Kids, Life

Is a no-tv summer possible?

A few weeks ago I deleted all our Roku kid channels but two — PBS Kids and National Geographic Kids. There are several reasons that led me to this decision and have me considering a tv-free summer. Is that possible!?

My kids watched way too much tv during our move. It allowed Marcello and I to pack and clean and answer the non-stop emails and calls that come with buying and selling. Once we were moved I noticed that some of the the over-watching habits remained. They were also talking about bad magic and potions and evil spells all time. Whoa, Nick and Disney Junior!

Also, I can see that one of my children is prone to get hooked on video games and screens. I won’t let the kids have video games yet, but he found shows of other people playing games on Amazon Prime and would watch that for hours if I would let him! What is fun about that? I have no idea.

What I saw in our house was:

  1. Too much screen time with no time limit.
  2. Less creative or outdoor time.
  3. And too much outside influence for little minds.

I truly believe that our enemy would love nothing more than to influence us negatively by what we watch. The question I began asking myself is how much influence and unsupervised time with my kids was I freely giving him?

Even the content of commercials is terrifying. The other night the kids were watching a show with Xfinity’s On Demand at my mom’s house. When the show ended it jumped to a main menu with commercials streaming. Don’t you know it was for a horror movie — blood and knives. Picture me yelling to divert attention, grabbing the remote and jumping in front of the tv in in one swift motion! Did I mention my mom also had her neighbors over who I was meeting for the first time? Haha! I made an impression.

I am a firm believer in guarding what you see on tv, as a child or adult. Keeping your eyes and mind pure is difficult, but with media you do have a choice in what your mind witnesses and processes. Marcello and I don’t watch rated R movies anymore. I used to have nightmares and since I stopped watching murder mysteries or violent subject matter, they have stopped. It’s true. My brain couldn’t process all the unnatural imagery it was seeing.

Also see: How to stop nightmares

And if that’s the case for me, how much more is it for small children who do not have developed brains and can’t differentiate between fiction and reality?

I know this can be a touchy subject, and that’s why I’ve been reluctant to post it. Since this has been on my mind, I tried to read studies and inform myself of new data. I found an opinion piece on Psychology Today saying there is no evidence tv is bad for kids. I found another article saying tv decreases frontal lobe activity and ability to pay attention. I don’t know, but I think we all know that that hours and hours of TV a day isn’t good for anyone.

I also don’t think any kid has ever said, “The best time in my life was that summer that I watched tv for hours on end every day!” The childhood memories that stand out to me were pretend play, experiencing nature and laughing with friends.

This is definitely not a guilt trip either. Heaven knows I have no business guilt-tripping anyone about too much tv time! I think lighting would strike me.

I deleted all our kids channels except one

So what does that look like?

We haven’t had cable in probably five years. We use a Roku and stream channels. Recently we have access to my parents’ DISH network, so we had Nick Junior and Disney Junior. I deleted those. I got rid of Netflix when we were saving to move. I have an Amazon Prime account and decided to delete that channel too. Although, I have to add that Amazon has a great parental control system you can set to need a pin number if you want to watch anything other than G. (Some unrated things can slip through the cracks though.)

The only channel I feel completely safe with right now is PBS Kids, so that is the only one I kept. And it’s free!

When I told the kids the channels were going away, I didn’t hear as much fuss as I thought I would. They really like PBS Kids shows, and I have never seen anything inappropriate or out of line, even with the older kids shows. The boys love Odd Squad, Arthur and Wild Kratts. Clara is all about Daniel Tiger, Pinkalicious and Caillou.

The only problem was that Luca was upset not to have Amazon Prime nature shows, so I paid $5 to have National Geographic Kids. This actually works out better, because he was learning a little too much about mating!

I have also paid $5 in the past too for Jelly Telly, which has Friends and Heroes (my boys LOVE this show) and lots of other Christian kid shows. I was thinking about spending my $5 on National Kids Geographic one month, Jelly Telly another month and so on. Do you have any suggestions?

As far as the whole family watching shows, we can agree on the Food Network and nature shows. That’s about it! I’m compiling a list of family movies that are innocent and safe, though. If you have ideas, I would be so excited to add them.

Last summer I disconnected the Roku and only let the kids have DVDs that we own and were mom-approved. They still have access to those and watch them periodically.

I have thought about trying at least a week without tv for the family as an experiment preluding to summer. I also saw there are devices that shut off the tv after a set amount of time. We could do an hour a day while Clara naps.

I imagine without as much tv they will need more of my attention, so I might only blog once a week instead of twice. We can do this summer bucket list, have more reading time and go on some adventures we wouldn’t have otherwise. I also want to use this time when they are little and home with me to cultivate their relationships with each other and teach them what is important in life.

I’m looking at this post as more of a conversation starter than a “how-to” piece. If you have any experience with tv-free life, please tell me all about it! What have you learned from it?

And if you have advice on parental filter services like Vidangel or internet filters, I’d love to hear that too.

More conversation on Instagram

A few weeks ago I deleted all our Roku kid channels but two — PBS Kids and National Geographic Kids. There are several reasons that led me to this decision and have me considering a tv-free summer. Is that possible!? My kids watched way too much tv during our move. It allowed Marcello and I to pack and clean and answer the non-stop emails and calls that come with buying and selling. Once we were moved I noticed that some of the the over-watching habits remained. They were also talking about bad magic and potions and evil spells all time. Whoa, Nick and Disney Junior! ◽Also, I can see that one of my children is prone to get hooked on video games and screens. I won’t let the kids have video games yet, but he found shows of other people playing games on Amazon Prime and would watch that for hours if I would let him! What is fun about that? I have no idea. ◽What I saw in our house was: ➖Too much screen time with no time limit. ➖Less creative or outdoor time. ➖And too much outside influence for little minds. ◽I truly believe that our enemy would love nothing more than to influence us negatively by what we watch. The question I began asking myself is how much influence and unsupervised time with my kids was I freely giving him? ◽Come join the conversation over on my blog today. And if you have any experience with tv-free life, please please share your tips and thoughts!

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P.S.

There is one side note as I wrap up. Please join me in praying for those people who do the difficult job of filtering videos on YouTube, Facebook and the like. I have prayed for them ever since I read an article in WIRED magazine about how devastating it can be on their lives. These people that protect us by taking down real deaths, violence, hate and pedophilia become suspicious of everyone. After all the terrible things they see, they can start to assume everyone is keeping a horrible secret, even family members or their spouse. Imagine what those horrific images do to the human psyche.

Let’s pray for them together. Let’s pray for the movie industry — less shock and horror and more wonder and learning. Let’s pray for the next generation — that they would use screens for healthy entertainment and growth, but not as an escape or to their detriment. Lord, as families, please show us the balance and protect our minds and spirits. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

11 thoughts on “Is a no-tv summer possible?

  1. Years ago (almost 15!) I did research on violent video games and how they affect children and adolescent brains. The research back then showed that for kids predisposed to violence it made them more likely to be violent but kids who were not weren’t affected. But it was early research and I definitely think it affects us all regardless of age (how could it not?). I also don’t watch scary movies—it just makes me anxious and jumpy!

    My 2.5 yr old watches about up to an hour on the iPad in the morning when we are getting ready for work/daycare. Right now I can control what he sees but I have noticed that if he does watch this much he is a nightmare behaviour wise. When we are visiting grandparents he has zero sceeen time and is a much happier, less tantrumy toddler! I say go for it and let us know how it goes!

  2. Hi Rebecca. So you actually helped with the research on violent video games? Fascinating. And I have noticed the same thing about fussy kids when there’s too much screen time. Last night all three of mine were losing their cool and when I sat down to read them a book instead of flip on the tv, they engaged and went to bed happy. I had to read about snakes and rats, which are gross, but I can tell a difference. I’ll keep experimenting and see if I can work up to a no-tv summer. I don’t know! :)

  3. This is a such a great idea. I think a ‘tv-free summer’ would probably be more fun. We do enjoy checking out DVDs from the library. We watch them together as a family and then they go right back (plus no commercials).

  4. I love the library family movie idea. No commercials is great! Do you have any family movie recommendations?

  5. Mostly mainstream movies; we’re just a few years behind. But we have enjoyed:
    Babe
    Mary Poppins
    Happy Feet
    The Aristocats
    The Little Rascals
    Alvin & The Chipmunks
    Mr. Popper’s Penguins
    The Polar Express (at Christmas)

  6. Thank you so much for asking us to pray for the people who filter the videos. That has never even crossed my mind before. I think I thought it was done by some sort of computer program. I had no idea there were real people looking at horrible things every day. Wow.

    Screen time is a big issue in our house. We have set times in place (sort-of), and I try to always have no screens after dinner, but it’s hit or miss. Sometimes we get dinner on the way home from school, and then my video-game-loving middle son thinks it’s unfair that he shouldn’t get to play at all, and I usually give in. My youngest watches a lot of kids Netflix while I’m doing school with my middle (they go to a hybrid / UMS school, so we’re at home every other day). I am sad to say that on our at-home school days, the 2-(almost 3)-year-old has the most screen time of all of us. Sigh… It’s a struggle.

    I don’t have any parental control apps to recommend. We just use the restrictions on our Fire TV and iPad. I use the Guided Access feature on the iPad when my youngest is watching something. Basically, you open the app you want to use, tap the home button three times and then select Guided Access. The iPad is then locked into that app, so he can’t switch to another app without me entering the restrictions passcode. It also lets you draw boxes around areas on the screen you don’t want him to have access to (like the delete button for when he’s watching our home videos).

    A few family movies we enjoy are…
    The Boxcar Children
    Everyone’s Hero
    Curious George (the movie)
    Charlotte’s Web (the old animated version and the newer live-action)
    What’s in the Bible DVD series (not exactly a movie, but we all enjoy watching them)

  7. Jenny, this is so good! I’m learning so much here. I don’t have an iPad and didn’t know about the Guided Access feature. And I did’t know about the What’s in the Bible DVD either. Great movie choices to add to my list. Thank you for being open about your tv situation at home. Like everything else, I suppose, it’s something to find balance in. I’m feeling overwhelmed lately trying to keep balance in every area of life and this is one more!

  8. Bit late to this thread sorry. I have 1 one year old, and I noticed that she wasn’t playing with her toys, wasn’t asking to go outside and was really happy to watch TV for long periods of time. I was loving the peace and quiet a little too much, and my husband was noticing.

    We sat down to discuss it one night after she was asleep and we felt convicted that we needed to kick the TV habit out of this household, especially while we have such a young little mind around.

    That night we took the TV away (it’s in the spare room) and we have stopped it altogether. I have given in as she got sick, so I let her watch a movie on my laptop, and I have also watched a few fun youtube clips of nursery rhymes or monkeys or puppies or whatever she is into (only 2 minutes long and I watch them with her for safety reasons).

    The withdrawals have been real. So. Many. Tantrums. I can’t have my phone out around her without her begging through tears “Mana pweese” aka “Moana please”, though this might not be a bad thing. I’m also learning to cook dinner while she is hovering around my feet!

    It’s only been a week now and it has been a long week. We have gotten outside a lot together and she is actually playing with her toys. We spend hours a day reading books and dancing to the Moana soundtrack. I know she is missing it, but she can be fairly easily distracted at her age.

    If I want to watch something at night, I just watch it on my laptop. I hope to watch movies with her for special occassions and keep it special instead of regular.

    This probably doesn’t help you, but that leap of faith with just taking the TV away was a really good thing for our family.

  9. No, Emily this DOES help me! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your real experience — the good and the bad. Sounds like we’re on the same page … except you have more integrity than I do! Haha! You know what’s funny, this week our internet hasn’t been working in the mornings. Just until 9:30 or so, but every morning! I’m taking it as a godsend because we don’t have a choice! The kids are playing (and fighting) but it’s forcing us to live in the here and now. I love that you said you’re learning to cook dinner with your daughter at your feet. You’re giving me great inspiration, thank you!!

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