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How Much TV Time For Toddlers

People often ask me how much TV time should toddlers have. Very interesting question. Because the world is enveloped right now with digital. Digital everywhere. And so, people are starting to view the digital world younger and younger. I remember when I was a child, there were I think maybe 2, maybe 3 children's programs that happen in the middle of the day, and that was it. 

I think it was Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers. There might have been another one. Captain Kangaroo or something. And that was it. And other than that, I never really saw anything. And I didn't even always those programs. But nowadays, there are so many options. And most of the discussion among children even toddlers turns to what they've seen on TV. 

This actually brings me to the question that I often consider when I'm asked how much time toddlers should have on TV. And the question I think in my mind is "Are we even sure that TV is really good and healthy for toddlers to be looking at anyway?" Well, that's what this article is about. I like to discuss how much TV time toddlers should have. And maybe if there are some other questions that we should be considering when we are putting our toddlers in front of the TV. 

I have 4 children when my oldest child was just 2 years old, I had my second child. So, needless to say in the morning, I was tired after staying up all night with the baby. And so, I did this little thing called using a TV babysitter. Have you ever done that before? Anyway. So, I started turning it on for him when he would wake up in the morning. 

He'd get up and I think, "I could probably get another hour, hour and a half, and maybe a couple of hours if I just go and turn on the TV." So, he would sometimes watch Winnie the poo movie or sometimes he would watch Barney or Dragon Tales. Some of those PVS programs that we're on when he was a child. 

Then one day the baby slept through the night. And so, when it was time to get up in the morning, I got up. And I didn't turn on the TV. He was so mad that I didn't turn on the TV. He had a tantrum about it. Telling me, "I want to watch my show." And I thought, "What have I done?" But I stuck to my guns deciding that maybe I had made a problem." And I told him, "No, we aren't going to have any more TV time in the mornings." Or at least for that morning. 

I didn't know how many days she would sleep through the night. But I was noticing something that I didn't like. So, we just started our activities for the day. And I was a really engaged parent. I still am, actually. And I like to do things with my children. Discuss with them, learn with them. So, we started doing learning activities. 

Then I got the second revelation that hit me smack in the face. He is doing so much better at focusing on all these learning games that we're playing than he ever has before. So, the question was "What's the difference?" When I looked at him, I knew exactly what the difference was. 

The difference was that his brain had not been stimulated by TV morning. Instead, we went straight into other learning and discussing and figuring out activities and he got more out of them. I couldn't deny that him not being on TV was better than him on TV. Especially in the morning. So, I am an advocate for young children not to start their day off with the TV. 

If you want your child to be less focused, start them with TV. In fact, when a lot of people don't realize is the clips that happen in TV programs even for children have changed. It used to be when I was a child that if you watched some of the segments from Sesame Street, every 11 seconds or maybe 9, maybe 11, even up to 15 seconds, the frame would change. But you would watch a child play with a truck in the sandbox, stand up, walk over to another child and then talk to the other child before they would cut to the next little view of that scene. 

NO WAY. Have you read in this article how many times I've probably being cut? That's not how it works anymore. And there's a reason for that. Because you have been trained not to focus longer than just for few seconds. After about 30 seconds, people's brains get antsy. Why? Because they're used to see new angles, new cuts every 30 seconds. 

What does that do to a toddler's brain or just anybody's brain for that matter? It's interesting to think about that, isn't it? It creates a constant of attention. You can't stay focused on something for long periods of time. This is what I was noticing in my son. He had an addiction to that stimulation. He couldn't focus long. 

But when we started the day, not like that, he could focus for much longer. So, needless to say after that experiment, I changed my ways. No more Pooh bear, no more PVS television in the morning. That's not to say we never watched Pooh bear again. But I've got to say our family pretty much went off TV for a long, long time after that. 

In fact, we determine that there was just going to be 1 night a week that our family would watch TV. And that was going to be Friday night. And when I say TV, I don't even mean TV. It was probably a video most of the time. There just wasn't much that we were interested in that was on network television or prime-time television. 

Especially on a Friday. So, I'm not a big TV watcher really because of that moment. And my toddlers definitely that came after that first one didn't have to suffer through that over-exposure to visual stimulation. Incidentally, my oldest son still to this day has more of a craving for digital stimulation than all of my other children. 

Now, you could say, "Well, maybe that's just because that's the way he was." But I am pretty sure that's the way I created them. Because he watched so much TV. Years ago, I went to the home of a florist because I work for the funeral company and I needed to stop by with an order for a funeral that was coming up. When I walked in there, I said, "Oh, how was everything going with the new baby?" And she's like, "Oh, it's so great. 

He just watches TV the whole day. He's so easy." I looked in the room and there was this 5 or 6-month-old baby in a little bouncy chair in front of the TV holding his bottle and he just sits there the whole day long pretty much. Seems like it might be nice for the parent. But my heart ached for that child. I knew before I would even have children that I wasn't going to do that to them. But "How much really was appropriate in this digital media world?" is the question. 

I have to honestly say that I've seen a child can do about an hour and a half, a toddler can do about an hour and a half of that stimulation before things start getting more selfish with the child. That's my indicator. If they start getting whiny and demanding and not following instructions, stuff like that, then I know that They've had had too much television. 

So, I guess my main message is to pick your TV time carefully and know how much they will have. You've got to have a stopping place. If you don't have a stopping place, then your child is not going to ever want to stop. And they will push harder and harder. And when it's a busy day for you, you will allow more and more television time to happen. 

Several years ago when my youngest son, Porter was 7-years old, we went swimming at a local pool. On our way out from the pool to get in the car, there was another family with us. A father and his son. And his son was maybe 2 or 3 years old. 

The son did not want to sit in the car seat. And so, he was screaming and kicking. The father was struggling, trying to get him into that car seat. And then finally the father said, "Do you want to have my phone? If you sit still and you get in your car seat then you can have my phone." And we watched this happen and quietly got in our car. And then Porter who is about 7 at the time said to me, "Mom, that is so sad." And I said, "Why is it so sad, Porter?" And he said, "That dad is teaching that little toddler to have tantrums." 

He's using digital media to control his child's emotions. Porter noticed there was a problem and he was concerned about it. He went on to say, "You know what he should do is he should teach that little boy to accept a no answer, mom." How do you accept a no answer? You look at the person, you keep a calm face, voice, and body. 

You say, "Okay" or ask to disagree appropriately. And then you drop the subject. And all of my children learned to accept no answers when they were between the ages of 1 ½ and 2 years old. They can say, "Okay." And to learn what calmness is. So, if you're child is begging for TV especially if you're going to be making a shift, teach them how to accept a no answer. 

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