I want to say I read some shocking research about the environmental and social effects of television that compelled me to make this decision, but the truth is my reason was a little more selfish. I was honestly just so bloody sick and tired of hearing the noise of the TV constantly on in the background! I was fed up with the battles to get a certain little person dressed in the morning, to eat dinner and to tidy up. The endless whinging and whining - I’d had enough.
And so last week after a particularly spirited disagreement (for lack of a better word), and once said little person was tucked comfortably into bed, I marched right over to the TV unit and pulled the plug out of the wall. I didn’t plan it and it wasn’t premeditated - the only way I can think to describe that moment was that it was as though I was operating on auto-pilot. Instincts.
Below is an account of our experiences over the space of 7 days. I wrote this log as a way to measure any mood and behaviour changes. What I discovered was eye opening…
DAY 1: Marley woke up and jumped in my bed for cuddles. I used this as an opportunity to tell her the TV was broken (she spilt a glass of milk on my laptop yesterday and so we couldn’t resort to using that either). I could see she was disappointed, and she asked me several times what happened.
We had breakfast together and then I left her to entertain herself while I got ready. When I came out to check on her she had made herself a second bowl of cereal and happily ate it the table by herself. That’s a first. I could see she had been playing with her toys too. I put some music on for her to fill the silence and she kept playing. No fussing or whinging. I didn’t feel rushed and I didn’t have to pry her away from a show to get her dressed and out the door. It was a stress free morning.
She didn’t ask to watch anything when we got home from dance class, just toddled around while I made dinner. Ate dinner without complaints or distractions, had a bath without a battle, and went to bed. All in all a success with Marley, but now that she is in bed I want to watch something. I hadn’t thought about whether or not I would be included in the no TV challenge. I guess I should.
DAY 2: No complaining from Marley or asking if she could watch something - though I did walk in on her pretending to watch TV. That was odd.
The one that seems to be suffering here is me! Suddenly I don’t have that babysitter to allow me 40mins to clean or shower or collect my thoughts. I was the one that wanted to crack today and just throw on a movie so I could breathe. Made me feel guilty and silly. At this stage I seem to be the one dependant on it, not Marley. The positive has been again no whinging or negotiating.
DAY 3: Marley verbalising that she feels sad the TV is broken and questioning when it will be fixed, however she still managed to entertain herself well enough so I could get ready. No complaining again when it was time to get dressed or leave for daycare. She genuinely seems a lot happier and more creative. She said she wished she could watch a movie when we got home.
DAY 4: Realising now that I shouldn’t have said the TV was broken as Marley was asking when it will be fixed. I wonder if her behaviour would have been different if I had just said we weren’t having the TV for a week. Would there have been more resistance because we COULD be watching it, we’re just not?
DAY 5: No mention of the TV. I watched a movie. Opps. Felt guilty and recommitted myself to this challenge. I’ve noticed an improvement in our sleep, with less stirring in the night. Could this be related?
DAY 6: No mention of the TV. Tonight we played board games and puzzles before bath time and it was fun. I am noticing a significant improvement in our moods and productivity too. I didn’t realise just how draining that constant TV negotiating was until now.
DAY 7: Wednesdays are OUR day and I look forward to them every week. We’ve been to the library, window shopped, built forts and played Barbies. We’ve done arts and crafts. We’ve cleaned the house, napped, read and re-read our library books. I am touched out, talked out and tired. It’s 4.30pm on Day 7 of our no TV challenge and I can hear the muffled sounds of Shrek in the background while I type this. Marley didn't ask for it, I did. Sigh.
So what did I learn from our (almost) TV free week? Firstly, Marley is perfectly fine without it. She entertained herself well and though she was curious about why it was ‘broken’ and when it would be fixed, she didn’t seem to miss it. I realised that our TV use is more for MY benefit because it allows me to cook dinner or work in peace - which I personally feel isn’t a bad thing and in actual fact now would be an appropriate time to insert the quote “sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.”
I guess that begs the question, where to from here?
I’m glad I did this little experiment. It re-confirmed what I’m sure a lot of you already know and that is there is an obvious link between the amount of television we are consuming and our moods/creativity. As you would have read above, I have plugged the TV in again but will go forward with boundaries and clear intention in future. As a solo-mum-only-child duo, I’m sure there will be moments like today where I just need a moment, and I am ok with that. Overall I enjoyed the experience and highly recommend you give it a go if you are concerned with the amount of TV your children are watching too. Alternatively, I have researched the recommended viewing times according to age and will include them below if you are interested:
The Ideal limits according to Family First New Zealand are:
3 - 5 years: 0.5 - 1 hour/day
5 - 7 years: 1 - 1.5 hour/day
7 - 12 years: 1 - 1.5 hour/day
12 - 15 years: 1.5 - 2 hour/day
16 years and over: 2 hour/day
Tania of LMB. x
*the image used in the header of this post can be found here (Kidscreen)