Kids and Television: How Much is Too Much?

kid televisionDo you limit your children’s TV time? Do you think there is a big difference in behaviors between school aged kids who watch a lot of TV and those who do not watch a lot of TV?

Last week we did an accidental experiment in our house.  I should preface this by saying that my nine year-old is a busy, athletic kid who has some kind of activity at least five days per week.  It is because he is an active kid that we typically let him decompress by watching television when time permits.  I can totally appreciate that sometimes he just needs to chill out for a while.  Giving my kids some time to unwind and relax is important to me as a way to balance their hectic schedules, and my children are way more likely to unravel when they do not get any down time.

However, last week we told him that he could not watch any television after school on Monday through Friday for an attitude he has shown us one night the week before.  He would just have to find another way to relax when he got home from karate or soccer practice.  The attitude actually had nothing to do with the television; it was just what we chose as a punishment. 

I was fully expecting the whining to begin on Monday afternoon, but to my surprise it never did.  In fact, he found plenty of other activities to keep him busy – and he was in a wonderful mood.  There were no complaints when it was time for bed, or at any time for that matter.  Could it be?  To our complete shock, his happy demeanor remained for the entire week.  It was the most enjoyable school week in our home in a very, very long time.

We have decided to limit television more moving forward.  This brings me back to my original questions. Do you limit your children’s TV time?  Is the television on as background noise in your house?  Do you think there is a big difference in behaviors between school aged kids who watch a lot of TV and those who do not watch a lot of TV?  I asked a few of my friends, and here are their responses:

Amy at Freaky Perfect said that, “We definitely limit it in our house, but we don’t have a set “x hours per week” type of rule. For us, it’s situational. If it’s a pretty day outside, there will be no TV, only outside play. We also have a “one screen at a time” rule.  No playing DS while watching TV, for example. The TV gets turned off if anyone is too distracted by it. For example, if the boys are too busy watching TV to get ready for school, it’s immediately turned off.  And TV is usually the first thing we take away when we have to ground someone.

Candice at Fashionably Organized added “We limit loosely. During a school day they can’t watch past 7 PM. Not much of a limit. I have to say though that I was helplessly addicted to TV as a child (still am) and I devoured books like no one else. I do not think that too much TV is the issue. I think the issue is what exactly they are watching.”  

Kadi from Our Seven Seeds has this rule of thumb, “We usually don’t have time during the week between homework, sports and religious education. However, we do watch movies on the weekends. We limit video games to weekends only.  I require every minute of tv to be matched with reading, educational games or outside time.”

Tina from Mad Hatter Mom said that, “We do limit our kids’ TV time. They get 30 minutes in the morning, usually while they are eating breakfast and then 30 minutes in the evening right before bedtime.  In all honesty, I think each kid is completely different. My 6 year old daughter can watch several hours of TV and not have any problems. We keep our limits universal to keep things fair.”

Hillary from MyScraps: I let them watch almost whenever they want to…they are both active and love to play outside…so that doesn’t worry me…the quality of television shows and advertising shown DOES…

Rajean at Because I Said So believes that it is more about the program than the amount of time watching. “For us, it is not as much about quantity but quality. There is good quality TV programming and often it helps us get a discussion going. I feel strongly we should know what our kids are watching and make decisions about content and time in front of the screen.”

What about YOU? Do you limit television watching time in your home?  Do you limit the shows your children are allowed to watch?  Why or why not?

Do your kids watch too much television?


  1. So many interesting perspectives : ).

  2. For us it is also depends on the situation. My son will whine when we have no tv days, but my daughter is fine. We don’t turn it on in the evening because then my son has a hard time going to bed. Movie nights are far and few between, and ONLY if they are both behaving.

  3. I limit the hours the children can watch television and the programs they can watch. I do this because they seem to function better with limitations on the television.

  4. So interesting – we do the same. If the boys want to chill for a bit we let them watch tv, but it’s definitely not on all the time. I barely watch it, so I’m the enforcer on that one.

  5. We have started limiting it a bit more and my son has been playing a lot more, which I love!

  6. We need to limit it more, but we struggle! And FWIW, youtube time on iPad for me consists of TV time too. Ugh!! Too much to keep up with in our hectic life. That said, when we do turn it off, the kids suddenly discover this amazing thing they have called a toy room…

  7. I definitely notice a lot of whining when we turn off the TV after extended viewing. I think you make a great point- they will find something else to do!

  8. I absolutely limited it for my kids. None after school, that was just for homework, play time, snack time. outside time. They were allowed to watch TV at prime time until bedtime which typically was just a couple of hours at the most, depending on their ages. They never complained and they still know how to entertain themselves without technology.

  9. My kids aren’t really big TV watchers, surprisingly. They have certain shows they like, but they don’t just zone out in front of it aimlessly watching whatever is on. Normally that’s more my husband! Maybe I should limit HIS TV time (as a funny aside, I wrote about one such frustrating incident with my husband recently.)

  10. I go back and forth on this one. I DO think it has an effect. And your story is very interesting to me. We have gotten really lax lately with the TV, and I know we need to tighten up the reigns. Thanks for the food for thought!

  11. My kids are young and while we limit it in doses, some days I feel like we are still watching too much. Both my kids love to play outside, so I figure as long as we are getting adequate exercise each day, then the tv isn’t a big deal. We mainly watch in the morning (they are early risers) and then my son watches during my daughter’s afternoon nap. It ends up being between 3-4 hours a days, which makes me cringe a bit. At least he has 9-10 more hours of other activities :)

  12. I find days where we watch less TV the boys are more attentive to what I say. We do limit tv watching and are always cautious of what they are watching, I think it’s a wise thing.

  13. My girls watch way too much TV. I won’t deny it, but I don’t think it takes away from their other activities like crafts, play time, and exercise. I do limit their TV time based on attitude and what we’re doing that day, but not a specific time each day.

  14. So helpful! My boys are 4 and 2 and TV time is a constant dilemma…especially given the whining it creates. But I also love TV- they learn a lot and we only do on demand. It’s the commercials that kill me…

    Thanks Jessica!

    • I completely agree that at four and two your kids can learn so much from TV. My little guy asks for every single thing he sees on a commercial. One time he even asked me for Mop & Glo!!

  15. I let my kids watch and remove as a punishment. My daughter is can take it or leave it, but then sneaks it. My son is drama about lossing it but sticks to the rules better than my daughter

  16. Our oldest son is on the autism spectrum. And at the age of two, he fell madly in love with Super Mario Bros and has been a screen kid ever since. Which has definitely affected the choices that we have made for the entire family regarding screen time.

    That being said, our other two kids love to be outside as much as they love their screen time and make the choice to enjoy the freedom of being outdoors with very little parental influence. So while I do wish that we had the kind of homelife that made setting such limits easier, I take great solace in knowing that playing outside continues to be a compelling activity for our kids.

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