Kids Addicted to TV - How Bad?

Filed under: Media, Bedtime, Opinions, Activities: Big Kids, Expert Advice: Big Kids, Activities: Tweens, Expert Advice: Tweens, Activities: Teens, Expert Advice: Teens

kids watching television

Having a hard time prying the kids away from the TV? Credit: Getty Images

"It's not like they watch a ton of TV. It's just that they love it so much. My kids are allowed to watch one hour a night, from 7 to 8 p.m.," said a mom of two elementary-school-aged kids.

"But from the minute they come in the door after camp, they start asking: 'Is it seven? Is it seven now?' They might as well be watching for four hours a day because even when they're not watching, they're spending all their energy pining for TV. Is this normal?"

To find out, I called my friend and Mommy Advisor Rosanne Tobey, director of Calm and Sense Therapy, a counseling service.

"I don't think this mom is doing anything bad here, per se," Tobey said. "Letting them watch a little bit of TV is a choice, but what I would recommend is, if they're going to watch it, put the TV time where it works best for the mom."

Meaning what exactly?

"Meaning: Let them watch it when they first walk in the door," explained Tobey.

Brilliant. That way they're not clamoring for it all evening. Makes sense. "And she needs to stick to her guns about the one-hour limit," Tobey warned.

Here are Tobey's other tips for keeping kids' TV-related whining in check:

Be clear about the deal up front. Tell the kids that you're changing the TV rules and explain clearly what the game plan will be going forward. Turn off the TV while telling them the rules so they hear you.

Set consequences for deal-breaking. "If the kids whine when you turn off the TV," Tobey said, "give them a warning, then say, 'If you fight me on this, no TV tomorrow.' And you have to follow through on that." Tobey concedes that "tomorrow" would, in this case, be an extremely long day.

No TV right before bed. It's been well-documented that watching TV too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep -- keeping this rule consistent will make it easier to enforce.

Bottom line: How bad is it if the kids pine and whine for TV time? Letting them watch an hour a day is not bad, Tobey said, especially if a mom is not giving into whining but rather setting limits and sticking to them. Even better, make that hour a mom-convenient time that offers a chance to get things done, or just regroup.

Have you had a less-than-perfect parenting moment and you're wondering, "How bad"? Send it to Sabrina at She'll try to answer as many as she can.

Sabrina Weill is the founder of the pink and princess-y gift site: PrincessLovesPink. Many of the Mommy Advisors in this column are the writer's personal or professional friends.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.