Would you find it difficult to raise kids without television?

The American Academy of Pediatrics has renewed its advice that parents not let children younger than 2 watch television. The group said television may harm the development of young children, even if the TV is merely on in the background. Today’s Question: Would you find it difficult to raise kids without television?

  • Karin Cockram

    It’s a little harder, of course, but it’s certainly do-able. We did it. Our kids are now teen-agers (and almost a teen) and they don’t seem to be suffering from lack of television. A little creativity goes a long way.

  • Brendan Murphy

    Not incredibly difficult to do – books, building toys and sets, musical instruments, and basic art supplies, plus parental involvement and creativity, can go above and beyond the passive medium of TV.

  • Al

    Absolutely not. We went for years with almost none. The kids still watch very little. Now they watch more programs online than on the set. When they do watch TV, they only watch PBS, HGTV, and Food Network. The funny thing is that my wife trained them to turn the TV off as scroll through the channels on the cable box to one of their 3 stations, and at ages 8 & 10 they still do it.

    All of our nights with a little free time are spent reading a book as a family. We are in the middle of the Mysterious Benedict Society books. They are so exciting that the kids are begging for more time to read.

  • GregX

    Nah. Real Life is way more interesting than TV. But, please , leave TV on … it keeps the riff-raff indoors.

  • Sue de Nim

    I agree about the “under two” recommendation, but after that it’s a problem only in excess. Sesame Street helped my kids learn to read. They would have learned without it, but but I’m glad it was available.

  • Reggie

    It’s not that difficult, if parents are willing to give up some of the me-time a television provides. Not everyone has the resources to do that.

    This isn’t a hypothetical question in our family. Our kids made it into their early teens watching TV only at their grandmothers’ houses and in hotels. Looking back, they now understand why they were somewhat out of certain playground conversations, but didn’t stunt their social life. They also didn’t develop a taste for video games, which means that as college students, both seem to have a lot more time than their video game playing peers. So they read, cook, perform, play sports for fun, and do the sorts of things they grew up doing. It’s never too early to make the life you want to lead.

  • Philip

    Nope, and I should have done so more.

  • Steve the Cynic

    Hey, is it ever too soon to expose kids to ads? The sooner they get the idea that they need cool stuff to be happy, the better, right?

    (I hope it’s obvious that was sarcasm.)

  • DanaD

    We got rid of our television when my now 3-year old son was 6 months old. With another on the way this week everyone keeps saying I will run out and buy a TV within weeks of having the new baby. I hardly see why. Watching friends struggle to limit or control their children’s TV/screen time has reinforced my decision to not have one in our house. We just never have that argument.

    I know that it is difficult, but as a parent I realized I can’t do what I don’t want my kids to do. I don’t eat on the couch, swear, yell, etc. I try to model the behavior I want to see (not claiming perfection here, but I’m trying). If I want to watch TV every night, how can I expect my children to do any different?

    While I expected benefits for my children, the benefits to me have been almost completely unexpected. I thought I was a critical media consumer and that I didn’t watch much TV anyway. Wow! I have so much more time without it and I am amazed at how much I was affected by advertising.

  • GaryF


    Should they watch less television. Yes.

    Is it easy. No.

    Do parents have the time and resources to cut down on TV and make sure their kids are doing something else. Many don’t.

    Casey Jones for lunch. I would love to have a bowl of tomato soup and a Velveeta on Wonderbread sandwhich and watch Casey and Roundhouse.

  • Johan

    Sure, but since when is something not worthwhile, simply because it’s difficult?

  • Matthew Jessop

    It is NOT difficult in the least. My wife and I have two sons, seven and two, and we have never had TV hooked up in their lives nor do we have a DVD player in our vehicles. TV has never been a part of the equation. We read with them every night. If they need a distraction they read a book. When we’re traveling, they bring books. As a result we have two voracious readers, one of whom is a grade level plus over where he “should” be as a reader. Don’t have TV, never will.

  • Shelly

    My two kids get at most half an hour a day of screen time of any type, and it’s the best parental decision I’ve ever made. At 5 and 8 they are still innocent and firmly enjoying childhood, are not asking for junk food or overmarketed toys. They play together for hours straight, and my older daughter learned to read when she was 4.

    We love to read, there are real conversations at our dinner table, lots of art projects and plenty of just down time. Yes, it takes more work up front, but in the long run it is much easier to raise happy kids without the technological interference.

    I don’t get it when I step into other homes and the TVs are running constantly – how can you enjoy actual life with that distraction all the time?

  • Susan WB

    With our son (who’s just turning 4) we pretty much stuck to the “no TV before age 2.” Once in a while I had the PBS News Hour on while he was in the room, but he totally ignored it except for the theme music, which he would perk up at and dance to.

    I did allow him some computer screen time, though – to Skype with his grandparents and to look at family photos. But that’s a totally different, interactive, and less passive use of technology, and I think it affects children differently.

    When he was around 2 1/2 he started watching some TV. He knows he only gets one 30-minute show a day. We record them on the DVR, and play them back, so it’s easy to tell when it’s time to stop.

    All in all, I wouldn’t say it’s a lot harder to raise kids without TV, just different. As DanaD posted above, you have to become more aware of your own media consumption and regulate your own screen time if you’re going to be effective in regulating theirs. Like any healthy practice, this is a little challenging at first but quickly becomes self-reinforcing and brings many benefits you weren’t expecting.

  • justacoolcat

    Nope, but there is a lot of good about tv. Our kids get 20 minutes of Sesame Street in the morning and they get 20-30 minutes of something streamed at night. As with most things in life moderation, context, and content are key.

  • Tom

    My wife and I have a three month old daughter and no cable TV. We do enjoy our Netflix every once in awhile. Mostly science and documentaries. Just watched Ken Burns’ Frank Lloyd Wright yesterday. Wonderfully informative and entertaining piece by Burns and PBS. Mostly we listen to our MPR stations and some college radio. This allows for imagination and better reflection of what is being said, as well as avoiding all the commercialism and special interests. Thanks to all those who have responded with encouragement.

  • Bear

    Wow, you deniers are amazing. First, you remind me of sixth grade. Way back then TV was an emerging media. It was fashionable to pompously claim that you didn’t waste your time watching TV you read books. However, these fashionistas always knew what Lucy said to Ricky the night before and who won the Price is Right. Few of these decriers went onto become star students. But more importantly you deniers miss the point, the TV and programing is not the problem; it’s the operator! To decry TV as bad because some programing is bad or too commercial is ridiculous. There is a plentitude of good quality educational programing from which your kids and you can learn and broaden your knowledge. To rely solely on one media is limiting. You might as well move back to a cave and then no technology will distract you from your bliss. As for books, reading is good but books, newspapers and magazines have their negatives. They should be banned because of the environmental damage publishing and distributing them causes: mandate iPads and smart phones.

  • Jenn

    That’s all well and good for your first baby, or if you happen to have kids that are close in age. I have a 6 year old, a 4 year old and a new baby. The 6 yr old’s tv time just doesn’t always happen when the baby is sleeping. (or I have friends that have even older kids, ages 9-13, and a toddler, that makes it even more difficult I think)

    It’s true I try to limit advertising that my children are exposed to, but I don’t think TV in itself is bad. My children are allowed tv, but they still love to read and are reading above grade level.

    Once children are school-age & reading, I think it gets easier, but it’s those long days as an at home parent with young children that can be difficult.

  • Mary

    Nope. My kids didn’t watch much tv at all. They prefered to do something kids today don’t seem to do. They played outside. Imagine that. They didn’t have their noses glued to a screen constantly.

  • Julie

    Son, 21, was raised without a TV in the home. After age 4, we watched carefully chosen movies and documentaries at home. We and he watched TV occasionally at friends or a hotel. Son read a lot. But honestly I think texting and internet surfing have changed his brain. He doesn’t read as much anymore. A college junior, he’s currently doing a semester abroad. Did I mention he scored in the 99th percentile in English on the ACT and is a great writer?

  • Jason

    Some people (Bear?) need to read Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death.” It isn’t the junk on TV that is dangerous; it is the so-called educational programming that is dangerous. Kids don’t learn to read by watching Sesame Street, they learn to expect entertainment from their education … they learn that they only need to pay attention for 15 seconds, maybe a few minutes, before the screen will change and demand attention for something else. One is harmed by watching American Idol no more than one is harmed by the junk mail that comes in the mail.

  • Julian

    My parents raised me without TV (or even a TV in the houses) until I was 9 (my sisters were 13 and 5). Once we had a TV, it only came out occasionally for movie nights or special events like the Olympics.

    I watched movies and TV at daycare and friends’ houses. At home, I entertained myself with reading voraciously, creating art projects, playing with my sisters and (yes) listening to public radio.

    At the time, I resented my parents for refusing to have a TV – but as an adult, I’m really glad they raised me that way. I still spend more time entertaining myself with books, knitting, music and conversation than I do with the TV/Netflix/DVDs.

    So parents who are keeping their kids TV-free – hang in there! They’ll thank you for it one day.

  • Beverly

    “It was fashionable to pompously claim that you didn’t waste your time watching TV you read books. However, these fashionistas always knew what Lucy said to Ricky the night before and who won the Price is Right. ”

    Excellent post Mr. Bear-that one gets the K-hole-9-clap award of the day. : )

    I could not agree with you more.

    Single mom who used the Tellie while I got ready for work in the am- put junior in the highchair with breakfast and Bambi on the vcr. He learned how to say ‘Flower’.

  • Micheal

    Not with an iPad and the internet.

    Besides, with friends, nature and our own songs and stories, we’ve got all we need.