo yet, avoid Cailou like the plague!

  52. I have a 4 year old boy and a 6 month old baby girl. While my oldest likes tv, I would not say he is addicted. I think the key is that he knows when he will get to watch tv. When we get home from work I allow 30 minutes of tv. I have to get dinner ready and wind down and it really works for us. Usually he does not complain when I tell him it is dinner time and we turn the the tv off. He knows the schedule so it makes sense to him. Then we do bath and playtime and then sleep. On the weekends we also follow a consistent schedule, usually 1 hour of tv in the morning and about 30 minutes before dinner as well. I think it helps to just always do the same thing. Kids like consistent routines. I also do not like to make tv a reward because then It becomes something special. To me it is a part of your day and that is it. Since I have that approach I think my son picked up on it as well. It has been really nice as my son gets older that he has started asking for the fun stuff that we do together on the weekends and does not even think about tv when it is not time for it. I feel like I am giving him a healthy relationship with tv and that will serve him well throughout life.

  53. Speaking from experience, I would be very careful with the TV in the morning on school days. I think our twins were 3 when we learned this the hard way.) At first it seems like it will be helpful and nice for everyone, in the same way that a calm half hour before dinner can be) but then one day there is a fit so big it makes you an hour late for work.

  54. I often wish we didn’t have to watch tv during the week, but there is no feasible way to get home from work at 5:30 with a 3 yr old and 18 mo old in tow and have dinner on the table by 6:15 without letting them watch a show just to keep them out of the kitchen. So I am relieved to hear your Mom’s advice about the arsenic hour.
    A few months ago my 3 year old discovered Wild Kratts and since then she doesn’t want to watch anything else – not Moana, Princess Elena, Sherriff Callie or any of her old favorites. But here’s something that might work for you on the live action front…I have, on occasion gotten her to watch Zoboomafoo. It’s a mix of animation, live action and puppets with the old familiar Kratt Brothers and she found it really interesting. And Yo Gabba Gabba is always a hit with them both because of all the music and dancing.

  55. I can’t speak as a parent, but as a middle school teacher, anything you put too many restrictions over will automatically become something the kid gets obsessed with. You’re on the right track (IMHO) staying flexible and letting kids have some voice and choice early on!

    I will say though (teacher hat here), PLEASE let your kids see you reading books and take your kids to the library (where they can check out dvds as well as books!). I would so rather parents exhaust their efforts being PRO literacy (books, ebooks, audiobook, podcast, etc etc) rather than ANTI screen time!

    1. to add on to your thought about letting kids see you reading versus screen time – I am a HUGE reader and read prob 2 books per week in addition to tons of news and other journalism. But it’s mostly on either my phone or my kindle. It never occurred to me that my daughter didn’t realize I was reading until my kindle broke and I was selecting a book to read from our bookshelves. She was in kindergarten and she looked at me and said, “Mama, you’re READING?” D’oh! We’d been so focused on exposing her to books/library/story time etc and hadn’t looked at how we were modeling for her or that she connected even my kindle which doesn’t have any features except for e-books with screen time! After I got over my broken heart I realized we had to talk and show our own reading for her.

  56. This is basically every thought/concern/question I have had about screen time as a parent. My kids are both just slightly older than each of yours and I struggle with how to handle this too. Especially because once we turn it on, my kids will throw a huge fit when we say it’s time to turn it off, whether they’ve been watching for 15 minutes or 2 hours. We try to say “you can watch one show,” but we use Netflix or Amazon and well, autoplay, so we miss the transition a lot of the time. I would love to hear some of the insightful and helpful comments I’m sure you will get on this post! Maybe you could do a follow-up post with some of your favorite responses?

  57. I adore you and your transparency. We’ve got too much screen time over here and despite the fact that our son is thriving I still feel that TV guilt pit lurking in my stomach. On one had we are lucky to be able to provide him with Montessori daycare, he spends one day a week at my parents’ house complete with horses to ride, a giant yard in which to run and play, and animals to care for. On the other hand we both have demanding jobs with killer commutes and often in an exhausted haze we end of curled up on the couch with him watching animated Netflix that’s probably too advanced for him while he live-narrates the shows. At the end of the day we are a loving and soft place to land so maybe in the grand scheme of life it all evens out. Still going to try your tactics!

  58. I am home with my kids (it doesn’t bother me to say that ?) and have some still home and some in school. I call what your mom called arsenic hour witching hour and it’s a real thing. For me it’s the hour or so between getting the bigs from school and my husband getting home and I’m trying to make dinner/juggle homework ect and some little ones have just gotten up from naps. During nice weather I send them outside but during the winter they watch a movie. I will say my kids watch a lot less tv then their young toddler years . . . Sometimes we are in survival mode. It’s about our direction not our perfection.

  59. I grew up without screen limits and turned out okay 🙂 My mom worked nights at a hospital and my dad traveled a lot for work. Some of my favorite memories as a kid were staying up WAY too late when my mom was home and watching TV Land with her. I ended up loving all of those old shows and they’re pretty tame so we could watch them together.

    1. YES, Brooke, same here!! 🙂 when i started working @ 16 in the late ’90s, my shift ended at 10:00. My mom came and got me from work, and we’d stay up watching TV Land (All in the Family specifically), my dad rolled in from 2nd shift around 11:30 and the three of us watched a little more TV together. Such good memories of laughing and discussing the topics together….and learning about the “old days” from TV Land.

  60. OMG i love your mom! we call it the witching hour, but same concept. I have a 7 yo and a 2 yo and am fairly well aligned with where you’re at. Our general rules:
    1. TV on weekdays while mom is getting dinner ready – usually 1/2 hour no more than 1 hour.
    2. Weekends – no tv before 7 am (same waking up early problem!). then it can be kind of a free for all, depending on what else we have going on, but we live in Chicago so on crappy winter weekends it can be a couple hours in the morning and then maybe a movie at night. We’re very aggressive about getting outside and getting activity so there’s always active time built into our weekends too. A lot of Sat ams the kids have activities so they don’t get much tv time. It kind of just depends.
    3. for sure – be very clear and consistent about your limits and ‘different families have different rules’

    I def try to use it strategically and think about when I really need a break and plan around that. If we have people over for dinner, the kids will run around like maniacs while we socialize and have drinks, then we feed the kids, then turn on a movie for them while the adults eat.

    Sometimes it feels to me like we have a ton of screen time, but like you we have childcare (and my older daughter is in school), so there’s nothing during the day on weekdays. Frankly, compared to most people i know, we’re pretty strict! Lots of families we know hand their kids devices in any and all situations (waiting for a meal at restaurants, at other people’s houses, every time they’re in the car). when my older daughter was pre-school aged, this would send her into meltdowns on the reg bc I wouldn’t give her a device. Now she’s used to this rule and it’s a lot easier….at least until her friends start getting phones….ahhhh!

    she said to me at the beginning of last summer, “Mom, I like screen time alot, but during the summer it just takes time away from other things I’d rather be doing, like swimming and riding my bike.” YES!!!! They will thank us someday for making the hard choices now!

  61. My children are older (13 and 16), so limiting “screen time” looks very different now. But when they were young, I was a stay at home mom with two kids who went to 2 1/2 hours of pre-school, and then 1/2 day kindergarten a day. I limited their TV time to one 1/2 show before pre-school (this allowed me to get a healthy breakfast on the table) and one hour at the witching hour when I was preparing dinner. It worked for us. My mom always says, “Everything in moderation” and I believe that as well. As long as my kids are doing things that I consider good for them (playing outside, reading books, doing craft activities, playing games and doing puzzles with me, playing with friends, etc.) I believed that limited daily screen time was a win-win for us. It gave me time to do what I needed to do, and it gave my kids their TV fix and down time. Now, limiting screen time with teenagers is a whole ‘nother ball game…

  62. For about $5 a month, you can buy a subscription to the pbs kids channel from amazon prime. All episodes of many of their shows including wild kratts, martha speaks, and like 30 years worth of mr. rogers / reading rainbow. I also highly recommend Nature Cat which encourages outdoor play and exploring. You can also tie in a pbs kids show with an activity. Like watch a wild kratts episode before going to the zoo or library to further explore an animal.

    1. Anther thing that you can do is make them work for the tv time. So have them tell you about the plot, lessons, what the characters should or should not have done, what they would do (in an age appropriate way and with lots of guidance). Only let them watch tv/movies if they do this and turn it off completely if they throw a fit. So either the children will get really adept at doing this or decide it just isn’t worth it and play with their toys instead. Either way is pretty much a win.

  63. Growing up, my parents let me watch a lot of TV, mostly after school. We didn’t have cable, so it was all PBS all the time, plus Saturday morning cartoons. Was it a lot of screen time? Yeah. But I loved Mister Rogers and Sesame Street so much that when I grew up, I became a writer for PBS kids shows. So good things CAN come from a lot of screen time! (Also, thanks for being a fan :))

  64. Hey Emily, I know this isn’t completely on topic, but it is screen time so I thought I’d throw this in. I’m in my 50’s and adult children. TV is less a big deal than you think. When you have young kids everything seems so much bigger. What I would absolutely outlaw is video games. If you want to see an addict kid give them video games. They will ignore every part of their life for those games. I’ve seen it happen to so many kids, they become obsessed, even as adults! If you need some TV time it’s not so bad, especially when you’re watching together or just making dinner nearby. Video games are what you really need to be afraid of!

  65. My kids are the same age as yours, but I have mine a few extra hours (basically from 2pm on). We do 1 hour of TV from 4:30-5:30pm. It helps me be calm while making dinner. I often put veggies and fruit in front of them as they are hungry and then they have a little something healthy in them before dinner and are calmer at the table.

    I also laughed so hard about how you said things changed when Birdie came. I describe the birth of my second kid as the moment my parenting expectations and smugness when on the tower of terror– never before have someone’s rules and expectations dropped SO quickly.

    1. oh also, we call that hour “the switching hour”— because I switch from coffee to wine (hashtag parenting two todders? ha)

  66. While I am not a parent, I have worked with children for many years. Your post brought to mind my experience from when I was as a nanny for some very good friends for a year, while their two children were the ages yours are now: the TV was always an issue. They were allowed to watch 1-2 short shows (45 minutes total) after getting home from preschool (while I was making dinner) and that’s it… I stuck to this yet they were always asking for more.. There were often tears, attempts at negotiation, fights over what to watch etc. Fast forward several years and these kids are now school age in a Waldorf School, where there are no screens allowed for the whole school year. The parents and kids are so much happier! Last time we were there it was summer break. While there is some screen time allowed but the relationship the kids have to TV is completely different: they sit down for a show or two and then they run off to play with friends, go outside, walk the dog, Legos, etc. No complaints at all. And the most telling to me, is the youngest child, who came along, after most screens had been banned. She is the most creative and least “fussy” of all of them. She still likes watching the TV with her siblings and parents but on her own she entertains herself more easily.

  67. When my firstborn son was about 4 months old, I would flip on our hand-me-down b&w TV to watch something while I nursed him at 10 or 11 pm. After a few minutes of nursing he would periodically turn toward the TV. This got me thinking and when the TV died a few months later, my husband and I had the hard conversation about living our own lives without TV and raising our family in a TV-free home. We went with it. And this was in the era before folks had computers and cell phones. A couple of years later we had two sons and discovered Waldorf education. When I learned that TV was frowned upon, I knew we had met our match. While we were among only a handful of families that literally did not have a TV in the home, all the families in our classes could agree that there would be no screen time during play dates or sleepovers. So my boys grew up without really knowing about TV which I know is not possible now. When our eldest started 9th grade at a large public school in our city, he immediately started lobbying for a TV b/c he did not know what the kids were talking about. We had a family meeting and decided to purchase a set which we put in a closed hutch in an upstairs sitting room. Except for the 9th grader watching the X-files so he could converse at school, it was largely a non-event. By that time in their lives they had so much going on between school, sports, and social that TV was not in the loop. I remember one vacation we took to the Sea Ranch when they were about 3 and 5. Since it was a beach trip, we didn’t bring anything from home to play with. We had a lot of boxes b/c we brought all our food for the week and they found some old rope and gathered driftwood on the beach. They had imaginary play all week with the boxes, rope, and sticks. My parents were blown away but it seemed ordinary to us. Now our sons are married and despite the tech revolution that has occured since then, they are also raising their combined 5 children without screens. Yes, the kids do see their folks on laptops and phones, but the parents minimize their use when the kids are awake. It’s cute to hear them say their parents are “working” or “doing research” when they are on a screen.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience. Although it seems harder to live without a TV nowadays, I am sure we would all have better lives in the long run.

  68. WAHM, as in I stay home with a 2yo and almost 4yo and also have to find time to teach three online sections of First Year Writing. We definitely do less TV, especially in the morning, when my husband is home on Saturdays and Sundays. He’s a SpEd teacher, so I’m on my own for 9.5 hours a day during the work week. If I take the littlest to the gym (daycare) while the oldest is at preschool in the mornings, then we only have TV time while I’m preparing lunch (and sometimes quickly feeding myself first) and just before bed when they’re drinking their milk and winding down before we head to to start the bedtime routine. We also let them watch TV if they’ve worn themselves out on an activity like a long visit to the zoo or science center or time spent outside playing or swimming. I honestly do use TV as a babysitter sometimes if I have an urgent student email to deal with or if I’m just tired of being wailed at. I think if we had outside childcare, their screen time would definitely be more limited. As it is, we have two adults with full-time jobs, no help with childcare other than preschool a couple mornings a week and the gym (but we have to stay at the gym), so if they watch another episode of Pocoyo, I don’t really have the time or energy to pearl-clutch about it.

  69. You HAVE to watch Paddington!! I visited my 3 year old nephew last Fall and was like “sure I’ll watch this whatever” and I LOVED IT. We watched it both nights I was there, it’s a great family movie. Mixes CGI with live action so it’s a good segue into all live action movies!

    ALSO, I do not have kids, but I WAS a kid and I loved TV. We were never told we could not watch it, and my mother tells me that I was obsessed with Sesame Street. TV shows opened up my imagination and introduced me to new ideas and types of people that I didn’t have in real life (white Southern neighborhood/Mormon church you get the idea). As others have stated, setting rules about ANYTHING automatically flips the switch of “how do I break this rule” in a kid’s head. I think if you keep an eye on them to make sure they aren’t binge watching things you’ll be just fine!

  70. ahhhhh…. the screen time struggle is real. just wait until tablets are introduced AND they start watching TV/work on computers/learn on tablets at SCHOOL and then you’ll just want to pull the plug on all tech at home. (Not possible, obviously.)

    I don’t have a tip on managing screen time, but i do have a “hack” that’s worked for us. I noticed that a lot of the time, the TV was the background/white noise. When they wake up, they want to watch a show, but when their show was over the TV would stay on. They might walk away, but drift back later and end up watching who-knows-what. Now, i turn on music first thing in the morning when I’m making my coffee. Because of the music, they don’t miss the TV for a while and I am more cognizant of when i turn the TV on (and off).

  71. I am a little afraid to say it bc it appears I might be one of the only who doesn’t let their kids watch tv although I have ZERO judgment and plan on eventually letting my kids watch tv. We have 3.5 yo twins and I was thinking around 4 or 5 would be a good age to start. One of the reasons I haven’t started letting them watch yet is that I know it is going to lead to a CONSTANT negotiation with them about when they can watch and I get tired even thinking about it. Right now they don’t ask for it so why start, but when they do I would love to do a weekend family movie with them. They are in pre-school everyday and we have someone who helps out during the dinner hour during the week, so that of course is a huge help. I think it also helps to have twins because they have someone to play with and now that they are three they will play for like an hour!! It seems like when the 2nd kid comes along things are so much harder for people to juggle and with twins you frontload the hard stuff in the beginning. We do listen to Circle Round and they LOVE it.

  72. I have 3 kids, ages 14, 11, and 8. My approach to screen time has changed over time! One thing I would say is not to beat yourself up about using TV as a “babysitter” in tough times. Like when you have a 22 month old and a newborn, OMG, ALLLLL the screen time is FINE. Or if you are on some crazy work deadline and your nanny/sitter has called in sick, or your kid is sick & can’t go to school. Sometimes times get tough and we all have to do what we have to do.

    That said, for me screen time limits have not only changed over time, but vary by kid. I was super strict with screen time with my first kid, but when the 2nd kid was a newborn and the oldest watched more, it didn’t seem to matter, didn’t make her cranky, she didn’t beg for more, etc. My 3rd is the opposite — the more screen time he gets, the more he wants, and the more he throws a fit when it is turned off! And my middle child just doesn’t really care about TV that much. So you may need to adjust, be more draconian, etc depending on your type of kid.

    Also, now that my kids are older, different screen time issues come up. My 3rd (8) is in love with video games on the iPad, he would be one of those gamers that plays for 12 hours and pees in a bottle if he had his way. 🙂 My oldest (14) is in all about instagram. The middle one (11) likes the tween/teen Nick & Disney shows. And I let all 3 kids read on kindle or overdrive (public library app) whenever they want, technically this is on a screen but it’s a book so to me it seems different? So you just have to resign yourself to constantly evolving on screen time.

    One thing I did for all the kids, which I think might work even with younger kids (though I’m not sure how young?) is I got an app that gives the kids a screen time allowance. It’s called Ourpact and I love it. It has taken away a lot of the fighting/negotiation about screen time. I give the kids a screen time allowance (1.5 hrs) per day and they can use it when/how they want. When it’s over, it’s over, although I have the ability to grant them more time if I want. The app also allows certain blocks of time to be off limits — I block screen time during homework time, and overnight. I can also pick certain apps to allow all the time — like kindle, email, texting, phone (since for the older kids I always want to be able to get a hold of them). There is a similar app out there called Kidslox that I think has a lot of the same features.

    Anyway, screen time management is tough! You just have to do the best you can and try to be aware of what is going on.

    1. Thank you! This is a really helpful perspective for me — I love hearing from a mom a little further in her journey than me.

  73. Your mom just completely validated my parenting, and now I feel like the best mom ever 🙂

    My kids are 4 and 2, and I also wish we just had no TV because sometimes they are happily playing outside and then I mention making dinner and they immediately want to stop whatever they are doing to watch TV. But half an hour (sometimes a little more) before dinner time is essential to get dinner on the table and allows for a family dinner at a reasonable hour. We give them bowls of cut up veggies, and they mindlessly eat them while they watch – they’d never eat the veggies on their plate at dinner!

    Try finding Finding Dory and Cars 3–two of our faves!

  74. I have an almost 2 year old and she recently started waking up at 5:30am which is way too early for my husband and I. We really don’t need to start getting ready until 7/7:30am, so we take turns on who gets up with her in the morning which essentially means, who gets her out of the crib, makes a sippy cup of milk and puts on Netflix and falls asleep next to her on the couch for an hour or so. She almost exclusively watches Beat Bugs on Netflix. My husband and I both like it because every episode is based on a Beatles song and they sing it half way through the episode. My daughter sounds like Charlie – if a show doesn’t include a song she doesn’t want to watch it. I tell myself that having her learn Beatles songs isn’t the worst thing in the world. I’m hoping she phases out of this early wake up and we can get out of this habit because she really doesn’t watch TV any other time (she’s in full time daycare). This post has been great because as much as I don’t want to, I have been beating myself up about it a bit, but I need to remember this is just a season and all things change. Also, if anyone has tips on getting a toddler to sleep in later, they are welcome! I don’t think the TV is encouraging her to wake up early, but it could definitely be a factor now. I think she’s still a bit too young for the ready to wake clock although I may just give it a shot.

  75. So many great comments! If you’re ever looking for a new kids show to watch during that dinner time, Curious George is on hulu. It’s cute, not annoying, positive, and my 4 year old has learned so many good things from it.

  76. 1. On your list of questions, yes to all of the above.
    2. It’s all about moderation. Too much is bad, too strict and you can make your kids obsess over it and not learn how to give themselves boundaries when the time comes.
    3. Stand your ground… always.

    We’ve had two get past the terrible threes (whoever called it “twos” has never been in my house) with two more to go. So fingers crossed, so far so good.

    Sarah + Duck on Netflix is a crowd pleasing show in our house. The boy and girls love it and the pacing is slow. It’s our choice when the TV is chill time.

  77. My house is basically no TV/screen time on weekdays as well, generally only for a couple hours in the morning while the adults caffeinate. I have managed not to call attention to this rule though, so the TGIF effect is not activated. My kiddo is easily turned off by anything intense. Moana is right out, as are most other feature-length Disney flicks. We like Puffin Rock on Netflix, Planet Earth/Blue Planet and Classical Baby. We are also a video game house. For now, that feels different, because it is an activity that the kiddo does together with a parent, so there is human interaction and even a little problem solving. Mostly, we play on the Nintendo Switch. She’s a great navigator for Zelda and Mario, and the new Labo is obviously an awesome blend of engineering, crafting and video games.

    I am also here to raise a hand for music and podcasts, especially during the “arsenic hour.” Dance party while cooking dinner makes things better. As to podcasts, try Story Pirates. It’s stories written by kids, then dramatically read by actors and comedians. These tend not to count as screen time for me, especially music.

  78. I’m going to be in the minority on this (I think), but we didn’t allow or participate in screen based media until my son was 3. During that horrible 5-6pm timeframe, play doh, spice mixes, and kitchen utensils were my life saver. And when my son got a bit older, he “helped” making dinner. After my son turned 3, we only used media for travel and the occasional sick day. The only show we watch is Sesame Street and oh my gosh there are so many (on HBOGo) that my son is always excited about watching one. Now that our son is 5, I’ve noticed that he has a long attention span, and sits and watches and thinks about things. I love his independent play. I think in the coming years, we’ll start introducing it a bit more (family movies, etc) because I too worry about the negative aspects of being too strict about something. But to be honest, my son doesn’t really ask to watch much. If he does, I say something like “in our family we watch tv or movies on special occasions.” I think the fact that he’s been an only child so far has made this possible for us. I’m pretty sure we would not have been able to keep this up with a newborn and toddler at home! But I also think that there is so much that a little child is taking in and observing in the day, and they can’t really differentiate between real and imaginary just yet. Some of the shows geared to kids are too much, and I just want to avoid all the craziness for as long as I can.

  79. I’m going to be in the minority on this (I think), but we didn’t allow or participate in screen based media until my son was 3. During that horrible 5-6pm timeframe, play doh, spice mixes, and kitchen utensils were my life saver. And when my son got a bit older, he “helped” making dinner. After my son turned 3, we only used media for travel and the occasional sick day. The only show we watch is Sesame Street and oh my gosh there are so many (on HBOGo) that my son is always excited about watching one. Now that our son is 5, I’ve noticed that he has a long attention span, and sits and watches and thinks about things. I love his independent play. I think in the coming years, we’ll start introducing it a bit more (family movies, etc) because I too worry about the negative aspects of being too strict about something. But to be honest, my son doesn’t really ask to watch much. If he does, I say something like “in our family we watch tv or movies on special occasions.” I think the fact that he’s been an only child so far has made this possible for us. I’m pretty sure we would not have been able to keep this up with a newborn and toddler at home! But I also think that there is so much that a little child is taking in and observing in the day, and they can’t really differentiate between real and imaginary just yet. Some of the shows geared to kids are too much, and I just want to avoid all the craziness for as long as I can. One last thing – the exception/replacement to visual media for us is podcast stories! My son sometimes listens to two or three stories a day on podcasts. We love them. Sparkle Stories is our favorite.

  80. If it was up to me, we wouldn’t watch any tv, have zero screens, and spin yard from a spinning wheel in our living room (being factitious, but only slightly). I didn’t really grow up with TV, don’t love how it makes me feel, and while I do enjoy a good binge of quality shows (see you Parks and Rec), I prefer life without it. If I lived alone, I probably wouldn’t have a TV, or just to a projector for the occasional movie.

    But my partner loves TV. Grew up with it, it is his choice of relaxation, and he is far more laid back on it than me (on this and most things). Here’s the kicker: is remarkable well adjusted, great job, good work ethic, etc. At times, I want to say “Screen Time makes lazy people!!!” and then he’ll just look at me and I’ll realize he is proof that, alone, it doesn’t.

    So our kiddo watches more TV than I’d like. Usually a show after school and a couple (2? 3?) during each weekend day, in the early AM and near dinner. I’d love it to be less, I’d love to veto more shows (the my little pony period was ROUGH) but I am trying to learn more flexibility and choosing what is most important to me as a parent and how my husband and I can be unified together.

    Also this discussion exactly mirrors ours related to organics and vegetables, so… I have NO ANSWERS TO ANYTHING.

  81. We have two older kids (8 and 14 years) and it does NOT (sorry!) get easier, it gets much much worse.
    So, we have two screen-free days each week (Sunday and Wednesday) and then they get one hour Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays. Friday is 2 hours and Saturdays WE the parents decide how much they get, if any.
    The screen-free days are the best, since there is no option and no need to discuss.
    Good luck and please know that absolutely everybody is figuring this out for the first time – there simply has never been anything remotely like the internet available to everyone 24/7 like it is now. Do your best and what works for you and your kids and try not to worry!

  82. I am a full-time working parent of three kids, ages 6, 4, and 9 months…so basically I have some experience and a lot of ideas, but I’m not an expert. Our rules and attitudes are similar to yours. Everything goes out the window when there’s a new baby, screens only on the weekends, weekend movie nights, etc. I really like your idea of having a set time for movies in the morning because my 4 year old will wake us up at 5:00 on the weekends to “go downstairs” which is code for “eat and watch a movie.” We do sometimes crack and let the kids watch an occasional show during the week if they seem especially tired (like the day after a late tee ball game). We all have off days, kids included. I don’t drink wine during the week as a general rule, but sometimes I do when my day was crazy (like the day after a late tee ball game).

    All this to say that your rules sound good to me. Boundaries are really important, in my opinion, but rigidity is stifling. Your rules (and wiggle room) sound reasonable to me. We live a similar lifestyle in a similar demographic with kids of similar ages and we’re doing things the same. So if we’re screwing them up, at least we’re doing it together!

  83. We’ve had a lot of similar experiences (including kid 2 getting a lot more tv than kid 1 from an earlier age–we were hard-core no screens until 2 with our firstborn. LOL on babies 2 and 3!), but I’m a few years ahead kid-age-wise. My oldest is 7.5, second grade; middle is 5.5, kindergarten; youngest is 1. I’m a “work at home for the family” mom, as you put it.

    -I 100% agree re. PBS shows. We are pretty strict about that even now; the exceptions are Magic School Bus and Doc McStuffins (which is more branded than the PBS shows but has some really nice messages about taking care of others). We find most Nickelodeon and Disney stuff way too manic and snotty, and definitely find the kids mimicking the tones of whatever shows they watch. We’ve been a crazy Wild Kratts fan family for going on 4 years and my son knows an insane amount about all animals; it became a real passion for him and he’s always reading animal encyclopedias, etc.

    -We have a weekend place right now (we’re selling it though), and we don’t have tv there for the same reason. Out of sight, out of mind, and even when we’ve spent a full month there in the summer the kids have never asked to watch something. (It helps that iPads are strictly for airplanes in our family, so that doesn’t register as an option. That said, the second we get home they’re always like “TV TV TV!!!”

    -There’s a lot of personality-based decision making you have to do. You noticed that Charlie was easily hooked on certain shows. I found my son was the same. He still, even now, will sometimes flip out about turning the tv off, which at his age leads to strict “no tv for the rest of the week” type consequences. My middle daughter will watch for a while and then wander off, or will choose a different activity while my son is watching, whereas he will ALWAYS choose tv if it’s an option. My younger brother was the same–could watch anything forever; didn’t care what; zoned out totally. My parents DID get rid of our tv completely by the time I was about 8 and he was 4 or so. It made us a little weird, I won’t lie–I missed out on a lot of the pop culture of our childhoods, though I caught up on TGIF and stuff once I started babysitting in middle school.

    -Just for point of reference, the tv-addict 7.5 year old is also an unbelievably voracious and precocious reader (he read and understood all of the Harry Potter books on his own last year), and spends hours reading, playing with legos, etc.

    -I let the kids watch tv if we have time while I make dinner, to your mom’s point. This used to be nearly every night but now that they’re older they have classes and activities some afternoons so there isn’t time. We never watch before school; I can’t bear the added hassle of arguing about it.

    1. I meant to say–all of Mr. Rogers is streaming on Amazon Prime, and there are SO many great episodes to pull out for specific things you’re struggling with! (Temper tantrums, sharing, etc.) So lovely.

  84. I parent my butt off to my 6- and 2-year-old when I can. When I’m checking out or snapping, the iPad checks in. There aren’t rules, there aren’t good days or bad days, there are days when we all, adults and kids, need less resistance. Tbh, my clue is my kids: if my 6-year-old asks for his iPad it usually means at least one of us is feeling bored or drained. Then I ask myself “Does this family need a board game/book/art project right now, or does it need to “tap out” for a few minutes with some screens?” I believe so deeply in reciprocal energy within my family, and I trust that generally my instinct or my husband’s is probably correct. If it’s not … there’s always tomorrow! Here’s to parenting-as-peacefully-as-possible. Now I’m gonna go kiss my boys and see what they’re up to!

    1. Yes yes YES!
      You described my style to a T!
      We’ve all been parked in front of our respective screens all day today. And you know what? It’s quiet. Nobody is fighting or complaining. All is calm. And I have this nagging voice in the back of my head telling me to snatch away all of the screens…but it’s so quiet and peaceful, and after a week of non-stop running around to schools, soccer practices, soccer games, band practices, we ALL needed a day like to today to just veg out, have our seperate space, and quiet from one another.
      As for tomorrow…Sundays are our only full “no screen” days, and THEY ARE HELL ON EARTH to be honest! So today we will parent-as-peacefully-as-possible reserve our energies to deal with tomorrow 😉

  85. We had similar problems with my 2.5 year-old son. We were initially very strict about TV time, and he was obsessed with the idea of it and pitched fits over it. Getting older definitely helped, but also I think it’s good we got more flexible and it’s not such a forbidden fruit any more.

    Right now, he watches one 24 minute show in the morning while he eats breakfast. Our absolute favorite is Sarah & Duck. It’s a BBC kids show available on Netflix, and it’s slow-paced, funny, and calm. I love it, too. Most nights we try no TV, but occasionally if we’ve all had a long day we will watch a movie or an episode of something. We also will sometimes turn on live sports, which feels different to me than other TV because it’s kind of a bonding experience and something we all enjoy together.

    One thing that has made me feel better about his TV watching is that we generally try to have one person watching with him so that we can talk to him about what he’s seeing/make it more interactive. But of course there are times we let him veg out out by himself because we have something we have to do or just need a break. I am at peace with those occasional instances because I’m only human.

    Finally, we love the Cars movies and Zootopia. I know this is stepping out a little, but I think Zootopia is better than Moana!

  86. So before I actually had a child, I was super anti-screen time. Then we had a kid and I realized if I was ever going to be able to eat in restaurants again, I was going to have to cave. If we go to a nice sit-down restaurant, the rule is he has to wait an hour and then we whip out the iPhone so he can watch stuff while we get through dessert.

    We have a 4 year old and he gets maybe 1-2 hours of screen time a week. We’re incredibly lucky though in that we have a full time nanny. That means we have someone who’s sole job is to play with our son with no tv. I do think it makes a difference in that our son never asks for tv, maybe because he gets so little of it and when he does, it tends to be random. He’s also big on imaginary games so even when we’re burnt out, he’ll usually play by himself with his cars and whatnot so we don’t need to use the tv. All that too say, this is also very personality dependent. And you know your kids best!

    I’ll add that growing up, I was only allowed 30 minutes of educational tv a day until high school and so I read a lot. Now that I’m grown though, I watch a ton of television and read much less. Which is to say, no matter how hard we try to influence our kids, they’re going to grow up and do their own thing eventually. And we all turn out ok!

  87. I let my then toddler watch Disney Junior in moderate amounts because I was in graduate school and the ‘electronic babysitter’ kept my only child occupied during my study time. I was pretty comfortable with almost all of the programming on this channel because it felt educational, non-violent, and chill.

  88. Interesting post! I think it’s very common in this day and age to worry about TV time for our kids, especially when bombarded with so many other screens/devices. I “stay at home” (I’m fine with the term–I know how much it’s actually work!) with 2 boys in Chicago, where watching TV is really preferable to braving the freezing cold for months on end, and it’s a struggle for how much TV to allow. I try not to be too strict while still keeping things in moderation. We allow almost no iPad/phone time to balance it out, and we read a ton, so that makes me feel better. I find it’s important to trust what you’re doing and not be too hard on yourself either way. One movie recommendation is Leap. I’d never heard of it but found it on Netflix and it’s cute and good for this age. Also on Netflix the series The Magic School Bus, both the original and the new one. My kids love it and it’s pretty educational.

  89. My mom also refers to 5pm as the arsenic hour! My daughter is 3, and we sometimes watch an hour of Daniel Tiger or UmiZoomi when we get home from work/school while I make dinner or we just have snuggles on the couch together. Sometimes she requests it, other times, she comes home and immediately gets busy playing with toys and doesn’t even think about it. It’s a balancing act.

  90. Mom of 5 now ages 9-21(gasp-how did that happen?) & I found giving them “tickets” for TV time when they were little worked well. Each was worth 30 min & I gave them an amount at the beginning of the week(maybe 3 each?) they could “spend” their tickets any time they wanted during TV ok hours but once they were gone for the week that was it. They learned how to work together- if they pooled their tickets they could watch a movie during the week. If they spent all their tickets by Tuesday afternoon by binge watching- then they had to figure out if it was worth it. If they asked to watch, I asked for their ticket & if they didn’t have one then so be it. Once school aged the rule has been no tv Monday-Thursday night. With teenagers & phones it’s almost a moot point now because they can watch on their own. It seemed to give them enough autonomy with in preset boundaries that it wasn’t much of a battle. Summertime is more relaxed with some EPIC binge watching- all the Harry Potter or Star Wars in a day or 2. By the end of July they are all pretty feral with bedtimes & mealtimes nonexistent. Giving the alternative of music or books on CD instead also seemed to work for my kids.

  91. What about screens when out and about? I used to roll my eyes SO HARD when I saw a kid on an iPad in public, but if my daughter is losing her patience at Target or at a restaurant, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on mute makes me feel sane.

  92. Well, I have one child, who is now 21 and is and was the most precious thing we have ever been given, as he came VERY early (3 months early) and after 7 miscarriages. We were so cognizant of his brain development as a premie that we gave no electronic stim to him at all until he was close to 3. At that point, I wanted him to watch Sesame Street because it was a learning show, but he wanted BARNEY!! I HATE Barney. That was a NO, because I could not sit there and watch it without major dental work being done for my teeth clenching. We settled on Jimmy Neutron…do not know if it’s still on, but it was a great show for a budding engineer (which he is now).

    We were kind of lucky because our son was never really into watching a lot of TV. Still isn’t. He fought us on some things early on, but given his lack of interest, we never really had to set too many boundaries. He got to watch a show when he got his potty chair ’cause he thought it was a nice accent piece and dragged it into the family room to sit and watch TV. That was pretty good to help him get used to it, but other than that, he watched some shows but not a lot. I think if we had put strict boundaries onto the TV watching, he would be a LOT more into it. As goes for most kids, the thing that you deny them is the shiny toy that they want. Big time. So my advice is to relax around it a bit…it will not ruin their lives if they watch another 1/2 show while you get dinner ready or blow dry your hair. Their interests will change as they age and they will move away from it.

  93. Is TV so awful anyway? There is a lot of quality programming out there including educational games on the IPAD. Sesame Street is amazing and sends a beautiful message. I find my 2 year old daughter is naturally more interested in the “real” world anyway… if she’s watching a show she’ll often break away to see what mommy’s doing or play with a toy and I’ll click off the TV. I try to limit it but the 5-6pm hour is total TV down time in our house while I prep dinner – I completely agree with Emily’s mom on that one. Kids get tired and need to zone out just like grown ups – they are people just like us. I think I generally subscribe to the exposed reduces wanting something more approach but as casual as I can be about letting my daughter watch something on my phone or the TV – I struggle with not feeling guilty about it so I really appreciate this post!!!

  94. We only have one child, 2 1/2, so I can’t comment on how much harder it must be with two. That said, we have adopted an absolutely no screen time policy from Day One. We had planned to make it to two years old, as recommended by the APA, but it’s going so well that we decided why introduce it now?

    The best thing about it is that there are NO arguments about screen time… because it doesn’t exist for my daughter. One fewer thing to have a tantrum about. It is hard sometimes — we can’t get anything done at home, for the most part. Since she is a toddler and therefore not a great independent player, we are the entertainment. But her verbal skills are off the charts, and she is a voracious lover of books. She has memorized all of hers and will often “read” them to herself when we need a little chill time. That said, we are trying for Number Two. Maybe it will all go out the window if (when, hopefully!) that day comes. I completely understand how hard it must be with a newborn and a toddler. I’m praying that our diligence now will pay off and we will be able to keep a screen-free household for a long, long time. (Irony: we are both television writers.)

  95. I’ve been a nanny for years, and I found that the family I worked for whose children were the least interested in television was the one that didn’t have any restrictions or special rules about tv. They played outside every day, would ask to do crafts, and preferred to play with their toys.

    Granted, this is purely anecdotal evidence, but I found that the other families’ children often fixate and obsess over the time when they’d be allowed to watch tv and would ultimately beg for more time.

    This is really the only factor influencing me in terms of screen time now that I’m having my first child. I guess I’ll see for myself if this approach really works.

  96. Can I just say I adore you and this post? Thank you for writing so candidly about this!

    Here’s the challenge/how we do TV in our home:

    I have 2 boys, ages 4.5 and almost 2. I’m a freelance writer with a busy schedule, so I work whenever I can (during naps, at night and on weekends).

    About a year ago, my oldest son got to where he couldn’t fall asleep at night if he’d napped during the day. So I let him watch a show while his brother napped and I worked, mostly to help him stay awake and make it to 7:00, when he crashed hard.

    He’s long past needing a show to stay awake and would happily play alone while I work and my youngest naps, but we’ve gotten into the habit of him watching TV at that time instead (usually about 2 hours a day!). It makes me feel SO guilty!

    I’m very much in charge of what he watches (limited to Magic School Bus, Daniel Tiger, Thomas or Cars) and we’ve started working toward just 1 hour of TV during naps and plenty of time to play on his own (no sharing necessary!;) before his brother wakes up. He plays so well and is always scheming up some new project or idea so this should be easy. But, of course, breaking the TV habit is tough!

    My youngest watches about 30 minutes of TV three or four times a week, but I’m worried about what his relationship to TV will look like in the years to come if we don’t make changes now.

    Excited to read suggestions from other parents in the comments! Thanks again for starting this conversation, Emily!

  97. Hi Emily. So, I am one of those “parents of older children”, which I guess makes me old too. My four are now 22, 20, 18 and 16. Guess what? They watched TV, survived (even thrived) and none – to my knowledge anyway – is a homicidal maniac who confuses TV life with real life. In fact none of them actually watches real television anymore at all. When they were young, we had the EXACT SAME debate. In fact, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had it. We ALL want to be the best parents we can be and sometimes that means that your two-year old plays in front of “Mighty Machines” while his mama-the-milk-machine endlessly breastfeeds the newborn. Or, as your very smart Mom said – it could mean chilling out during the 5 pm witching hour giving everyone the break they need to refocus and recharge. You and your partner sound like engaged parents and, in the end, that’s what will matter. There is way too much information being thrown at parents these days. It’s no wonder that we all second guess ourselves 100 times a day. Like literally everything else in life, it’s about balance. TV, playtime, reading and reading aloud, talking to your kids, activities that you do together…all of it…keep the bigger picture in mind. Oh, and I laughed so hard that I actually spit out my lunch when I read that they were getting up at 6 to watch TV!!! Smart kids. Like their mama. You are doing a great job with them.

  98. We have a 7 and 11 year old, and went through all of the same exact stuff. Same guilt, same decisions to stop it all, etc. It gets easier as they get older because, as you said, they understand that tv/ipad is not the end all be all. They still want it. Now they want Musicaly and YouTube, etc. They also want to make videos and upload them (which we don’t allow). My 7-year old told her class and wrote on her career sheet that she wants to be a YouTube Vlogger or “Internet Famous” when she grows up. Listen, if later in life that happens, all the power to her (as I this blog and plenty of others) but it was obviously over-exposure to this level of toy reviews, family vlog sites, and tweens food challenging that got her there.

    I don’t think it’s bad that your kids look forward to tv. You’ve set it up that it is a reward. My kids love that time too but realize it’s like ice cream, trips to a bouncy place, or new toys–special. No one ever felt guilty about giving their kids ice cream on the weekend as a special treat. They do look forward to ice cream, or tv!
    What we also do (and you might have to wait a bit on this) is let them earn time. They have one hour a day for devices. If they do something great, they earn 5-10 minutes. If they do something not so nice like hit sister, smart talk for no reason, etc., they lose 5-10 minutes. Since they know device time is monitored, it gives them an incentive to do better as people by earning time. Since our time is low (for most device limits I think), there is wiggle room for them to earn. They can also bank the time (we keep it on a board in the kitchen). Now they keep track themselves! They never earn 10 hours of time because we keep increments small. We only add/subtract things like helping sister without being asked, giving a compliment to show them that those are things they do that make people feel good or do good in the world and vice versa. Works for us at least!

  99. Ah! I hardly ever comment, but read all the time… wish we could be mom friends. We have come to almost the EXACT same rules when our second one came along from originally not having tv at all. The only difference is my daughter adores Mr. Rogers which you can get on Amazon Prime now. Secretly I love watching it too… my favorite part was the window where they watched how factories made things like crayons and candles and violins. Thanks for the great post!

  100. My gosh, this is refreshing. I have 10mo old twin boys and, truly, I have NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING. Baha. I feel like (good) parenting is being honest with yourself and not trying to be a super parent. I think you nailed it on the head. Excited to see what the comments hold…. (Also, I feel the same way about the “bad” shows. If they annoy me, they’re out.) Oh! On Amazon Prime you can watch the original Mr. Rogers – my boys like that because it’s so slow and quiet.

  101. Check out “Meet the Robinsons”!

    Loved the post–sounds like you’re on the right track.

  102. I grew up in a very strictly no TV household. Like, in elementary, middle and high school we DID NOT OWN ONE. My mother was such a strict advocate of no TV, but even she admits that these days, with how overscheduled and busy every single family is, a complete TV ban is no longer realistic.

    As a single mom who works full time out of the house AND is managing a house renovation that I’m mostly doing myself – the idea of a complete TV ban would be laughable. I let my four year old daughter watch 20 minutes in the morning while I get both of us ready before work/preschool, and 30-40 minutes in the evening while I make dinner. I try and limit weekends as much as possible, but a completely TV free day is very rare. Sometimes I need the TV to be my babysitter for an hour while I try and make sense of the house, and honestly sometimes I want to be able to cuddle with her and establish the occasional “family movie night” as a tradition for the two of us.

    So guilt trip yourself less, Emily. Our families are busier than ever, and lowering your overall stress level is really important. If TV helps with that, go for it. Recent research even shows it’s not as detrimental as the scare-mongers thought.

  103. I love this! I feel really good about our family’s relationship with TV (my kids are about the same age as yours), which is 1 show around 8:00am, with no show two days in a row, generally rotating between Daniel Tiger, Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers. If we’re having so much fun and we miss it, the moment has passed. If we’re having a tough day and just need something to re-set, there might be a special TV exception made. We do a movie once in a while, but hype and plan it, and just to make sure we stay in charge (haha) sometimes arbitrarily deny requests. I thought nothing would hold their interest like Moana, but Toy Story 2 was a hit. (Toy Story 1, not so much.)

    Also, just saw our pediatrician today who said she doesn’t have a problem with TV, but has an issue with frequent iPad use (screens really close to the eyes and games training repetition/memorization, but real learning), but is okay with phones/tablets for Facetiming because it’s real interaction/communication. I don’t believe everything doctors say, but I thought that all made sense.

  104. I feel like I could have written this article myself, my experience with my two small kids has been so similar to yours (down to which exact movies bore/scare them, ha!). Our unofficial family motto is “everyone in our family matters” including mom and dad (i.e. we aren’t slaves to our children and we won’t lay down our own well-being because that self-sacrifice does no one any favors long term). Sometimes we prioritize our own sanity/marriage on a tough day! This means we might let our 4 year old watch Moana while we make dinner and my husband and I get to talk to each other like real human beings and that’s valuable for the whole family. I also sometimes find that if we allow a movie/show but are doing something fun together (like making dinner or hanging out in the backyard) my four year old will end up choosing on her own to ditch the show and hang with us which feels like a win/win/win.

  105. My kids are four and five and watched way too much TV in their toddlerhoods for my current taste. I cut them off last summer and they haven’t missed a beat – they draw and do pretend play and the older one reads and the younger one pretends to read. I had my third child in the fall and don’t plan on any TV for her because if I have to watch another 20 minutes of my little pony I will lose my mind.

  106. I think it all boils down to moderation and awareness. We only have one so it’s not as hard to keep it to a minimum but we certainly embrace screen time as a family connector (movie nights) and a babysitter (what can you do? It works!). We try to be very careful about WHAT we watch. That doesn’t mean we’re only allowing documentaries, but it does meant that I don’t let my kid choose whatever she wants. There is so much enriching content.. and so much absolutely horrible programming.

    Programs to check out: the Green Room (Netflix) and Octonauts.

  107. As I read this I’m rocking a sleeping one year old in my room and hoping my 5 and 3 year old are still watching Wild Kratts…. if mine sleep till their alarm in the morning (Hatch) they get a PBS show. Now they don’t nap and if they have good quiet time play after school they get another show before I send them outside for a few hours before dinner. Some nights my husband puts on How it’s Made or a similar monotone nature or science show while I prep for bed. Sounds like a ton when I write it down but it’s so easy to give them so much more.

  108. My stepdaughter is six and since she’s an only child in our home, I do feel like the TV is used more with us because she doesn’t have siblings readily available to play with (it can be exhausting being the sole source of a child’s entertainment!). We also live in NYC so I can’t send her outside to play alone. SO, I occasionally allow for 30 minutes while I’m cooking dinner if homework is done and she’s showered. Otherwise, screentime is for the weekends. We haven’t found that we need rules like time limits. We’re naturally in a flow where if the weather is bad, or she’s sick, there’s more screen time. If not, we are out and about. For what it’s worth, I watched SO MUCH TV as a child (my parents worked a lot) and I still made it to a top 20 university.

  109. I give my kids screen time on friday night (1h) and saturday sunday (1h in the morning and 1h in the afternoon). I ran into the same situation where the weekend morning backfire on us because the kids are so excited about it that they wake up at 6 am. i told them they need to read books or play by themselves until 7 am before ipad or TV is allowed but they end up asking is it 7 yet like a million times. my kids are almost 4 and 6. i used to feel like i am a bad parents with this but i don’t feel that way anymore. everyone needs a break including the kids and parents. i don’t think it is excessive that they watch 5 h of TV per week (5 out of the 168 hours). however, i should screen for what they can watch. i let my daughter watch peppa pig but maybe some of the bad behavior comes from that.

  110. If you’re looking for a very sweet show for young kids that has a nice relaxed pace, check out “Puffin Rock” on Netflix. It’s lovely and peaceful, which is a very surprising thing to say about a show for kids. (Also, it’s narrated by Chris O’Dowd in his dreamy Irish accent.) My daughter is six now and she still likes watching it occasionally, although it’s really intended for younger kids. I think it’s probably perfect for the pre-school set.

    I think I saw somewhere else in the comments that you’ve done some of the BBC ‘Planet Earth’ — my daughter loves all the BBC nature documentaries to the degree that she’d rather choose one of those for family movie night than a Disney movie! And they’re educational, right? So, I feel pretty okay with that.

    1. Oh, and also Mr. Rogers! There are a bunch of old seasons available on Amazon. Kids don’t seem to notice that they’re old-fashioned, and if they’re already familiar with Daniel Tiger, it’ll be fun for them to see the original Land of Make-Believe. 🙂

    2. My 19-m/o can’t get enough of Puffin Rock and we have watched it easily a dozen times through now. It’s soft and relaxing and moves like a picture book. If we think she needs a break from Puffin Rock, we’ll also throw on Planet Earth or some other nature show. It doesn’t hold her attention very much, which is fine by me!

  111. I don’t have kids yet, but I loved reading this – especially the part about the Kevin Costner version. ?

  112. We have a 2.5 year old almost and he is allowed one or two show (max an hour)in the morning typically we stick to relaxed things like Daniel tiger, tumble leaf (amazon prime and soooo creative and calming), or curious George. He loves it and interacts so I don’t feel guilty. Then we let him watch movies when on date nights when we go out and he is with a sitter so he can do something special. I also let him watch like your mom suggested. I get him a snack and let him watch something while I cook dinner and have a glass of wine. Everyone is happy and ready for dinner and we enjoy time together. It is awesome. Then some times depending on the day or weekend we do another hour or so in the week a few other times. I feel guilty at times but he is always active and playing at the same time and sometimes I need he space to finish work or get him relaxing after day care.

  113. I feel like putting restrictions on it makes it much more desired 100%, and then there’s all sorts of arguments over how much and when and so on. Both my husband and I work full time out of the home, are in the creative field, and are pretty great parents with very smart active kids. Our kids are in a daycare/ school program from 7:30a- 4:30pm- with no TV.
    With my first, I was super controlling about no TV ever, ( organic everything, cloth diapers and so on) but by the time he turned 1 we were putting it on whenever we needed/ wanted to, not really worried about it.
    When my second came along, my son was 2.5 and the only way I could get through my day on maternity leave was to set him up next to me with movies/ shows while I breastfed. We also colored, read books and played with toys, completed puzzles, walked to the park every day and so on.
    Fast forward, my kids are 4 and 1.5 and developmentally excellent- emotionally and verbally ahead of all the milestones. We watch TV every day, whenever we feel like it… a quick 10 minutes while we get them dressed in the am, after school/ daycare @ 5pm “arsenic” time- more like it’s ON but they are almost never glued to it. It’s background noise mostly and I’m fine with it. I feel like they could take it or leave it, but helps me to get dinner on the table a little faster, or spend time with one kid at a time while the other is distracted. Our dining table is right next to the living room and most times, gasp, we leave the TV on. It’s ok! You do what works for you and your family and you are doing it right.

  114. i think you are doing fine. my girls are now in high school. with the first, i barely let her watch any tv, and only PBS. then the second came along (they are two years apart) and it was we did give them limits after a while and going to school helps with limiting time. they had to finish homework before they could watch and we didn’t watch much in the evenings. in middle school i decided that they needed more effort toward homework so we stopped all tv from monday to friday afternoon. once we established that rule, they stuck to it. i give my teenagers pretty free range now. there are shows we still watch as a family, there are shows that they binge on netflix, and i’m honestly ok with it. they are nice, intelligent kids who mostly listen to their parents. i feel like tv has not made them into monsters. i also think that while i watched a TON of tv as a kid, it really did make me curious about the world. one of my kids draws while she watches, the other just signed up for three AP courses in her senior year (to go along with the other six she has already taken. not meant as a brag; just to show that her brain did not become rotted!). we just got back from an estate sale of a tv series that was filmed in our town, and tonight we are going to see a dance show set in an historic home. we’ll go see the Avengers together on sunday at the movies. so they take in lots of media in different ways and i’m pretty fine with it all. just pick your boundaries and stick with them, until it’s time to change them!

  115. An episode or 2 or 3 right when my toddler wakes up in the morning or from his nap seems to help him transition out of his sleepy grumpiness at those times, for him it’s like coffee, ha. Plus little Einstein’s has given him an ear for classical music which makes me feel proud and less guilty about allowing him screen time. Other favorites are stinky and dirty on Amazon prime, blippi on you tube, Cars and cars 3 and the movie Sing! All great messages and beautiful animation!

  116. Hi Emily,
    Well, once again, I found myself LOLing while reading one of your posts! Your wit and sense of humor about most everything is fantastic! I’m a mom of 2 lovely girls, ages 11 & 12 1/2. I’m also a child and family psychotherapist, so I’ve got a bit of both personal and professional experience on this topic. I have a few thoughts to share. First is that clearly, your Mom did a GREAT job raising you, as evidenced by the fact that you are a conscientious and devoted Mom….just the fact that you are pondering all this stuff and willing to learn as you go is example of that! Second point I’d like to make is that there IS such a thing as “Good enough parenting,” meaning, if we as parents are generally loving, affectionate, supportive and provide consistent structure and guidance to our children, then we are doing “enough” and they’ll most likely end up okay;). Third, I just alluded to it, but CONSISTENCY is key when parenting…..especially with little ones! Every household, family, child is different and has different needs, values and expectations. What’s even more important than the specific rules that are in place, is that the rules are consistently enforced and followed, but can change and evolve over time as the needs of the family do. Rules, consistency and routine give children as sense of security, predictability and confidence…..all of which are super important for healthy development and can also significantly help to reduce chaos and stress in the home. This is an issue that comes up so often in my practice, and yet is so simple in nature. A lot of acting out behavior in kids can be significantly reduced, if not eliminated just by simply developing a routine with your kids and sticking to it. As long as their basic needs are being met, ie: enough sleep, food, shelter, love….all the other little stuff can and will evolve and change over time as the needs of the kids/family change over time.

    So, back to the question of how much is too much screen time??? I’d like to share that I don’t believe TV/screen time is a terrible thing for kids, but time watching/content should be age-appropriate and very limited for little one’s, i.e.: 2-6 year olds. I don’t think screen time for children under 2 is a good idea and there’s a lot of research that indicates there are adverse affects for too much screen time for younger children….2-6 y/o. When my girls were younger 2-6 they each got to choose a show in the morning, if they were dressed, breakfast eaten and teeth brushed (usually 15 minute shows) before we headed off to preschool. In the afternoons they napped after school and then we usually played outdoors together. In the evenings, while I cooked dinner, it was “dance party and dress-up time” Until Daddy got home and then, it was “Daddy time!” (yaaa!). During their preschool years some of their favorites were: Sesame Street, Little Einsteins, Wonder Pets, Octonauts, and a wonderful show called Signing Time on PBS that taught sign language to kids. After dinner, because my girls were so close in age (20 months apart) they had bath time together, then we had story time before bed…..this was everyone’s favorite!!

    As my girls got older, this routine adapted to their changing schedule and the amount of TV time increased slightly over the years, to also include family movie nights on the weekend, which we all still look forward to:)). When they started elementary school, for instance, there really was no longer time for any TV during the week, so they got their shows on the weekends and we still enjoyed movie nights together. The fact that they were in school till 3pm, then came home, had snack/play time for an hour before starting homework, which transitioned into dinner and bedtime routine, was something that they just accepted and understood to be part of our “routine.”
    Now that my girls are in 5th and 7th grade, there are other “screens” that my husband and I have to moniter: computer/tablet and just recently, phone time. They have a lot of homework during the week so rarely, if ever watch TV. My 11 y/o is obsessed with Mine Craft, which she is allowed to play for 1/2 hour after homework is done. We don’t do any other video gaming. My 12 y/o has a cell phone that she can make calls and receive/send texts on and that’s it…..NO INTERNET access. We’ve decided to WAIT UNTIL 8TH to get her a smart phone, which is now a growing movement being promoted by both pediatricians, child development experts and therapists! My daughter has complained about this rule for the past 2 years, since ALL OF HER FRIENDS and almost every kid in middle school has a smart phone, but we have stood our ground:)).
    We still have movie night pretty much every Friday night as family, and during the week, my daughters and I still snuggle up together and read for about an hour before bedtime….THIS IS THE BEST and i’m holding on to it for dear life! We don’t allow any screens in their bedrooms.

    Sorry if this is a bit long, just wanted to share what has and is working for us as a busy family with 2 careers, 2 kids, 2 dogs, a hamster and tons of extracurricular activities to boot!! I’d also like to emphasize that I had the privilege of being able to stay home and work full-time as a mom for 7 years, so the “routine” I’ve described above certainly wouldn’t work or be possible for everyone/family. This has just been what has worked for our family!
    Finally, i’d really, really like to encourage/remind all parents, whenever possible, to put down your phones/tablets, turn off your screens and be present for your kiddos. Look them in the eye when they talk to you, ask them about their day, and tell them about yours too!!

  117. My kids are 5 and 8 and they watch about an hour a day. No shame here, they are happy, smart, and nice kids. The way I look at it is, everyone wants some down time and prior to this they have not been really old enough to read or do anything that allows them to just relax and CHILL other than TV. I often let them each have an episode of their choosing and then a “together choice” – this forces them to compromise and also watch the other person’s choice – often realizing that they like that, too. Also, we have no ipads or screens other than television. IMO, tv has frankly started to seem rather quaint: I like that television is a social activity – my kids watch side by side on the couch and I can see/hear what they’re watching and talk to them about it – as opposed to screens they look at individually in their rooms or something, which seem isolating and kinda sad. I’m totally pro-tv (in moderation)…

  118. I have a 3 year old girl and we were like you and were anti tv for about the first year then it was only seseme street. More recently Monday-Friday we don’t allow any TV in the morning (she gets up at 6:30am and leaves for preschool around 8:15am) and after school we let her watch about an hour/hour1/2 (a favorite of ours right now is Nina’s world) It’s not every night and some nights it’s not at all. Friday nights are movie nights which is nice for us all to do together. Saturdays she gets more TV time from about 8 to 10 so that I can organize my life and get out the door. She hasn’t been crying for it and if she does fuss then we say she can’t watch (which weirdly works) Playing music helps a lot as it feels like an activity too and she’s into it. Ipad time is my a total of 1 hour a week at most. The struggle is real…..

  119. I work from home, for the home full time, and am a real estate broker full time. Two full time jobs, wahoo! 🙂 I love being able to stay home with my three year old but sometimes he HAS to watch TV. I might need to talk to a client, write a contract, etc. so I will turn it on as I need it. It’s never for very long and I don’t feel guilty about it. He likes TV, but since it’s kind of routine he doesn’t really care when I turn it off. I just say, okay- let’s go play!- and he knows he will be able to finish the episode next time a client calls. It’s not totally perfect, and sometimes he watches more than I’d like, but he learns from it, ( almost exclusively) enjoys it, and I refuse to feel guilty about it. So there.

  120. My boys (3 and 5) watch a little tv while I cook dinner every day. It works out great! It’s part of our routine, so they know when they get to watch, and don’t ask for it the rest of the day. And if we watch at some other point (family movie night, Saturday morning) they know it’s a special treat.

    I’m home with them, and an introvert, so I really love their 1/2 hour+ of daily tv time/dinner making!! That silent time is golden.

    Also, side note, if you haven’t listened to npr’s circle round pod cast, you are really missing out! My kids love it, and they’ll sit and play legos while they listen. That’s what we usually do Saturday mornings.

  121. Sure, I’ll throw my experience & opinion into the ring. Ideally I would have loved to be a No TV (for the kids) household. In reality I found that as a strong introvert with an extroverted chatty little girl, once she gave up naps at almost 3, I instituted TV Time daily instead because I could not get through the day without a big break and a dose of silence. She already played independently most of the time, so it didn’t seem fair to turn naptime into independent play time which is what some families do. I do screen every show and there are a lot I ban, but I haven’t had a problem with her begging for it since it has always been only what Mom okays, for that 1.5-2 hours at a certain time every day. Never would have thought I’d gladly be having my child watch 2 hours of TV every day (more than I do myself) but it helps make our day run smoothly and I haven’t seen negative effects on her behavior – she is now 5. I know plenty of moms whose kids have more of an addict’s relationship with the TV though! My 2 year old is still napping, but doesn’t seem terribly interested in the TV when it is on, so hopefully the same will work with her.

  122. ok… you are missing a gold mine of slow paced, beautiful, heartwarming and original movies. Studio Ghibli and in particular movies directed by hayao miyazaki are some of the best children’s movies ever created. They are all dubbed in english and are just what your looking for…. slow paced, beautiful stories of friendship and families. Check out Ponyo, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service and The Secret World of Arriety. There are more but they are for older audiences then your babies. Anyway, if your feeling tapped out… these movies are something my kids just love and I don’t mind them watching because the stories are so happy and the art work is just jaw dropping.

  123. 4.5yo watches about 15-30min every night after dinner so we can clean up and feed her baby brother. Sometimes we watch a movie on Sunday instead but she’s scared of almost every movie!

  124. As a First Grade teacher for over 20 years, PLEASE think long and hard about screen time, especially under the age of 2. Children’s brains change so much when they are exposed to screens at an early age and it affects the way they learn and their attention span in school (and not in a good way.)

    I have 2 grown children and they did watch some TV as kids and I certainly cherished my Saturday mornings “off” while they were entertained by Sesame Street, so I understand where you’re coming from. There are so many more opportunities for kids to have screen time these days, so just be mindful. Talk to them in the car or a restaurant or play a game instead of hooking them up with a device.

    I respect your right to choose for your family, but try to think long term about their futures. Their teachers thank you!

  125. Hi Emily, I’ve been thinking of this post often today since I read it. I grew up in the midwest, had my first child while living in Northern California, moved to DC, moved back to the midwest where I’m not raising 3 kids – ages 5, 3 and 1… When I was pregnant with the first I was research obsessed. I’ve lessened as I’ve had more children, but when it began I feel like the cultural mindset of California really played into how I made my decisions. And I do not mean that in a negative way, but it is very different than the midwest mindset. I learned so much, I was determined to do so many things – one of those was that my daughter would watch NO TV. I made it a long time with her only seeing an occasional thing, but truly not using it as a tool in our house. By the time I was pregnant with number two, living in DC with no family support, no money for a sitter and a husband that commuted long hours … I was desperate. But something had happened – I’d developed such pride over the fact that we didn’t watch TV, in fact we didn’t even OWN a TV – and I was so proud of it. Like, somehow, I was a better mom because I didn’t NEED a TV to help me. So instead of using it as a tool when I needed it, I refused. Instead of being a better mom, I was probably a worse one and I was prideful. Slowly, as I’ve had more kids, moved closer to family, been knocked down a few pegs my pride has eroded a way a bit, I’ve realized that in all the areas we are blessed to have in our very privileged society, they are still just tools that we are called to steward wisely. So, I commend you for truly seeking wisdom and wanting to steward your children’s time and minds wisely. TV is a great tool, but when it becomes a treasure – that’s when it’s a problem. I’d so encourage you to stress a bit less about it, give yourself grace, and see that seasons ebb and flow. There are seasons where you need your tools more, and seasons where you need them less. I’m just coming out of the frozen tundra of a winter we’ve been having, and you betcha, I used my tools (TV and others) more than I will in the coming months because now we’re FREE to get outside and there’s sun so we’ve all come alive again. But my message to myself and my advice for myself is this: give yourself freedom to create boundaries and break boundaries when necessary, remember you’re in seasons that are always changing, give yourself grace, so so much grace – and be grateful for your tools as long as they remain just tools, not treasures. All the best to you mamma, you’re a good mom. You’ll figure it out.

  126. So many comments so you probably won’t read this, but we were only allowed to watch tv on the weekend nights growing up, which meant a lot of bad tv back then! And a current love affair with tv. I think a little every day never killed anyone. But we did all read a lot.

    However, my favorite little kids tv show by far, which I actually wanted to watch with my kids,

    Little Bear by Maurice Sendak. It was on Nickelodeon when my kids were little, but is probably streaming now. It is the sweetest but most interesting show ever. A++++

  127. I totally understand the struggle. We aim to play outside, inside, or read…but we still have movie time while cooking. May I suggest “the okee dokee brothers”? They have about 3 thirty minute movies out on rafting, hiking, and camping. There’s a lot of bluegrass singing and nature tales. It’s amazing. I think they won a Grammy for one of their soundtracks, maybe? We have four boys (a four year old and triplet two year olds…so yeah, we need a break to cook sometimes). We recently gifted the movies to friends with two kids traveling to their new home in Colorado (boy and girl kids) and they LOVED the movies too.
    “Can you canoe” is a good starter and they are on amazon streaming if you just want to rent them before you buy.

  128. I have a 3.5 year old and a 6 year old. When my youngest was born, the toddler at the time watched tv every time I nursed to keep her out of trouble! Now that they are both older, my preschooler watches 1-2 shows a day while eating lunch. Terrible I know, but I cherish my quiet lunch! It also allows me to get some chores done. My 6 year old doesn’t watch tv on school days. We normally do a family movie night on Fridays (but we won’t do that for the next 2 months due to early Saturday morning swim meets), and they watch a couple shows on the weekends.

    I can sit anywhere in my living room or kitchen and see them playing in the back yard. So, most of the time they are begging to be outside, and I love it!

  129. I think parenting in this day and age of screen time IS THE HARDEST TIME TO PARENT IN THE HISTORY OF THE PLANET. Just saying. I have 7 year old twin boys – we too, try to limit the amount of screen time they get in general. When they were two it was about a half hour to hour per day, Thomas, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, etc. We basically kept that model all through preschool, very seldom doing iPads or phones (only airplane or long car trips). I can honestly say I never gave them phones while perusing the aisles of Target, as hard as it was, but I was determined. Plus, I didn’t have two phones so the decision was made easier by that. I do believe that with effort, you can get through a store without giving your child a phone. Give them something else to hold and talk to them, and they should be happy. One of the best pieces of advice was “the bigger the screen, the better.” With a TV in a large room, they can still be aware of other people, maybe a bird flying by the window, trees waving in the wind. As a parent, you can watch with them (or at least know what’s going on) and comment on/ explain something that happens. With a smaller screen, they are isolated into their own world and you become less aware of what they are watching/doing. So we’ve always sort of followed that rule. I believe as long as they are getting a balance of family time (walks/hikes/game time/dedicated parental presence) and independent play, that a little screen time is not going to kill them. Every age is a phase and you sort of have to navigate each one as you go. Obviously you are concerned about it, and so you are aware, and that is huge. Trust your instinct. You know deep down when too much is too much, etc. But also don’t give in to their tantrums and whims. Otherwise they will start to control you. As hard as it is, stay consistent. Its easy to give in to them when you think you can’t take it anymore, but if you ride it out, the tantrums don’t actually last that long. Good luck! 🙂

  130. I met a guy the other day whose full-time job is traveling the world giving lectures about video game addiction. While he speaks to video games specifically (he is a former addict), I think TV/phones/tablets can have almost the same effect. He didn’t have kids, but he said he wants them someday. I asked him at what age he would allow his kid to have a phone or tablet. He said, based on the research he has done (and there is a limited amount because they simply haven’t been around long enough for us to know the real impact), he would not give his kid a phone/tablet before the age of 16. 16!!! Even childless me knows how unrealistic that is.

    I don’t have kids yet but this topic is SO INTERESTING to me because this is the first generation of kids that is growing up surrounded by various types of screens available to them 24/7 and it scares the bejeesus out of me. It sounds like you’re doing the best you can and I applaud you for being cognizant of your kids’ screen time and managing to control it to a reasonable level.

  131. I’m sure you’ll get 100,000 new recs for tv shows and movies but here it is: inside out has a beautiful message that emotions are complicated and there’s not just “happy” and “sad”- sometimes you joy can spring from sadness. Coco also has an astounding message (srsly Disney/Pixar, you make the deepest films). Tv shows: Dot is really cute and she’s always respectful of her parents and it actually teaches LIMITS about screen time! Woohoo! I find that Canadian tv shows have the most well behaved characters ?

  132. You are a good parent to worry about screen time. My children are grown now (34 and 30) but when they were young I didn’t really put time limits on tv watching so it never became a battle. Computers came much later, and of course no tablets/smartphones. My oldest always loved tv but I made sure he had lots of playtime (I was a SAHM) and kept busy. His love of tv turned into his career! Haha, he works for a tv station as a technical director on the news. My daughter (younger one) watched a lot of PBS, movies, and musicals. She was always dancing and doing gymnastics to music with her friends. The tv would be on but they were “performing.” Again, we kept busy playing outside and inside together. Lots of playdates at our house or a friend’s house and outings. But during long, cold, New England winters – we watched more tv together. And definitely while I was cooking dinner. Both kids turned out great and are happy, working adults. If you make a big deal of it, they will rebel, as you know. One of my friends wouldn’t let her kids watch tv so when her oldest came to our house he would ask my son if they could watch tv for a whole hour! As far as family shows, are they too young for Full House/Fuller House? Cute family show that we enjoy watching as adults. But mostly we watch HGTV these days 😉

  133. Hahahaha…no, seriously, Emily, it sounds like you are doing just fine. The amount of garbage I have allowed my now 5 year old daughter to spend her time with through tech…I am a garbage parent, you got nothing on the likes of me, relax. But I really just came here to suggest Puffin Rock.

    1. Fellow garbage parent here, in absolute bliss during the past 2 hours of absolute silence because everyone in my house has their face pointing at an iPad screen AND IT IS SO QUIET AND MAGICAL….let’s just go ahead and shoot for 3 hours for the sake of my own sanity. Weeeeeeee!

  134. We have a 22 month old. My husband is a work-at-home-dad. Kiddo watches one episode of “Sarah and Duck” while her Dad showers in the morning, and has the opportunity to earn one more episode in the afternoon if she helps tidy up, etc. That’s been working out fairly well- much better than how she used to beg for more episodes and we’d just give in.

    As kids shows go, Sarah and Duck is the bomb diggity! 100% recommend it. Very slow, very polite, very imaginative, very British. We also watch one or two episodes on weekend mornings and more when she’s sick so we’re all on our third or fourth time through and nobody in our house is sick of it yet.
    She’s also seen Aristocats, 101 Dalmatians, and the Charlie Brown holiday specials and loves them all.

  135. I think that today is a whole different ball game than when I was growing up. My mom was VERY relaxed about it when I was growing up in the 80’s and put NO restrictions on us whatsoever. We would watch, stop and play, put on a movie on our Betamax, etc. She thought I was being a type A parent by even worrying about this whatsoever. I tried to explain to her with youtube, on demand, amazon prime, netflix, etc, it’s not like when we were little and had to wait for our favorite television shows to come on and it wasn’t necessarily all-kid all the time. We would naturally get bored of the TV because there wasn’t always an engaging option. I wouldn’t have missed “She-Ra princess of Power” or “Gem and the Holograms” for anything, but there were shows I just naturally turned off. We went through stages where my dad sprung for cable and we got the Disney channel and then in leaner years, he cancelled it.

    My husband grew up in the 70’s and his mother told me that she used to count down the minutes till Sesame Street finally came on.

    Right now, we don’t even have cable. We only have basic channels and streaming. It’s actually worse because the kids can have their shows all the time. My seven year old son is hooked on iPad apps. My four year old daughter loves weird youtube channels. Her favorite, which I think is quite good, is “Come Play With Me.” These kids have created whole worlds with their four main dolls, Annia and Elsia and their children which are Barbie Chelsea dolls. At this stage, my son like “Disney Toy Collector” on youtube. We had to cut the seven year old off of youtube because he was watching teenage boy youtube channels doing and saying really inappropriate things.

    Like your situation, it got to be too much. What I am doing now is similar to you–in the morning, after the kids get totally ready to leave for the day, they get screen time. I don’t mind, because it is incentive for them to do it and not lie on the floor and scream when it’s shoe time or hair brushing. They get up with alarm clocks, get dressed and then watch their screens. I finish getting ready, make breakfast and lunch, etc. My husband is on market hours so I am alone and this works for us. This wasn’t actually my idea. I read a lot of parenting books too. Many of them suggest “family meeting time.” My favorite workshop/book is “How to talk so Little Kids Will Listen” by Julie King. She said that no matter what they say during family meeting, write it down. On our “agenda” was “We are late to school every day, what should we do?” I asked them, “What are all the things we need to get ready and go to school in the morning.” My son was being ornery so he said, “watch TV.” I wrote it down. Between the two of them, we ended up getting practical things like, “brush teeth, get dressed, eat breakfast, put on shoes, make bed.” We made a chart with printed out pictures of them doing the things (because they couldn’t yet read) and posted it. I included “free choice” which could be watching a screen. They both got real adult alarm clocks which would give them enough time to do the things that they need to do and also to get about fifteen minutes of free choice. It has worked for the past 2.5 years.

    So, after that–5:00 pm is screen time. They go to bed around 8:00. We have dinner and bath somewhere in between 5-8. It’s still too much time, but I wanted to make an edict I could follow and not go back on all the time. My husband is actually awful and the most inconsistent parent on the planet and knows my system, but luckily he’s not around enough to screw this up. When I am on working on the weekends, it becomes screen time all the time because he is too lazy/tired to parent and turns it on. I need to work a bit on the weekends, so I let it go. He does other things right.

    I am able to pick up the kids at 3:00. I stay out of the house doing things so I don’t have the “screen time now” fight. On the weekends, we get out and do things and go to nature. Of the things my husband often does right is take the kids out on massive hikes and then when he comes home (though it is lenient because it’s only 12:00 and we have another eight hours of parenting to get through) they have screen time.

    My son was/is getting a bit chunky so we got him a Garmin fitbit thing so another check before he gets his screen time is that he has had 10,000 steps and 60 active minutes. He likes it. It also has chore rewards.

    So–I am a product of actually NO limits and restrictions on TV and as a result, as an adult, I regulate myself quite well. I don’t even like TV (except for snarky British design shows) and prefer reading. I may have always been like this why my mother didn’t need restrictions. Or maybe I got that way from having NO limits.

    But–what is nice is that I do have an incentive/fear with my kids. If they are misbehaving or I need to motivate them to do something, the threat of taking away screen time is REAL. They quickly come into line. My friends have other things like, “Can’t ride bike to school” or other things, but what gets my son is–no screen time. Oh the horror! My daughter is more motivated by sweet treats.

    This is a HUGE topic and debate. I commented without reading everything yet but I am excited to delve in to the comments. I not only love Emily and her team, but I love this community and I think I learn a lot from the commenters on every subject.

  136. I try to minimize screen time, but I don’t forbid it. I do everything I can to keep it to under two hours a day max. I also am very picky about which shows or movies to show to my 3 year old.

  137. I have a 5 and a 2 year old. They each began watching tv around 2 years old. They watch the same amount now as when they were 2. They get to watch 1 hour a day. Some days it’s 1/2 hour in the morning and 1/2 hour in the evening. Sometimes it’s 40 minutes in the afternoon. We don’t watch too many movies as my 2 year old definitely doesn’t have the attention span to do it. There are days my son prefers to pretend play then to watch tv which is shocking to me. Haha!

    I think to me, I work part time so I get to experience both worlds. playing with your kids is so important. My 5 year old no longer naps but has quiet time which he plays on his own quietly in his room for about 45 min while the 2 year old naps. We also pretend play as well as work on other stuff ( school stuff, cooking stuff, garden stuff).

    He really enjoys pretend playing with me and engaging with me and doing some house stuff (only the interesting stuff, like cooking things he enjoys eating) with me, sometimes over watching the tv. I will be honest and say that there are days that I really don’t want to play with him. I’m just not interested in transformers, pikachu, etc. hahaha! But I do it because I love him, I think creativity is so important for him, and I love how it gives me a glimpse into seeing his gears churn when I present a situation he isn’t expecting.

    I’m a person of everything is okay in moderation, within reason of course. I even let the 5 year old watch Pokémon with the words ‘stupid’ and ‘idiot’ in them, although it makes me cringe. To me it opens conversations for the future as he enters kinder next school year and will likely hear these words soon.

    Independent play is obviously important and our kids do pretty good at this, when they aren’t fighting!!! (Haha) but in our household we do a good amount of pretend play together and I think sometimes they enjoy it more than the screen time!

  138. My son (5) loves the Magic School Bus – very educational episodes about the human body, planets, sounds, ants, etc. My son definitely prefers the original with Ms Frizzle to this year’s reboot.

  139. We don’t have set limits but try to be mindful and what and when he watches. Nothing too close to bedtime, and not for hours at a time. We definitely do the iPad in morning at the weekend in bed with us for a sort of lie-in. We’re lucky to have the BBC iPlayer app so programme choice is good.

    When he is watching we try to sit with him so it’s a joint activity (not always possible) this way we actively monitor what he watches and how he’s reacting to it. So fast paced, actiony, fighting shows had a negative impact on behaviour and we don’t let him watch them eg Dinosaur King, Paw Patrol.

    Recommendations for nice stories, good messages and slower paced stuff that he loves and suits him are:
    Octonauts (cannot recommend it enough), Hey Duggee, Puffin Rock (on Netflix), Postman Pat, Dino Dana, Song of the Sea (lovely Irish film), all Julia Donaldson films – room on broom, gruffalo etc.

  140. I just want to thank you for being transparent about your parenting and other real life stuff. It’s so refreshing!

    My kiddos are 4&7. We do Friday family movie night, a few shows on the weekend, and random zone out times when needed. I’m at home w the kiddos and my husband is an ER doc, so my solo parenting time can be a lot. I’ll even put them in a “Wild Kratts bath” with the iPad propped on the toilet when I need some garuanteed peace and quiet before bedtime. Sanity saver 😉

    We are, however, a very strict no screens in the car family—but a watch all you want on the plane family. 🙂 Our kids are good travelers which helps. We listen to audio stories and podcasts a ton at home and in the car.
    These are our favorites:
    Winnie the Pooh—narrated by Christopher Plummer on Spotify
    Sparkle Stories—the absolute best! They have story series about junkyard animals, siblings, fairies, families, sleepytime, etc. There’s a podcast on iTunes and a free trial if you’d like to sample before subscribing. Do check them out!
    Brains on—Science for kids iTunes
    Playtime and Listen & Play—BBC songs and stories on iTunes
    Story Pirates—they take stories kids write and act them out. iTunes
    But Why—another science podcast on iTunes

    1. Great recommendations on audio stories/podcasts. Curious at what age your kiddos showed interest? My son is 2.5 and car rides over a half hour can get quite challenging with him.

  141. I am 65 and definitely out of your demographic but here’s my take. As a child we had one TV. It was family viewing..i.e. whatever Dad wanted to watch. Lol. We watched news, variety shows, baseball (we loved the Hamms beer commercial with the bear), car racing, etc. We never watched during the day, just in the evenings. Well, baseball on Saturday or Sunday during the day. Very little violence other than the news. Fast forward to my own children. I allowed them to watch after school after homework was done and then again as a family in the evenings. Still not so bad. Then video games arrived. I swear it was my biggest mistake in life. Addiction to chopping/blowing up people/monsters took over my kids lives. Outside activities became extinct while friend time became going to their houses to compete in chopping/ blowing up people/monsters. Instead of rock climbing, ziplining, skiing, hiking, etc., I had allowed this monster video game system to dominate their lives. Now enters the ipad. As a librarian, it was touted to us as a great learning tool, learning physics, etc. And I bought into that and encouraged purchasing them to circulate. those games are just as addictive as Mario, etc. If I had to do it all again, it would be no TV at all, no video games ever. It would be painting and family jogging and music and botany and logrolling even, anything but screen time.

  142. Work at home for the family mother of three boys; 5, 2.5 and 2 months. Right now we do an hour to 1.5 hours in the morning and an hour in the afternoon while we’re waiting for Daddy to get home/I’m making dinner. It’s a lot but there’s a lot going on in our household right now and this keeps everyone sane so I don’t beat myself up about it.
    And yeah, Wild Kratts is my jam. And Nature Cat! 😉

  143. My children are now 13 & 15 and I’ve learned that everything is a phase – even now in HS. I think you can stop stressing so much about this. Your children will be in pre-school before you know it & the available time for TV will drop every year from there. Much like you, my children were outdoorsy and kept engaged in lots of activities that didn’t revolve around the TV. They watched some – I’m sure there were some struggles but I didn’t have hard rules – life is messy – being flexible is a great skill to have at all ages! My kids are happily busy with school work, sports and friends. My daughter catches a show every once in a while and my son would rather play Fortnite when he has down time. Enjoy this stage because really tough challenges await. Also, Little Bear, which must be on demand somewhere, is the chillest, sweetest show – I loved it as much as they did. Good Luck!

  144. I have four kids, now all young adults, at ages 19, 21, 23, & 25, born within six years. To this day, I am so thankful for Barney and Sesame Street. It was the only way I could get anything done.

    I would think of the good that can come from solid children’s programming and not the guilt. From Barney, we learned the clean-up song. From Sesame Street, we learned how to be a good friend. I will never forget the pure joy my girls experienced when we went to our first “Barney Live” concert. The delight when you take them to Disney for the first time. When children’s programming transitions into a life experience/memory maker, then it’s a win for all.

    My kids grew up in a time when television and movie creativity reached a whole new level. Little Mermaid, Aladdin, The Lion King, etc. My oldest daughter can sing you every Disney song, then in middle school (the toughest of times) she got the lead solo when they sang Hakuna Matata. After college graduation, she was still unsure of her career path. She did two semesters of the Disney college program. Disney on her resume’ was gold for her first perfect job.

    With my boys, the shows evolved into Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, all things Super Heroes, and Star Wars. So down time would be spent creating their own characters with imaginative stories and drawings. I have spent a ton of money on books, sketchbooks, and drawing pencils.
    My oldest creative boy now works at Sesame Street. The perfect first job after college.

    As they got older, the interests changed to such things as Harry Potter so we took a Harry Potter tour in the U.K. one summer, combining their love for the books & movies with the history and beauty of England. They all love music so we did a Beatles tour. We have also been to Ireland where they filmed some of the recent Star Wars movies. Disney cruises remain our favorite family vacation. I especially love them now because I have all the kids together for the rare times that happens now.

    If you want to get outside the box on some children’s programming and have access to a great independent film festival, they often have a children’s day where the creativity will be off the charts.

    It looks like you have set great parameters for your children. I agree with your Mom on dinner time. I called that the bewitching hour. Any help from Elmo & Big Bird was greatly appreciated!

    All my best!

  145. Charlie should be ready for the “Land Before Time” dinosaur video series. Both my kids, especially the older girl – LOVED these gently and loving videos. A few seconds of a scary scenario where the dinosaurs encounter a life challenge, but both kids now in grad school – one in medical school – so I figure we did OK.

    Also – helicopter parents – I took class called “Love and Logic” by a CA parenting wizard in the later 90’s. Saved my life – he’s genius. I think his last name was Fay.

  146. I love that you care so much about this topic and reading all the comments how much other people do too! I watched SOOOO much TV growing up (70’s and 80″s), whatever we wanted! I came out ok but I can say for sure that I feel it was a bit harder for me to get motivated, stay focused, then friends who didn’t have quite so much TV in their lives. This is personally why I put a lot of thought into screen time and here is what we do and have done for our now 8 year old: (This is not perfect all the time!!!)

    1. We have a TV so I felt like it would be hypocritical to not let her watch and to set limits without her knowing that we set limits for our selves as well (adults have to use self control too!) We do not watch any TV during the day, even on weekends. Computer time watching music videos or funny cats is extremely limited and therefore feels good when we do it. I do not use my phone at all in the car. Period!! I want to show as much towards safety as I can. No iPad use or cell phone use at restaurants, etc. I think communication about screen time being entertainment and entertainment that requires nothing from you at all should be limited. Talk, talk talk about things!

    2. TV specific- I got tired of her begging me for TV. So, I just simply made specific times. 2 days of TV after school for 1 hour (2 shows), she watches this by herself. Friday night movie night, and an occasional documentary Sunday.

    3. When she was very little I did no TV. Then gradually introduced and hand picked the shows. Now that she is 8, she helps me hand pick the shows but still understands that it needs to be appropriate and not too crazy!!

    4. For family movie night, we watch in 2 ways: what is popular right now and old movies. Usually,, we read the book together as a family: The little princess, Matilda, Charlie and the chocolate Factory, Swiss Family Robinson etc. It’s been super fun doing it this way.

    5. We watched the Great British Baking show together and it was so so good!! and now we are going to watch Trading Spaces together!

    What does she do? Lots of imaginary play. Lots of play dates (she is an only child so this is important!), we have an art station, and she is literally outside all the time. The preschool she went to also taught her how to finger knit, wet felt, knit, etc. We live in Florida and have a huge back yard. I think you are lucky you have two so they can imaginary play together! You’re right on mama and doing a great job!!

  147. I think the most important thing to consider about kids and screen is if the content is appropriate. TV can be a great resource for education, but it’s so easy for kiddos to watch things that influence them culturally, and not always for the better. Especially violence and sexism in TV and video games concerns me. And little kids get frightened easily at night, so even some scary cartoons can make your life harder if that content is worrying them at night.
    Because we’ve always lived in old homes with living room layouts that don’t accommodate a television, we only had on in the bedroom. So TV was a destination, and generally only used for family movie time and mornings when i wanted to sleep an extra 30 minutes and the kids would sit in the bed and watch something while I snoozed for a but. Our kids are only 17 months apart in age, and the lack of TV watching has been actually really great for our family. My kids find and make their own fun and play really well together, because there has never been an option. They are 8 and almost 7 years old now and spend most of their time making things and laying make believe. My son plays games on the tablet occasionally, but we never offer TV, we just let them watch it sometimes when they ask, and keep an eye on what they are watching.

  148. It’s a real battle – we did almost no screen time for my oldest (turning 12) but a lot more for the other two (turning 9,7) because I’m a stay at home mom and was tired. My best advice is to be consistent and do as little as you can get away with. We did audio books a lot and that seemed to work pretty well. It also helps when the kids play together well – which happens as the youngest gets older. We’re probably on the more extreme end since my husband is a pediatrician. The issue we deal with now is when to get a phone (we’re hoping to wait until high school) and how much computer time is acceptable. A screen is a screen – I think your on the right track. My kids are voracious readers and I like to think it’s from the lack of tv time but it could also be dumb luck. It’s a lot more work to find activities for kids unrelated to screens but worth it. But back to tv I’ve had the kids watch Bob Ross and they loved him as much as I did as a kid.

  149. Excellent parenting topic. I think your mom got it right. Down time just before dinner if it involves quality TV meets many needs.

    It seems you have a balance of family time in the mountain house and plenty of discussion at the dinner table. If Saturday morning TV gives everyone some space, so be it.

    However, research shows that video images along with a sound track turns young brians off. Everything is provided. Our son could read aloud in the third grade as well as a TV news anchor….but he had no idea what he read. No comprehension.

    Use radio programming and have your children “read” a picture book story to you. Separate the sound from image.

    Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes knows all about this issue.

  150. Someone mentioned this above, but I know it to be true first-hand. When you make it so someone CANT HAVE something by banning it or putting too many rules around it, they are going to fight to get it that much harder and fixate on it. My mother did this with soda and I always had soda at friends houses. Now I never drink it! go figure 🙂

    Point is, I wouldn’t put to many rules around it, just make sure it’s a healthy relationship (which your rules seem to be doing at this point). In a few years they’ll likely be doing sports and other extra-curriculurs that keep them away from the TV more which will be good for them!

  151. My daughter is about to turn 4 and I have been like you about tv – vacillating between desperately needing it and wanting to sell it on Craigslist. I’ve been working a lot on my mom-guilt and we finally have a system that seems to work pretty well. During the week she either gets to watch about an hour when she gets home from preschool (around 2pm) or while I make dinner (around 4pm), depending on our afternoon plans. And on the weekends it switches to the morning and we have breakfast/coffee on the couch which is nice & relaxing. This seems to be working pretty well and although it makes me anxious when I add up how many hours a week that is, I’m trying to lean into the advice that a respected mom-friend gave me which is: instead of thinking about how many hours a week she’s watching, think of how many hours she’s NOT watching & doing other things. And, like you, we regulate the choice of shows and try to keep it gentle/slow. Some other amazing, sweet shows you will love are: Sarah & Duck, Puffin Rock (both on Netflix), Dino Dana or Dino Dan (Amazon), Curious George (all eight thousand episodes are on Hulu for free), and last night we all watched Coco, which was so sweet and not scary (and my kid is super sensitive). Sounds like you’re doing a great job and making well thought-out choices that come from love and deep care. Parenting is SO hard but we’re all doing our best – and we’ve got this! xo

  152. I have a six year old stepdaughter who is with us 3 days a week and I also have 6 month old. Since we get to see our oldest so little we rarely do ever do tv, we try to spend as much time with her as possible when she’s here. BUT now that we have the baby and we both work outside the home, time management is more difficult and we can’t always spend all the quality time with her we want. So we discovered kid’s podcasts! She LOVES them and begs for them like they are tv but for some reason I feel way better about her listening to them. I guess I feel like she uses her imagination more when she’s listening to something instead of zoning out watching something. She can also do other stuff while she listens like legos, magnatiles, etc. She’s older than yours so I’m not sure what they would be into but she love loves Story Pirates, it really encourages kids to write their own stories, it’s amazing. We also do audio books on road trips. Last time we did a radio play version of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I’m sure things will change as my full-time child grows, but for now we are all podcasts with the occasional viewing of Masterchef Kids 😉

  153. Is it weird that i am WAY more concerned with my addiction to screens (i.e. my phone) and how it will affect my kids? I’m sure they see me on it and think it must be the most important thing in the world. And i don’t want them to ever think that or remember me that way.

  154. We follow your mom’s suggestion – they can switch the tv on no earlier than 5.30pm ( while I make dinner). In theory it is meant to be switched off when dinner is served, but sometimes it stays on during dinner :/. It is just so hard to keep them in their seats using other methods. We also have one tv free day a week – Wednesday ( just so we remember we can live without it). My 3 year old will ask – is it tvfree day? And when told yes, won’t complain, so that’s nice 🙂

  155. Puffin Rock on Netflix is beautiful, adorable, SLOW in the good ways for little ones, and our favorite.

  156. I’m a younger teacher, so I was the generation that kind of “piloted” all of these new technologies as I grew up. I’ve thought about how I will regulate screens for my kids when I have children of my own. It’s something I think about frequently since I work with kids who have had tech in their lives since birth, but have not had any boundaries placed on it.

    I was an avid reader and loved playing outside with my friends. My parents put no limit on my tv usage. I think I became bored with cable tv due to the lack of choices, repetitiveness, and commercials. If I grew up with Netflix, I don’t think I would have been bored as easily or quickly and would have spent more time in front of the tv. Maybe purchasing series/seasons on Amazon, or buying DVDs will promote that boredom and push them to find something else to do?

    Thinking about my current habits, I find that I am “healthy” in the areas that I did not have boundaries. That being said, my parents did monitor what I watched and looked at on the internet. The areas where I have difficulty regulating are ones that were introduced to me as an adult… Netflix, smart phones, etc. These are tools that have no “limit,” therefore there’s always this feeling that you can eventually find something exciting. The chase for this can be a time suck since there are seemingly no bounds to the internet and Netflix.

    I think boredom is key. I think limited options are key. When tv became boring, I was pushed to go outside, find a book, or do some sort of craft. How we can make these things boring is another dilemma….

  157. I think you’re teaching them important skills for the future about being able to turn off the TV, etc. They will definitely have to be able to manage their exposure to screens in the future, and I know I find it difficult myself when I’m at people’s houses where they have the TV on all the time, etc.

    A couple of ideas for recommendations: There’s a Canadian educational show my 2 1/2 yo nephew watches on the streaming service that’s been really great for teaching him numbers, colors, etc. I’ll have to report back with which one it is. Also, he really loves Neal deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos. We’re going to bring Planet Earth over for him when be babysit tonight.

  158. My toddler loves Sing, Moana, & Coco, mostly because of the songs that come out. We allow a movie a day, broken up into chunks throughout the day. We also found an old old iPod and downloaded the soundtrack of the movies and she LOVES this. She’ll run around the house singing the songs, and leaves it on while she play songs with her toys. It’s almost just as good as watching the movie for her.

    PS I’m a school psychologist but don’t really feel like I’m an expert. I just think of it as a ‘big picture’ kinda thing, like u do. Tv is a part of life, culture, etc., and while it’s not the best thing for my daughter, it’s not the worst either. ??‍♀️

  159. Cutting the cable (we just stream Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc.) and moving our tv to an out-of-the-way location has drastically changed all of our tv watching habits for the better. Streaming with no cable requires us to choose a specific show to watch. We can’t mindlessly change stations or just turn the tv on and leave it on as easily as we did with cable. Also, when we moved to a new home we opted to move our tv to the (finished) basement. When we do watch tv it’s because we’ve made a choice to do so. It’s much less easy for me to use it as a crutch or a babysitter because it’s out of the way. Our four year old asks to watch tv significantly less, I think, because he can’t see the tv while we go about our daily activities. Out of sight out of mind, for all of us. I was feeling hypocritical for working so hard to manage my son’s screen time when I wasn’t giving myself any boundaries either. We’ve gone through some rough patches – horrendous morning sickness for most of pregnancy #2 and the bleary, exhaustion ridden first few months of caring for a second baby and a toddler. I find the better I feel, the less likely I’m likely to rely on the tv for relief. Therefore, if I don’t get a workout in while he’s at preschool, I allow my son to watch a show or movie while I exercise nearby for 20-30 minutes. We have no hard and fast rules but our kids don’t watch tv most days during the week. We watch tv in the evenings on weekends mostly. He sparingly uses apps on our phones, maybe once a month. We do not have a tablet. Also, when reevaluating our screen time, I concluded that we were applying all of these restrictions to our kids but not holding ourselves accountable at all. It didn’t seem reasonable to tell our son he can’t watch tv but to allow ourselves free reign to be on our phones in front of him. Again, we don’t have hard and fast rules about this but try to restrict our screen use around him.

  160. I’m having one of those moments where you read other people’s parenting techniques on the internet and start to feel crappy about your own parenting style, something fierce right now.

    I feel the need to do some serious self-reflection right now while the house is completely silent because one is in front of the computer screen and the other is on his iPad 😉

  161. Gosh! I’ve been so conflicted by this topic. I’m a single mom with a 13 month old. I was on my own with him from the beginning, and then thought I should buy & renovate a new house when he was 4 months old. This had me WISHING he was old enough to just give him an iPad so I could work on a project, or just rest for a second. But my overall thoughts on the subject are no screens until he’s two. No iPads, phones, TVs. But then sometimes I think I’ve lost my marbles, so I put on the Beat Bugz to entertain him. (Best bugz is a show where these bugs just sing songs by the beetles) So overall, I try to avoid tv, but then I have grace for myself and remember that a lot of us turned out ok after a childhood infront of a tv, and I AM JUST ONE PERSON. If a chill tv session will actually help me be a better mom overall, than that counts for something!

  162. Puffin Rock on Netflix is a super sweet, beautiful little show. Our kids (four and two) love it.

    Also our most recent Friday movie night was watching The Incredibles. We all enjoyed it thoroughly!

  163. Also try Brave! Possibly may have some scary parts but overall good messages in that one as well.

  164. So timely! I have a five-month-old, and this is already on my mind a lot. When he was around three months old, I discovered the infant stimulation videos on YouTube – the monotonous, high contrast ones with classical music playing the background. When he was totally freaking out, they would calm him down in about thirty seconds, maybe less.

    Once my husband and I went back to work at 3.5 months, we had the issue of how to get ready in the morning. I admit that I will put the baby in front of Baby Einstein for twenty minutes so I can take a shower, put on makeup, and feel like a put-together normal person. I also think looking halfway decent is a job requirement…not sure how my clients would feel if I showed up in yoga pants and greasy hair.

    Other than those morning sessions or a quick twenty minutes of Sesame Street after work, I try not to use it. I have the same feeling that I only need to parent for a few hours a day, and I should try to be as present as possible during that time.

    Finally, I had a nanny from 2-5 who was a former elementary school teacher. I’m pretty sure I watched entire episodes of Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers every single day. I could read by the time I was three, and I turned out just fine. So, I don’t stress out about it too much and plan to approach it intentionally but not dogmatically as he gets older.

  165. What works for us:

    1. The kids (two boys, 9 & 11) are allowed “device” time (iPad/TV) in the great room on weekday mornings if they’ve completed all their morning tasks and are 100% ready to go. Prior to this, getting out the door on time was a nightmare. In general, it’s somewhere between 45min to 5min of screen time. Mornings are now a breeze. We started this when they were in 1st & 3rd grade when different school start times and their limited independence made mornings very hectic. I can’t imagine going back to those crazy mornings. My wife and I now have time to talk, have a coffee (me) and tea (wife). Plus, we still have time to check in with the kids regarding permission slips, school events etc. in the morning.

    2. After school, they can earn device time while I make dinner if they’ve gotten their run around time out of their system, they’ve completed homework, and/or chores (putting away clothes, picking up after themselves, putting away dishes, etc.) Again, it’s rarely more than 45 min but it’s a nice treat for us to connect in the evening after work, and get dinner done, etc.

    3. Family time: Originally family time was a mix of board games, movie night, FaceTime calls to grandparents, collaborative school projects, Home DIY together, etc. Now, it means watching TV for two sitcoms or one drama in the evening right before bed. The other things still happen but now infrequently, seriously I used to consistently read bedtime stories, and custom blend baby food… I digress. Family time has become a needed ritual that calms one son down to prevent nightmares and bedwetting. We have our “shows” and let the boys pick one (my wife breaks ties) and relax together on the couch in the evening. Bedtime is sooooo much smoother. We only start after everyone’s in pajamas, and afterwards, it’s hugs & kisses, brushed teeth, and we take turns tucking them in. Sooooo relaxing. Afterwards, we have a few hours to ourselves!!!! Let me repeat. We have a few hours to ourselves.

    4. Weekends…all bets are off. Between our love of travel and entertaining and both of us having large families in the area there’s zero ritual to our weekends and part of why we keep things so standardized during the week.

    5. This works for us. Yes, there are Thursdays where my oldest gets up early and is on his iPad for an hour in the morning, then gets all his afternoon tasks done and watches two tv shows in the evening (especially if dinner prep gets interrupted by one of our parents or siblings calling), followed by us watching another hour of tv later that night before bedtime (9:30pm). That’s three hours of screen time. But that’s also a worse case scenario. Usually, its only and hour and change. The upside is a much more peaceful household. So many fewer arguments, they don’t feel like they’re missing out, we get time together both as a couple and a family, chores get down without tantrums, we’re not fighting to get out the door on time, a much smoother daily existence with a clear set of rules and expectations. Plus, it helped significantly with slowing down bedwetting, nightmares, afternoon migraines and midnight request to sleep with mommy and daddy.

  166. We raised 3 very well adjusted, interesting, athletic (one exceptional), happy children, (2 boys, 1 girl) and we did not tie ourselves in a knot about who and how much t.v. they watched. Our kids loved Disney movies and will tell you the many many happy memories and time spent watching or playing with their Disney characters, acting out scenes, singing songs or just vegging while they were on our t.v. We will still go as adults and meet at the theatre to watch a remake or sequels to our favourite movies. We are Canadian so we noticed our children watched more t.v. in the winter and almost none in the summer with very little regulation on hours though we did regulate what they watched. I can also tell you that our 1 son would of lost his mind if he couldn’t veg in front of the t.v. after school, he just needed that down time. Now that I am older and listen to younger parents talk about t.v. time (I do daycare) I can’t help but notice how they watch t.v. after their kids are in bed because they don’t want their kids to know they watch t.v. themselves, I just don’t get it. I for one would rather have my kids watching t.v. than spending time on ipads, which is more of a solo experience, navigating the internet with little ones seems scary to me. I realize what works for one family may not work for another.

  167. I stay at home, work my arse off, and have four kids. We do screen time mostly on weekends, and maybe a show before bed during the week. Around 3-4 years of age my kids get obsessive about screen time and we have taken the time to teach them (via discipline and taking games away) that when they become obsessive it’s not allowed. They learn it has a time and place and then they can have it back – after that age we haven’t run into many problems with having them shut off screens. They are not allowed to be on screens at family gatherings, in restaurants, at church, etc. It’s not for situations where they have to wait and learn how human behavior ought to function. But at home? I notice that at the end of the school year the desire for TV is worse because everyone is tired. And really, screens will be a massive part of their reality going forward. I’d worry more about monitoring what they are looking at/watching – that concerns me more than the time spent watching. If we have enough downtime for them to watch TV for a whole day that’s… well, I’d be thrilled. We normally have quite a bit going on.

  168. I have a 2.5 year old and newborn twins so all of my screen time philosophies have sped out the window at 100 mph. At least Daniel Tiger teaches social skills. Just doing the best we all can, that’s my motto! Also, my mom likes to remind me I watched an incredible amount of tv as a child and yet I am an intelligent functioning adult, so it’s (hopefully) all going to be ok. 🙂 🙂

  169. I’m home with my 3 year old son all day. He hasn’t started preschool yet so that’s a LOT of parenting hours. I usually let him watch a half hour show at lunch and we will usually watch about an hour at night around dinner. Sometimes a full movie. He rarely ever sits and watches the entire time and likes to walk around and play or reenact what he’s watching so I’m not too concerned with him watching too much. He hardly ever gets upset when I tell him he can’t watch anything. We stick to slower paced stuff too like Pixar and stop motion animation. Shows he lives are Tumble Leaf, Stella and Sam, Sesame Street, and Chuggington. Wallace and Gromit shorts and the full movie are his second favorite thing to Cars. Also check out The Little Prince on Netflix. Another one of his and our favorites. I feel like every child is different and you just have to figure out what works for you. I have definitely struggled some days when we’ve been stuck inside forever and I just can’t think of anything else to do and I really need to work.

  170. Your children are probably too young for this right now, but what worked for us is allowing a certain number of “shows” per week. They could choose what to watch (within reason) and when to watch it (also within reason). It allowed them to be conscious of their own habits and have to ask themselves, “do I really want to use this this right now?” Sometimes the answer was no and they would figure out something to do. Sometimes the answer was yes, and that was fine. We did allow both of our children to watch the show the other chose, so we found the overall number of shows we were okay with and gave half to each child. This also led to some fun negotiating in order to make the most of their TV time!
    I’ll also add this: if you’re making a thoughtful choice, you’re probably headed down the right path.

  171. Here’s what worked for us (girls ages 5 and 7 always with very limited screen time compared to friends; also worth mentioning one with ADHD and one with similar tendencies but too young to be diagnosed (i.e. these are not tame “inside” cats)).

    During the witching hour while I’m trying to get dinner ready, they listen to kid podcasts (mostly fictional stories but sometimes philosophy or STEM related). They are entertained, they are quiet, listening intently (I imagine they are using their imagination to fill in blanks) and are usually doing something else at the same time (coloring, drawing, play doh, etc.).

    Favorites in our house from when my girls were your kids ages:

    Stories Podcast
    Bedtime FM
    Sparkle Stories
    Barefoot Books
    Yarn Stories

    There’s an app that aggregates the best kid podcasts: Kids Listen. You should try it! Some of it will be too old but you’ll quickly figure out which your kids enjoy.

    Good luck!

  172. “Puffin Rock” on Netflix! The BEST show. It’s slow, sweet, not erratic or annoying, and looks like a moving storybook. It’s the only thing we don’t feel guilty letting our 19 month old watch over and over again. Constantly on the hunt for anything as lovely, but just haven’t found it yet. Even Sesame Street (the new stuff) is repetitive and fast-paced.

    Another thing we do when WE as parents want to just have something on for ourselves and our daughter is also there, is our on “Cosmos” (the new one with Neil’s deGrasse Tyson) or “Planet Earth.” She has almost no interest in watching them and basically just plays while it’s on, and we justify it because they are both SUPER educational shows. At least if they can learn about animals and science and the earth, it’s not all bad? That’s what we tell ourselves anyway!

    TV is great. Lots of successful normal adults watch tons of TV and they aren’t dumber or lesser for it. The key is that the rest of their lives are full of learning and activity. As parents, if we can get it to when the TV is turned off and there are no tantrums, then I’ll consider that a win.

    1. If you like Puffin Rock, you might also enjoy Sarah & Duck. Those are my two favorites on Netflix! 🙂

  173. up here in Canada with a 22 month old we just had 6 months of winter and as a stay at home mom tv was necessary to breakup the day and get us through teething, colds and long slow boring days inside. but the attachment to shows, paw patrol which I no longer allow and now Peppa pig has been a struggle. If I let her watch 2-3 episodes it’s would be hard to turn off and a tantrum would occur. Only through my own experience have I learned that a 20-40 mins in the morning is a great way to start the day so she can have some milk and I can have my coffee and then I change the focus onto breakfast and I am able to turn the tv off without complaint. I also let her watch TV later in the day while I prepar dinner and it is a life saver. She enjoys the quiet time and I enjoy cooking or having uninterrupted productivity time. Thankfully now the weather has JUST turned nice and we will spend hours and hours outside at our house and at our cottage and everyone is happier! looking back I would not introduce tv as early as I did (around 10m) and I would only introduce it in small incaments. But I also have learned to not be hard on myself and to do what you need to in the moment while being mindful of the big picture.

  174. The most important thing I can say, after you’ve considered all of the very good advice, and experience of others, is: do not second guess yourselves. If your
    instincts are telling you what is good or not good for your children, follow that.
    A good example is the TV show you knew was not good for your child, even though many of your friends might let their kids watch it.

    A movie that we liked is “Kiki’s Delivery Service” by Miyazaki. You’ll have to see if they are old enough to follow it. When they are a little older, though I would never recommend the Cartoon Network at all, one show from there is really wonderful: Phineas and Ferb, and maybe you can still find episodes.

    I completely support your being strict about the content they watch while you can still control it. It really matters. Once we lost control of what our son watched at other kids’ houses, we saw the change in him. He watched scary movies we knew were not right for him, and he got permanently frightened. So we were right about our child. But we could not control everything.

    I think the best thing you are doing, besides setting limits, is letting them have a no TV house to go to, where playing is so much better than the box. A lot of this discussion is like letting them eat sweets. Obviously too much is bad. But even a medium amount would not be a normal amount in another world, and a “medium amount” is not necessarily ok for your children. but other children do eat that amount. And should sweets even be a normal, daily thing? You see where I am going with this. So in the end, even when you know what you think about something like this, you won’t always be able to do it as well as you want to. You can only do the best that you can. You can’t always be “on” as parents, and try as hard as you can, as they get older, it is wearying to try to fight the culture too. So, keep your standards, follow your own instincts, and then take a page from your mother’s book and try to relax a little about it too. You are loving and thoughtful parents, and that is really nice.

  175. As a parent who”works at home for the family” I can’t tell you how grateful I am for having that work recognized by somebody who’s work outside the home I very much admire. Loved the article. Thank you!

  176. I’m with you all the way. Struggling with this battle on a constant basis. Looking for answers, send help lol.

  177. Shows that we like in our house:
    Daniel Tiger (of course)
    Guess How Much I Love You
    Curious George
    There is a GREAT HBO series called Classical Baby…these are 1000% pure awesome-ness…we especially love the poetry episode.
    On the laptop/iPad we love the kidstv123 channel. Great videos.

    I have a 22yr old, and a 4 and 5 year old, and I think people stress too much about screen time. For me, it’s less guilt and more presence, because quality counts. I have no issue with my kids watching a smart, cool video about the solar system, or the parenting assist D Tiger provides (I dare you to NOT resort to those songs in a crisis!) I think screen time has a place in parenting if done consciously, with awareness and intent. I do SO MANY other activities with my kids…from jumping in puddles after it rains and riding bikes through the neighborhood to look for peacocks to planting popcorn to painting, making cards for friends and the never ending stream of art projects they never tire of…it’s just all about balance. In my humble opinion, of course. And for the record, my oldest skipped kindergarten, my 5 year old reads and writes really well, and my 4 year old is more emotionally mature than we are half the time! We feel like we are doing ok, screen time and all.

  178. I have a 2 yr old and a 7yr old. What I learned from the older one, me stressing so much about him watching or not wat bing just caused more anxiety around whole thing. My sister has 4 kids, owns her own businesses and doesn’t have any help, her tv was always on. The kids are now 5 and above and they are most creative chill fun respectful kids ever. So now with my 2 yr old, I don’t stress about it. He watches in am, and later in day around dinner time. I always said I wished I could be the only wood toys and no tv girl but.. that pressure is crazy and so la. ( I live in Malibu)
    Your a great mom. They will grow up to be great humans. ??

  179. I agree with everyone about moderation. I grew up without cable or a DVR and I wonder if going without those two for my kids would help set better boundaries. Sometimes I feel their ability to choose Little Einsteins or Daniel Tiger on demand has made TV too available to them.

    Also, we love Moana too, mainly I think because it’s so soothing. I’ve watched Planet Earth and the Great British Bake-off with my preschooler during times when I just.could.not.handle.more.grieg #sorrylittleeinsteins

  180. Really there is no right universal answer, and one of the trickier points is balancing the guidance about too much screen time with the reality that, as you said, screen time is awesome for a lot of reasons—both for the kids and for the parents. My sons are now 9 and 5 and the screen time issue ebbs and flows year to year and even season to season. The truth is that in the dreary dead of winter where there may be fewer outdoor activities and/ or more colds/illness or generally wanting to cozy up inside = more screen time. But then spring and summer hits and everyone is more energized and more engaged with sports or other activities, and the screen time naturally chills out a bit. Plus the kids as they get older will go from tv shows to fixation on YouTube Kids to Minecraft, etc. Anyway, it’s big picture moderation, bc I fully confess that there have been days where consecutive movies were watched and it kind of saved my sanity. You know your kids best and with some flexible boundaries, and giving yourself a break on the guilt front, it will be a positive evolution.

  181. Question: by Blue Fox do you mean Tumble Leaf, the Amazon show? We just discovered it and it’s so great. Puffin Rock on Netflix is also delightful; I actually think my husband and I like it more than our daughter! Oh and my daughter starts singing “grown-ups come baaaack” whenever we say the babysitter is coming or she has school, so, thank you, Daniel Tiger! And thank you for this post- it’s a tough topic and this is a great reminder that different things work for different families!

  182. Oh, man! I feel you on this! I have four kids 5 and under (i work at home for my family) and I’ll tell you what…sometimes, I just need a minute.

    I have decided not to feel guilty about letting them watch something as long as we have done the following first, 1. Spent at least an hour outside 2. Had pretend/imaginitive play 3. Read stories 4. Done our work. 5. Drawing/painting/writing Normally after doing all those things, it has lasted well into the afternoon (immaginitive play can go on for ever! And we often have errands that we need to run in the morning as well). If I’ve done all those things with them, I feel like I’ve really invested in them and they have used their bodies and minds, so having a few minutes of quiet and rest while the babies nap is good for them! I like a little down time and so do they. Normally they watch a show for a bit (I have a specific time that we turn the TV off (3pm). At which point I send them outside for independent play while I get dinner going. Now, some days I will admit that I let them watch something earlier. Because, I’m a human. And sometimes I just want to, ok??

  183. Emily, this is great post! Our son is 6 and he gets 30 min of iPad time a day – usually after school or after his after school activities to unwind from the day. We literally set the timer on our Amazon Echo to 30 min and as soon as Alexa’s alarm goes off iPad time is over. Our son probably watches maybe 30 min of TV a day, but none in the mornings before school. As far as movies go, we loved Ferdinand and Kiki’s Delivery service is a fave. I hear Paddington 2 is wonderful also.We also showed our son ET and Back to the Future for the first time which he loved! Good luck!

  184. Hello, I have a 3.5 year old and a 1.5 year old. We are English but we live in France. We too cancelled Peppa Pig after a brief, intense obsessive spell shortly after our second daughter was born and I was relying on tv to keep my eldest occupied as a back up during breast feeding. We love Mouk! It’s an educational cartoon about a little bear traveling around the world on a bike, each episode lasts 12 mins and he explores a different country each time. You can watch in French or English. We allow 20-30 mins max if I need to clean/cook etc after a busy day. For our 1.5 year old who cannot sit through long episodes or a film we let her watch music videos from Disney films, 15 mins of Moana, bare necessities, the lion king, Mary poppins, sound of music. Fun for 3 mins without having to watch the entire film (most of which she’s too little for) films we love for our 3 year old- the land before time, Cinderella (the new version), the princess bride, Moana. We also watch disney and Pixar short films. Other quick fixes; Room on the Broom and stick man, which are both only 20 minutes!

  185. Like anything, it depends on the kid and the parent. When my son was in preschool, he was a beast if he watched more than 2 shows. Now we’re more flexible. The one hard rule now that he’s in elementary school is no screen time whatsoever until homework is done. ( Homework is a whole other debate). I also try to avoid it close to bedtime. I think he sleeps better without it. Some weeks, we never get around to tv, other weeks we watch some. He can turn on the tv himself now, so that generates a whole other discussion about what’s appropriate or not. It is just an ongoing process and discussion as he grows. I thought about banning it outright, but decided that he needed to know how to manage his time and also the messages he hears. One show we banned was Teen Titans.

  186. Our oldest is 4 and would watch tv all day. She has school a few mornings a week so we’ve instituted a “no tv before 8:30” rule. This means no tv before school and no waking up early to watch tv. IT makes getting out the door easier even if it’s not for school. SHe can watch during our 16 month old’s nap but then we go for a walk or play then its conversation, dinner and bedtime. SOME dys more strict than others, but almost always no tv before 8:30. A lot of times if we’re still home after 8:30 she’s forgotten and won’t even ask. Our 16 mo is annoyingly uninterested in tv

  187. Hi Emily,
    I want to say this in the most respectful way possible and I am sorry if I am crossing the line. You are trying to hold yourself to the same standard as your mom and that is consistently making you feel like you are never enough. Your mother sounds amazing and you had a wonderful childhood but your life and YOU are very different from your mom and that is ok. There is a million ways to parent. Yes your mom’s does sound like the golden rule but you can be just as a good mom in your own way. Instead of reading parenting magazines starting defining who you are as a mom and knowing who you are will make you not only a better momma but also more sane. Think of it like how you know your decorating style same goes for parenting. Your style will change a little this way and little that way but fundamentally it will always be the same. For example I define myself as a fun yet strict parent with a major emphasis on respect. This is my foundation. I know that I have to play with my kids and have an interest in what they are doing so when I am strict they know the difference between fun mom and omg I messed up mom is mad and I want fun mom back. I always try to respect them for instance by stopping what I am doing and looking them in the eye when they talking…does not always happen but I try. Goes back to decorating….it is the last layer or the small things that make a house a home not the couch that makes it look beautiful it is the flowers on the table. Ok I am getting preachy. I am currently in the process of getting my one year old interested in tv so I can survive our upcoming plane ride. I am not the golden standard but I am just trying to have as much fun with my kids as possible. When I am really overwhelmed and about to loose I close my eyes and picture myself 65 years old with my kids grown and out of the house. I picture my house very very neat and perfect with white everywhere and think now look around don’t you wish you had your kids and a big old mess rather than silence and peace.

  188. I loved this post and the comments. Thank you for your honesty (always) and complete lack of judgement. I agree that moderation is key and for us not putting restrictions on it but sometimes saying yes and sometimes saying no has worked. Also telling them before the TV goes on how many episodes/how much time they get and never ever caving is so important.

    My three year old boy is very sensitive, which we love and want to nurture, so even Moana is too scary for him. We really like Llama Llama on Netflix, the Hungry Caterpillar and If You Give A Mouse a Cookie on Amazon. They are such sweet shows that it really makes you feel less guilty about letting them zone out to it.

    Thanks again to everyone for being part of this convo – one of the most helpful I’ve engaged in about this topic.

  189. The best thing I’ve ever bought as a parent is a subscription to Audible. My kids listen to books on our kindle and it works as a great, non-guilt inducing alternative to TV. Their favorites are Magic Treehouse, Beverly clearly books and wizard of oz. There are also some great children’s story podcasts out their too! They can listen in the car, while eating a snack or playing but it really occupies their mind during times when they would normally beg for tv (which we also watch in moderation)

  190. We didn’t turn on the tv until our first born was 1, and then I was just for a single Sesame Street on each morning of the weekend. When she hit 2 years old, we started watching one Disney movie as a family on Saturday night. Then baby #2 came and it all changed. We still don’t do any tv or movies during the week, but since our girls wake up at 6:00 am on the weekends, well usually let them watch a few shows that we feel are informative or have a good message (Doc McStuffins, WildKratts), while we sleep on the couch behind them, and then they have to agree on one movie for Saturday night. We’re not perfect, by far, but I feel like we have pretty good balance.

  191. My boy is 10 now, and pretty much the only hard rule that has lasted throughout the years is No screen time before school. Saying No to something and avoiding it altogether is so much easier than setting limits with my kiddo who struggles with transition.

    Only in the past year has he realized that he can get up on the weekend and watch TV before the hubs and I get up. Used to be he would play or read. At first I was like NO WAY… until I remembered doing the exact same thing as a child with Saturday morning cartoons, starting maybe even younger than he has. Also: The way my husband has our system set up, our TV is a nightmare to operate if you’re not familiar with it, so if our kiddo is autonomous enough to figure out how to navigate it, then more power to him.

    We used to be more strict, but where we are now is, No screen time before school, Limited computer time, Homework before computer, and Censoring violence / sex / horror elements (at 10, watching salty language is a case-by-case thing). Common Sense Media’s website is awesome for helping keep an eye out for that. Also, we practiced No TV during dinner for Lent this year and it kinda stuck. TV before bedtime is a rarity – we read together before bedtime.

    I envy those who have successfully set strict screen time limits with their kiddos… but if I’m being honest, it has gotten away from us because my husband and I aren’t very good with setting limits on our own screen time.

  192. My kids are grown, but I was a strict on tv single mom , pbs only, plus friday movie night. As a therapist, with a family/personal history of depression, my concern was development of healthy habits . I wanted them to KNOW creativity, productivity, play were critical… and came before screentime. One had to have equal time of these to screen time, and it had to be done first. Chores, art work, music, schoolwork,reading,( 1.5 hour credit max perday) physical activity( sports or playground) cooking sewing, ( I have a son, not gay , who sews! )making lego buildings, ect, all self esteem, and competency building activities yard work, cleaning, all were options. One summer my sons, who hated cutting our tiny seattle yard actually put in a pond, and ground cover instead ( 12 & 13! we then had a party to show it off and gave each guest a goldfish to put in from the punch bowl! ) They saw me exhausted, many an eve, we did books on tape together during dinner prep., and the table had a roll of paper they had to make art table cloths for about a year when they were 3 and 4.
    Now as adults, like the rest of us, they are screen addicted.But one rows, and the other reads and they both have real time relationships. You can only do so much, the culture has more power in the end, so go easy on yourselves.

  193. My kids are now 10, 13, and 16, but I remember when this was a big issue. Similar to you, we chose the options, and allowed Saturday morning cartoons that we had prerecorded. Commercials are the worst, and even now, with teens, we only watch recorded shows and don’t have any TV on during the school week. My teens still LOVE Friday night movie night. One of our three had an intense reaction to any show on TV—like completely hypnotized and would have a tantrum when it was turned off, totally out of character. And that made us realize it was really unhealthy for his brain, so we limited it even more for several years, especially in the mornings.

    During the summer, we still kept Tuesdays and Thursdays as no screen days, but we allowed the kids to pick movies on hot or rainy afternoons. Some years we found a show we all loved (Gravity Falls when they were younger, and now The Office with our teens). I think it is an opportunity to start discussing healthy habits with kids—anything that sucks you in or makes you feel out of control isn’t healthy, whether it be food or TV or your phone. So learning limits and self-moderation is a great thing.

    Lastly, when they were toddlers, my kids loved Buddha boards while I made dinner—they are boards you paint with water.

  194. Hi Emily,

    I recently purchased your book “styled”, I love it! Can you tell me who or what company is the designer of the blue buttoned sofa on page 9 and page 116.
    I absolutely love that sofa, I want to know where I can order one. Anthropologie has a sofa that is similar, but is not the color I’m looking for.
    Thank you,

  195. I have an almost 4 year old and an 18 month old, and I shamelessly rely on the TV almost every night during the “witching hour” (“arsenic hour”). We don’t watch a lot of TV together on the weekends, when dad is home to entertain, but occasionally will watch a movie on Sunday afternoons. Usually we use TV as a reward for something like you said — if you do x, you can watch TV. (Clean up toys, help with a chore, help your sister, etc.). I have definitely also found that it’s best to give them two options (“You can watch Clifford or Daniel Tiger”) and how many episodes/a time limit BEFORE pressing play. Telling them limits after it’s started is untenable. Thanks for the post, I love talking about stuff like this!

  196. Our rules about TV and devices are kinda dependent on the day. Mostly we try not to ever just have the TV on in the background. Unless they are watching a show, it’s off. The kids are each allowed to pick one thing they want to watch before bed and we all watch together (then we of course read books). We watch more in winter than summer, for obvious reasons. No iPads allowed at the store or restaurants. Mostly they’re only allowed to play games on it if we play together or it’s something educational like learning letters. I always had a computer growing up and we watched a fair amount of TV and I turned out just fine, so really, it’s probably not as dire as us parents today make it out to be.

    TV to recommend, should you choose that: Puffin Rock (sweet family stories with ecological education) and Sarah and Duck (this one is weird, but very quiet and relaxing). The loud, fast ones give me a headache.

  197. My boys are 14 and 11. The struggle is real. The bottom line is, while trying to do the right thing for your own kids, there are outside pressures telling you screen time is the devil, you are a horrible parent if you rely on screens for your sanity, and other parents judge, judge, judge. I will tell you that the 30 minute shows on Nick Jr morph into YouTube series of young adults playing and narrating video games! (WHY?) The screen in general is a constant battle, but I continue to put myself in check. Next time you are out and about, notice the number of adults looking at screen while in line, while eating lunch, while at the playground with their kids, while at a party with their friends. No -they are not watching a 30 minute show, but they are watching IG Stories and checking FB every second of every day. We binge watch shows like they are a drug. It is our new reality and while difficult to watch our kids spend time on screens….we are doing it too! Keep doing your very best for your kids and give yourself some grace.

  198. I have an 8-year-old and a 6-year-old and we’ve gone through many different sets of screen time rules throughout the last few years. We make changes when their developmental stage warrants it, or we start noticing behavioral issues that seem to be connected to the screen. Right now, during the week, my kids are allowed one hour of screen time per day while I’m making dinner (this can be TV or games on the IPad). I agree with your mother 100% on this!! This allows all of us some time to unwind, and gives me some space to make dinner without breaking up fights and listening to incessant whining and complaints of boredom (despite the fact that they 8 million toys and games!!!). They have to finish all homework and practice the piano before they’re allowed to turn on the screens though. And as another commenter mentioned, turning off the screens is usually not a problem at the end of the hour because (1) they’ve become used to the rule, and (2) they’re hungry and ready for dinner!

    On the weekends, they’re also allowed one hour per day as a baseline, but we give them the opportunity throughout the week to earn extra minutes, so they can earn up to 60 additional minutes that can be divided however they wish over the weekend (60 minutes on Saturday, 20 on Saturday and 40 on Sunday, etc.). They earn these extra minutes by following our two house rules: (1) be kind to each other, and (2) do what you’re asked to do without a lot of whining, complaining, or arguing. To chart this, we break each day up into morning and afternoon/evening, and they can get up to 2 points for generally following the rules in the morning and 2 more for following them in the afternoon/evening. That’s 4 possible per day, for a total of 28 per week. We give them 2 extra minutes of screen time per point, for a total of 56 possible. If and only if they reach 56 minutes, we let them round up to 60 minutes.

    We also sometimes make exceptions on the weekends for family movies or movies with a sleepover friend, and we don’t take away from their regular screen time for this. I’d say this happens once or twice a month. And of course, there are occasional situations when the screen keeps everybody from their losing their minds even after the daily hour of screen time has been used — like when you end up waiting for 2 hours in a doctor’s office, or you’re in the car on a 10 hour road trip. Desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures.

    Anyway, so far, for now, this seems to work pretty well. I’m sure it will need to be modified as they get older, but it works for now!

  199. Thank you for this. We have SUCH parenting guilt over screen time. We were strict “no screen time” until my son was like 2 and then we bought a getaway house 3 hours away from our everyday home and that went out the window. There are only so many things to do when a small child is trapped in a car seat. Setting limits is good, and I’m always so pleasantly surprise when my son comes to the conclusion himself that he’s finished watching and wants to go play. But still, we wrestle with it but are mostly too exhausted to do anything about it…

  200. When it rains I always think of the song “Every town, has its ups and downs, but not in Nottingham” from Robin hood. I don’t know why but it makes me laugh because it seems so depressing for a children’s movie. I use to love TV and movies when I was a kid. My mom would try to talk to me while I was watching something but I was so sucked in that I couldn’t hear her. I think I turned out fine. I got a masters degree in structural engineering and have a full time job. As adults most people watch TV in the evening. I wouldn’t worry too much.

  201. Aside from your honest description of trying to find balance with screens – this is the best (most realistic) article I have found on the subject: I like how it addresses different age groups and provides solutions going forward. I will say i have found that too much screen time causes irritability in my 3 and and 2 year old. We have essentially cut out all ipad/phone usage and have tried to cut back on tv/movie time. Their bedrooms and playroom are screen free zones. However, there are certain tv/movie times throughout the day that are part of the routine (winding down after lunch before naptime for instance). And I fully agree about the 5-6 hour. It’s a tough time of day! Anyway, as long as they get outside and have playtime too – i feel balanced. We are all doing our best and some days are better than others!

  202. One thing that has truly changed my life as a mostly SAHM is “Clean before Screen.” I stole this idea from someone on the internet (wish I could remember who it was!). Before my kids (age 5 and 8) watch their show before dinner, they have to clean up an area of our house. Sometimes it’s the art table; sometimes their room; sometimes the play room. Honestly, the reason I love it so much is that it makes ME feel better. They’re contributing to the well-being of the house. They get to do something that they love. And I get a cleaner house with very little complaining!

    Thank you, everyone, for all the comments, recommendations, commendations, and anecdotes!

  203. Not sure you’re still reading comments, but my friend Jill taught me a great practice that saved us. Before the tv goes on, we read for 20 minutes. We read to them when they were young, and then they read by themselves when they were older. Saturday mornings were the exception, because sleep. But other than that, no exceptions. It saved us. And my kids are awesome readers to this day. (And tv-watchers, too. Can’t win them all.)

    Good luck! This is a never ending battle.

  204. We were just discussing how much TV time the kids should get. THanks for weighing in.

  205. I’m a “working from home for the family” parent who also homeschools. I grew up in a lax household and watched TV for hours upon hours after school. I regret the time spent watching TV as a kid; I could have practised painting (which I LOVED) or learned an instrument or made friends. I know basically all the lines to Seinfeld, which might count for something, but I could have been a more rounded person with some limits, I think. We usually we do 2 movie nights a month on the weekend, maybe a “show for everyone” a handful of times a month, too (like Fixer Upper or an animal documentary). And otherwise, we steer clear of screens for kids. If we’ve had a particularly harrowing day, we’ll put it on during dinner. If it’s a long, rainy day we’ll pass some time watching something. If we’re sick, we treat it like a party and binge watch movies until we’re better. This model has worked really well for us. Our kids do love screen time, but they still feel as though it’s a nice, generous gesture from their parents – not something they’re entitled to – and they’re grateful for the treat. As an added bonus, they’re willing to watch animal documentaries or educational stuff because ANY screen time is a treat. When a movie is over, they’re grumpy and restless. When they play outside or paint or play a pretend game, they’re invigorated and excited. This is why I dislike screens and try to keep them to a minimum; our kids feel better after doing nearly any other activity (plus I feel creeped out by the dead stare kids do when watching!). To be fair, most of our friends have zero rules about screen time and their kids are equally awesome, interesting people (but their parents do lament that the kids never want to play outside and are constantly ‘bored’). We’re super strict about content, though. Nothing scary or flashy. Cartoons > computer animation, claymation > cartoons, live-action > claymation. I really think that flashy stuff messes with their growing minds (heck, with my adult mind!). Shaun the Sheep – the shows, not the movie – are almost all great. Not super flashy, really simple. I do wish they had more talking, but they’re enjoyed by all our kids ranging from 9 to 2. Winnie the Pooh is a great forgotten classic. Madeleine shows are great and slow-paced (we avoid some). The Red Balloon. Animals are Beautiful People. Oliver Jeffers’ Lost and Found short. Curious George shows.Hope you find a balance that suits you/your kids. It’s a real struggle and we’re constantly evolving our approach WITH EVERYTHING because kids keep you on your toes and keep you humble : ).

  206. My son gets an hour a day unless we are doing a movie night as a family. My son loves Daniel tiger and Blaze and the monster machines. I like to prerecord shows so after each episode it stops. There is a clear ending to the show rather than an immediate new show to be tempted by. My three year old also protests less when we talk about how it’s the last show then he has to turn off the tv. He likes being able to shut the tv off himself. He will do it without me having to ask if we discuss it ahead of time and there are no fits if he feels empowered by doing it himself.

  207. So, we tried “the snacks are no big deal” method, and let me tell you…
    It did not work!
    My 15, 14 and 11 year olds all go crazy if we have any kind of sweet in the house. It’s like they never had one before and are never going to have one again…
    Very annoying

    Not sure what the answer is, cuz I still feel if you restrict to much it makes them into little “sweet” or “screen” fiends!

  208. Sarah & Duck (BBC kids show, available on Netflix) is THE BEST kids show I have ever seen. My toddler & I have seen the episodes over & over again and they never get old. It’s Smart, Funny, Clever, slow paced show. The characters are so delightful, I find each of them so interesting. So background music is soothing. The imagery is beautifully simple yet detailed. And each episode is a great example of being thoughtful, kind, imaginative, and displays great problem solving skills. It is one of my most favorite shows. Anyone else love ‘Sarah & Duck’?!?!?!

    1. RIGHT?! I came here to recommend Sarah and Duck, too! Honestly, I love that show just as much as my kid does (maybe even more)! We bought all of the seasons and no matter how many times we watch them, they never get old or annoying. Would it be weird if I bought a Sarah and Duck t-shirt for myself?! lol

  209. My kids are pretty close in age to yours (1.5 and 4.5) so I’m by no means an expert. But for probably about a year or so we have been doing “show day” every other day– one pre-approved PBS show during your mom’s arsenic hour while we prep dinner (Daniel tiger, peg plus cat, and dinosaur train are the favorites). The little one only started getting interested in the last few months. I think it’s been a good balance of delayed gratification (but not too delayed!) and not making TV forbidden fruit. We only do movies sporadically– visit with cousins, snow day or sick day from school. But I look forward to starting a Friday night movie tradition someday, when they have later bedtimes. Good luck with finding the right balance!

  210. My 4yo gets bored with shows/movies very quickly. She always asks to watch something on TV, we turn it on, and she’s onto the next thing after 5-10 minutes. So I don’t really stress about it or limit it because she’s not that into it anyway. BUT the iPad is a different story. I don’t know what it is about having the smaller screen closer to her face (vs. the TV), but she will veg out on Netflix or YouTube kids forever if we let her. I think maybe it’s the shorter videos, and the fact that she can control it herself? Anyway, YouTube we have to be suuuuper diligent about because there are some, for lack of a better word, bratty kids videos on there. But we pay attention to what she’s watching and if it’s inappropriate, we tell her to pick a different video and she does. Also, Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse is not allowed (on Netflix) because all those Barbies are whiny, vindictive brats. So we’ve nixed iPad time on weekdays for the most part, except she gets 10 minutes to play ABC Mouse before bed. Which is educational and doesn’t really even count. And on the weekend, we’ll let her watch videos for a little while each day. I think what has worked for us is not having hard-and-fast rules. She has to ask before she watches, and if the answer is no, then it’s just no. But there’s no rhyme or reason to whether we allow it or not. If she’s been good or I need her to quit talking for a little bit so my brain can rest (why are 4-year-olds so chatty?), then she can watch and I don’t feel bad about it.

  211. The Snowy Day movie on Amazon Prime is a great short movie. We probably end up doing a little (1/2 hour) on about 1/2 of our weeknights and maybe a little more on weekends but those are, more often than not, filled with activities for our 3+ year old. We like to be flexible but I think offering less choices on content is something we’ll employ more often (great suggestion). The kiddo said “stupid” the other day because of a “classic” Charlie Brown episode and you are so right about the messaging being a real downer on those. Considering it, but haven’t yet deleted it from our Watchlist.

  212. Love reading all the comments! I wanted to weigh in on the idea that being more relaxed about rules will help your kids not crave it as they get older. The scarcity debate. I think that may have been true in the era of TV that we grew up in. Back when we watched one, not super fast-paced, long-form TV Show after another. But with phones, iPads, gaming, and social media entering into the mix, these rules don’t seem to apply. Someone brought up how all pleasurable activities bring on dopamine in the brain, and we don’t freak out about that happening at the park, etc., The problem with the mobile devices and gaming has always been the incessant novelty. It trains the brain in a completely different way than most IRL pleasurable activities.

    I’m a family doctor, and talk to all my families about how they approach screen time. What I’ve found is that when it comes to tweens and older, the families who don’t have any rules have kids who are literally on their devices as much as they are physically able. 3+ hours on SCHOOL days. One 12 year old I talked to yesterday was complaining that her parents made her have 2 hours of screen free time on Sunday mornings. TWO HOURS out of her whole weekend, and she doesn’t know what to do with herself. She said she goes to rearrange her room, but then doesn’t know how it should look without consulting Pinterest. Oh my goodness! We’re so used to consuming feeds and other peoples ideas, we don’t know how to be in our own minds. That’s terrifying to me.

    So, while I have let my preschoolers watch up to an hour/day of Daniel’s Tiger and the like, I’m more cautious when it comes to my older elementary schooled age kids, and screens. We limit it during the week (with sports, homework, and family dinner, there is literally no time!), and have reasonably flexible expectations of screens on the weekend. So far it seems to be working out well. Now to figure out how to navigate it when they are teens! Yikes!

  213. It looks as if you have gotten a lot of comments, so I won’t say too much. My kids are mid to late teens now. I say that your kids will be fine, no matter what you decide because you are clearly putting a lot of thought into your parenting, as well as a lot of love. I just wanted to recommend Little Bear as a tv show that my kids adored. The creators said that they intentionally tried to see how “quiet” they could make it. It is based on the books by Else Holmelund & illustrated by Maurice Sendak. It used to be aired on the (now defunct) Noggin channel owned by Nickelodeon, so maybe it’s on Nick Jr.? I’m sure you could probably find a digital version somewhere. It was full of great storylines that emphasized values we liked, colorful characters, and simple storylines. And I loved that it was the opposite of the frenetic, zany stereotype of a lot of children’s programming. But mostly, my kids just really loved it.

  214. One of the big problems is our internal perception of what is fun or tedious or easy or not easy and how we project that in our lives. We decide that it’s a chore to get dinner together with kids underfoot. We decide that it’s too hard to teach them how to help and easier to just do it ourselves. We feel stressed and anxious and often a bit resentful as we come home from work to our “second job.” We decide that it’s easier to not have to have our kids hypnotized and not talking while we decompress. We label things as fun or boring and negotiate by saying things “like let’s do this boring chore of picking up the toys, then we can do something fun like watch a show.” Why add the labels and impose these perceptions on our kids?

    I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty. We have all been there. Yet we find when we go through the struggle of adjusting our mindset and being consistent with attitude and expectations, it gets easier with practice and there is a huge long-term payoff.

    Screen addiction is real. It’s easier to learn how to manage one’s relationship with a screen when exposure is controlled as a kid, and when parents are sitting down with kids to share the experience and filter it. I teach middle school and in the last few years see a distinct difference even in students’ ability to sit and listen to people when it’s their turn to talk. To say nothing of reading and math skills.

    We parents put them on the I-Pad for example because we want them to have math skills and for decompression time to be ‘productive.’ It’s better for them to inventory your pantry for you, making as many different “groupings’ or ‘grids” of cans as possible, and get your instant feedback: “Oh, you have 6 cans? How many ways can you make 6 with those cans? Show me.” “Are there blue cans? How about red ones? Which color has more?”

    Kids need to know how to take care of their home/stuff, learn, and manage frustration and stop expecting to be entertained by external forces all of the time.

    Worried about making weekday dinner? Little kids would willingly eat something like leftover bean and veggie burritos every day. Throw a veggie tray or salad in there and they are golden. Make a big batch of the same food and then keep rolling with it. They want time to be with and talk to their favorite people–yes, you. Change the food every week and save innovation for the weekends. Dump the blocks or Legos on a big blanket and have them play and talk to you in sight if there are no chores to help out with. Cleanup if stuff is on a blanket takes about 30 seconds. I have had them stand on a stool and “help with the dishes,” also known as scooping up and dumping soapy water and washing a spoon or two for the whole prep time. One of my genius friends would put her boys in their rubber boots, hand them old bottle brushes and have them pitch in and scrub the bathtub while she was cleaning the bathroom.

    I’m on the other end of the parenting spectrum and I am not saying “throw your sense of self/sanity under the bus for your kids!” But when people tell you “enjoy it, it goes too fast,” they are right. The more you can get them to internalize tidiness, occupying time without external entertainment, approach life and its ups and down with equanimity, etc. the better off they will be in the long run. And that begins with parents adjusting their thought processes.

  215. The only thing that my kid totally turns into a zombie for is the Youtube for kids app. We had to delete it off her ipad because it’s like she’s been mind sucked by slugs the second it’s on. Otherwise, she does watch tv and she has learning games on the ipad (she knows how to read, count, spell simple words, and can recite the Greek alphabet and she just turned 4 and I honestly attribute that mostly to those games and her love of reading books). I’m also a SAHM, so I NEED time during the day sometimes to get stuff done or just have a break, too!

    I agree with some other commenters, if having tv time gives everyone a chance to relax and recharge, you shouldn’t feel guilty about it. I was feeling guilty about my kid’s ipad time, but my mom talked me off that ledge by saying that we’re living in the future now! It’s 2018! If it were her, she would be using the latest technology too, both for learning school-type stuff AND for learning how to use and interact with that technology (learning to set limits is part of using technology too). When my mom raised me in the 80s, she raised me in the 80s. And there’s really no reason for me to raise my daughter as if we’re still living in the 80s or the 40s (? 30s? I dunno) with no tv. That really made sense to me. I’m sure when the radio was first invented, parents all had the same discussions and worries, but everyone turned out all right, and so will our kids!

    And on that note, my kid only likes a handful of shows, all of which I can easily turn off with no troubles. My personal number one favourite show that I would watch ON MY OWN EVEN is Sarah and Duck. It’s a lovely quiet little British show with quiet talking and quiet thinking and quiet narrating and quiet music (noticing a theme? lol). It’s the best and the show my kid usually turns to when she’s feeling sick. For movies, she’ll only watch The Secret Life of Pets, Minions, and Zootopia. And these go in a rotation of wanting to watch and ABSOLUTELY NOT wanting to watch (we’ve circled back to Pets now). We’ve seen others, but if there’s any sad music or potentially sad things about to happen, it’s dead to her! She’s also obsessed with Paw Patrol which is the worst show she watches, but once we turn it off, she gets her pup toys and acts out little paw patrol scenarios with them and they’ve helped us get her dressed and have baths etc etc so I give that one a pass for now (but I will be glad when I can give all of that stuff away!).

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