Introducing and managing TV time for toddlers
June 30, 2016 7:06 AM   Subscribe

We don't have a TV and don't really plan on getting one, and our now 2 year old, until recently, had never watched any. Now we've relaxed the rule (we have an infant now and needed a little time so did it on a whim) and now I have no idea how to control this . . .

So in general, we knew we wouldn't let her watch TV until 2 just because I know I'll feel OK if I just follow what the American Academy of Pediatrics says (otherwise will go crazy with research! So no judgment at all on people who decided otherwise.) In an "inspired" moment when I had to take of our new baby, I introduced a TV program on the computer (Caillou, which a friend said was good for toddlers.)

But -- now what? It's now demands for Caillou all the time! We put it on for maybe 15 minutes at a time, and it's screaming fits when we turn it off.

Now I don't want a TV junkie on my hands -- ie., "my parents never let me watch TV so now I watch it ALL THE TIME" but I don't want to fight these battles. I also don't want a screen zombie -- we have a kid who is now pretty good at creative play, and I wouldn't want to interfere with that.

TLDR: How do you control your toddler's TV? Should we just go back to cold turkey? Or allow unlimited? Is there any research on this?

PS: I think I'm more against advertising to kids than the TV itself.
posted by EtTuHealy to Human Relations (35 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have Netflix? That gets around the advertising.

We sort of inadvertently introduced particular times when TV happens (mealtimes actually--don't judge, our kid doesn't really like to eat and letting him watch TV with breakfast and lunch means he sits still long enough to ingest calories) and kind of made it seem like TV was unpossible at all other times.

I think you might just have to muscle through the tantrums, though. Set a limit, make sure the limit is clear to her (maybe set a timer?) and let her know that once the limit is reached, the TV goes away. And if there's a tantrum, insert the consequence of your choice. (Or ignore it.)
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:11 AM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

I know a family who plugged their modem into a plug that was light-switched controlled when their kids were young. One of those plugs meant for lamps. So after there had been enough internet time, someone would flip the switch while no one was looking. Boy their internet sure was buggy. It just seemed to break all the time.

The switch was left off most of the time (this was before we had wifi-enabled phones in our hands 24/7) so if the kids wanted to "see if it's fixed yet" later in the day or the next day they would do that. Since the internet usually didn't work, they didn't try that much, though.

So I realize it's deceptive etc. etc. but if you can make the internet "break" after a certain period of time, it won't be you doing it and that might help prevent the battle.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:17 AM on June 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

Our toddler is a fan of Masha and the Bear, on Netflix. We use a time limit with guided access on iOS. Then the device is tired and we need to go do something else. When the infant needs more attention, the toddler device gets tired a little later.
posted by meijusa at 7:23 AM on June 30, 2016 [6 favorites]

Netflix, Tivo, and DVDs. Watch "productive" TV. Don't just leave the TV on and watch whatever comes on. "ok, you can watch the Blues Clues DVD but when that's over you go do something else."

Caillou is terrible; please stop letting your kid watch it.
posted by bondcliff at 7:27 AM on June 30, 2016 [7 favorites]

I think it used to be easier. When I was a kid I could watch Mr Rogers for half an hour. And then it ended, and there was no more Mr Rogers on the TV until tomorrow afternoon, so throwing a fit wouldn't help at all. I'm sure I did throw fits, but the fact that my parents literally couldn't show me more Mr R probably made a solid baseline.

In that vein, if you want them to only watch 15 minutes, don't try to stop it in the middle, start the show 15 minutes from the end, let it roll to the closing credits and shut off.
posted by aimedwander at 7:29 AM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

15 minutes at a time would mean you're turning it off in the middle of the story, right? I'm not sure that's helpful. Definitely get a DVD or stream it so you can avoid commercials, but let the kid watch an entire episode of whatever show you're choosing.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:30 AM on June 30, 2016 [10 favorites]

It's really only a problem if the television is all the kid has. There are many families where the parents abandon their children in front of the television with a bottle of soda and a bag of crap and don't talk to them until it is time to bail them out of jail. You will not be doing this. You have a new baby in the house and a 2 year old who needs a distraction. Let her have as much of the distraction as she wants. Don't turn it into a battle. Offer up other, more stimulating distractions such as play-doh time with daddy and she will go for that. It's just another tool- so long as it isn't the only one you use, it isn't a terrible thing.

The biggest bonus of parenting with screens is the bargaining tool it gets you. You can happily say, "Let's go potty so that you can see Cailou." Or, "After your show, we are going to brush your teeth!" All they really register is the show and they go along with the other stuff easier. It's sort of wonderful, when used correctly.
posted by myselfasme at 7:35 AM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ads are the worst for kids, and youtube now has so many ads on kids' videos. It's basically a tiny TV now with endless channels.

Netflix lets you control what they can access to some degree, but you're better off with an app on a tablet/iPad that lets you tightly curate what they can access. Buy (coughtorrentcough) a couple of seasons of some decent shows and put them on a media player that's easy for them to navigate, hide youtube in a folder.

Your friend is either from Quebec or - look, there is still time for you to escape the clutches of Calliou. Never ever go near Thomas the Tank Engine unless you want to spend thousands of dollars on plastic train sets.

Little Bear is great. Peppa Pig is awesome but there is so much merchandise you'll be begged for. Ditto Sesame Street. I like Commonsense Media for reviews of kids' shows sorted by age.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:40 AM on June 30, 2016

Also: ban Caillou from your house. that kid is a nightmarish example of terrible tantruming to get what he wants.
posted by lizifer at 7:44 AM on June 30, 2016 [16 favorites]

The problem we found with limiting a 2 year old's TV time was first we had to introduce the concept of time to our toddler. To her, everything was in "two minutes" whether that was bath time, bed time or dinner. So, we would say to her, TV goes off in two minutes and then anywhere from 1 minute to 15 minutes, turn off the TV. The other alternative to time is to make the limitation by program. You can watch one episode of Sesame Street then the laptop gets put away.
posted by AugustWest at 7:44 AM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Octanuts (actually educational about ocean creatures) and Paw Patrol are both good for that age. We also watched a lot of Curious George and Thomas the Train. Animal Mechanicals is a good 10 minute show, which we used on occasion for the... one more show. (All on Netflix.)

Masha and the Bear is fun to watch but may be a too realistic portrayal of a 2 year old (e.g., the kid may emulate the girl's antics).

Also, some new articles stress that talking about the TV show with your child, if you are going to be using TV is helpful.

With a small baby it can be difficult. I think setting an ideal day (e.g., 20 minutes - one short show on an ideal day) and a maximum (e.g., no more than 1 hour of TV if it we're stretched thin) and agreeing on it with the child's other care takers is the best route.
posted by typecloud at 7:57 AM on June 30, 2016

We’ve found that being consistent with times that TV is allowed helps a lot. Our 2 year old watches PBS or HBO kids’ shows in the morning while we’re scrambling to pack lunches and shower, etc., and she knows that that’s when she gets to watch Arthur and/or Sesame Street. On weekend mornings she gets to cuddle with Daddy and watch Daniel Tiger while I go out for bagels. She occasionally asks for a show (especially Daniel Tiger), but after some initial tantrums, she understands when we say, “It’s not time for that.” If I ever deviate and, say, use Amazon Prime for an evening episode of Daniel while I try to throw dinner together, we’re in for days of tantrums about watching TV at random times of day. For us, being strict about time of day really pays off more than setting a limit of minutes.

If you’re watching on the computer, I recommend PBS Kids. Daniel Tiger and Curious George are great for this age (I actually feel like I get some good parenting tips from Daniel Tiger). Our daughter also enjoys Arthur and Wild Kratts even though they’re maybe a bit over her head (not in a scary way or anything).

I don’t think it’s had any effect on her creative play or love of books.
posted by Kriesa at 8:07 AM on June 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

Lots of good advice above. Most kids tv is episodic and fairly short anyway, so having tv/video time and just letting kiddo watch a complete episode, assuming the length is no longer than an hour (most are going to be shorter), is the way to go. I would go for stuff like Mr. Rogers Neighborhood for a 2 year old. It's really gentle stuff and aimed for the young set. Seconding Commonsense Media for reviews.

Anecdata, I grew up in an unlimited tv household, and turned out fine. Parents made sure we had plenty of types of play, activities, and we were read to regularly and read lots of books. It's a balancing act. Mr. gudrun grew up with severe limits on tv viewing, and he is not a tv addict, but still harbors resentment to this day about the arbitrary way the tv limit rules were enforced. Kids can have a pretty finely tuned sense of what is fair, and interrupting a show when an arbitrary time limit is reached (unless you pick a natural break in the action), set off Mr. gudrun's unfairness meter pretty strongly, and he still grumbles about it sometimes.

Also, want to second what myselfasme says:
It's really only a problem if the television is all the kid has. ... You have a new baby in the house and a 2 year old who needs a distraction. ... Don't turn it into a battle. Offer up other, more stimulating distractions such as play-doh time with daddy and she will go for that. It's just another tool- so long as it isn't the only one you use, it isn't a terrible thing.
posted by gudrun at 8:11 AM on June 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

We went through this a few months ago with our 2.5-year-old. We'd all had bad colds that dragged on forever and in the process got pretty lax with TV time, and from then on it was loud, tantrum-y demands for Mickey all. the. time. We went cold turkey for awhile after that and dealt with the fallout, and once she'd stopped asking, we sloooowly added it back in when it seemed appropriate, always being consistent with 1) number of episodes allowed per day (two twenty-minute shows) and 2) time of day (weekend mornings, after dinner, etc.). She's still sad when it's time to turn if off, but she gets over it way faster now.
posted by anderjen at 8:17 AM on June 30, 2016

Possible derail: I find it weird how everyone is all down on Calliou. My kid loves Calliou and I don't see a whole lot of tantruming on the show. Does Netflix have some kind of bowdlerized version of Calliou where all that happens is that we all learn a valuable lesson about how it's okay to try new things sometimes, even if you're nervous about them?

Also: big YES to Daniel Tiger. You will learn so many good parenting strategies from that show. It's also on both Netflix and the PBS Kids website. You most definitely do not have to endure commercials to be able to have good children's programming in your house.
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:22 AM on June 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Structure, repetition, no surprises. Over here we've got "In The Night Garden" which ends with the characters going to bed, which naturally leads to the child going to bed. I'd simply end on that, every session. Can't have any more, they've all gone to bed.
posted by Leon at 8:39 AM on June 30, 2016

Add me to the Caillou-haters... but anyway, what's always worked well for our family is to have designated times during the day when screen time is allowed. In other words, make it part of the routine. If TV is allowed from 7 a.m. until breakfast time, and while parents are making dinner but the TV goes off as soon as dinner is ready, then you don't have to argue about shutting it off because everybody understands what the rules are.
posted by chickenmagazine at 8:40 AM on June 30, 2016

This is a little bit kid dependent, but honestly the tantrums are the biggest reason we essentially banned screen time for years at our place. Our son was a nonstop tantrum-er about the ending of screen time and I just did NOT want to deal with that. Screens definitely have a different allure than other things around the house. It's honestly creepy.

That said, our greatest successes have always involved absolute, unwavering consistency, generally involving a set scenario that the kid understands.

- Our kids are allowed iPad at the doctor's office and on airplanes. If a kid wants the iPad at another time, I look confused and ask "Are we on an airplane? Are we at the doctor's office? No? Then it isn't iPad time."

- We decided it was better for our family to turn on the TV while Nanopanda has nebulizer treatments than to, um, sit on her while she screamed (the alternative). On these days, we flip the switch on the nebulizer and then immediately turn on an episode of Daniel Tiger or Magic School Bus. When the episode is over, the TV shuts off. There is typically some fallout when Nanopanda gets better and doesn't need the nebulizers anymore - cue Micropanda asking anxiously, "Is she better? She still needs her medicine, right?" But, since there's no nebulizer to flip the switch on, we don't flip the TV on either, and he understands the rule, so he gets over it.

Now, (at our house) there is HELL TO PAY if the kids get screen time outside these boundaries, whether courtesy of an adult or by sneaking off with a device. There was a little while when my husband was letting Micropanda play with his phone at bedtime, off-label, and one night he suddenly decided not to, and Jesus, I thought the house was going to fall down from the stomping and the screaming. It's always obvious when somebody's been falling off the wagon because the kids' behavior goes to shit. I do have an unusually rigid elder child, so this may be less true for you, but then again you posted this Ask so maybe it is :)

Tl;dr: Consistency. Absolute consistency. And rules that can be summarized in a sentence.
posted by telepanda at 8:56 AM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't remember exactly what we did with our son at 2, but we've evolved to a one-show-a-day rule for weekdays, and he gets four "tickets" he can trade for screen time on the weekends (max of three in any one day). That's probably too complicated for a 2-year-old, but just having a hard rule of one per day and that's that might work. You'll still have whining and negotiating, I bet, but you can just calmly restate the rule until it becomes normal. This works pretty darn well for us, though we do still talk about screen time more than I'd like.
posted by that's candlepin at 9:09 AM on June 30, 2016

So my eldest brother LOVES television. As a kid in the 70s, my mom would joke that he'd wake up and run to say hello to 'mama television' before he'd even notice her. He can tune out and watch anything, even to this day-- kids shows, documentaries-- if the TV is on while he's walking by, he'll watch whatever is on the screen. It's infuriating, especially if you're having a conversation. My other brother and I also grew up with unlimited television access, and we don't watch it to the level that he does, not even close. I tune out if the show is longer than an hour, sometimes. We chalked it up to personality differences. He just loves watching TV, and always will. That said, despite the fact he loves TV, it's not really a problem for him. He turned out pretty great; very ambitious, six figure salary, motivated, intelligent-- bad at relationships, (although he has a nice GF now) but you can't win them all. He also reads a LOT of books. Much more than I do.

My ex sister in law disliked his tune-out habit, and didn't want the kids to be like him, so she banned TV until the kids were 2, and highly regulated it thereafter. When TV was introduced to my nephews at 2, they went kind of crazy and were craving it all the time. It's all they could think about. Video games was the same thing; they weren't allowed any kind of video games, or app games, until finally the 8 year old got a 3ds. It's new and shiny and exciting and he wants to play all the time, now, in lieu of doing anything else. I feel like the more she denies them things, the worse it gets for her. She also does this with treats, any kind of non-healthy food, etc. Guess what they sneak any opportunity they get? Snacks. I actually worry about the relationship they're establishing with food.

That said, now my brother is divorced, they're allowed unfettered access to the TV (at his place) and honestly? They don't even watch as much any more, truly. They do all sorts of stuff. Scooting, going to the park.

Of course, this is just anecdotal, and I'm not saying this will happen with you at all, but I am offering a caveat with being too strict on it. It didn't work for my nephews, and I personally think denying them made things much worse early on and fueled their addictive personalities. Intermittent rewards create really strong cravings, so try not to ever make TV a 'reward' for her and don't make it intermittent. Normalize it to the best of your capability, make it routine, mundane, boring etc. Part of her excitement is because its this new awesome thing she gets in small doses, the longer you maintain that, the more she'll be excited by it.

But then, the Academy of American Pediatrics knows best, so take it with a grain of salt.
posted by Dimes at 9:13 AM on June 30, 2016

We were really good at stating the boundaries up front: "you get to watch one "show" (episode). When the show is over we turn off the tv." Yes, we got some trantrums in the beginning, but toddlers are designed to test limits. Once we showed that we were firm with our boundaries the tantruming was reduced.

Daniel Tiger is excellent for the 2yo-3yo set. Thomas the Train is a good one. Stella and Sam is an excellent show, although it may be a tad bit too old for your LO. I've heard nothing but bad things about Caillou and how annoying it is, so we've never introduced it.
posted by vignettist at 9:40 AM on June 30, 2016

With our first kid we went through this phase, especially when using the computer or iPad because there's always something else they could be doing if they bang on the keys. I think with a kiddo that age it's most important just to establish a ritual that works for you and eventually they will understand that's how it's going to be. There may be a lot of fussing as you get to that point. Having video that has a clear end point with nothing else auto-starting and no commercials or teaser videos dancing around on the edges is a big help.

With our oldest this was especially an issue since we were introducing TV at about age 2, which is right when they get very independent and want to control everything themselves, especially that amazing screen thing! It took a while to find a routine that we were all comfortable with. With my youngest this was much less of an issue since there was basically no way to prevent him from watching the shows that my older child was watching, and so the routine has been in place for his entire life.

Now our kids are 5.5 and 2.5 and they have a very specific routine. When they get home in the afternoon they are allowed to watch 2 shows, one picked by each of them, for a total of about 45 minutes of TV time. My husband usually makes dinner during this lull. We use a Roku and stream from PBS Kids or Amazon so no commercials. Everybody knows that after 2 shows the TV is turned off and they go find something else to do, and they enjoy taking turns to push the button to turn off the TV, which kind of marks an end point. They will occasionally ask to watch TV at unusual times (weekend mornings for example) and we just say no, it's not TV time right now and that's usually accepted without a quibble.

I actually stopped letting them have access to the iPad at all except on plane trips because even though the games were fun and educational, the lack of a defined stopping point inevitably made it a huge fight to wrestle the tablet away from the screaming child. That was unpleasant for everyone and so it was easier to just not have it around.

You'll figure out a routine that works for you as well. I think the key thing is to avoid having unreasonable expectations of the kid's ability to regulate her own screen time consumption and to set things up as much as possible so that the end of a show is just the end of a show, not "mean old parent ripping it away."
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 9:44 AM on June 30, 2016

I use a combination of TV during one specific time of the day and TV as a bribe for good behavior. If there is time after they finish eating their dinner, and if they've eaten well without dawdling or whining, they may watch an episode of Daniel Tiger/Paw Patrol/Peg + Cat.

Those shows all come with the added bonus of being split in two sections with a commercial or interstitial break. So I have some wiggle room: if they've kinda eaten so-so or if I only have 9 minutes until 8 pm, then they may watch a "story" (one half of an episode). This gets them their fix without too much of a time commitment.

We also watch a movie or 2-3 episodes back to back of the above shows on weekend afternoons when they've spent the morning being pretty active, as a break. They have been well-trained to know that when Mama says no, she means no, but Daddy can often be persuaded.
posted by Liesl at 10:30 AM on June 30, 2016

Nthing netflix, although the issue is it's always available so you have to be firm with whatever rules you decide. When my son was younger we had some luck with physically covering up the screen, as in "tv is sleeping now, time to play/eat/go outside". Kipper is great, there are a lot of great shows that are age appropriate on netflix.

Getting dvd's can be good because it's more controlled, and is good if you have a babysitter so they don't have to figure out what's appropriate.

My son (5 years old) loves tv and does watch a lot after school, especially in the winter when it's too dark and cold to go outside, but he is usually simultaneously playing, I'll sit and play with him while a show is on and he much prefers going out or playing to tv in general. He doesn't get so sucked in that he's not aware of what else is going on around him, I've seen kids like that and I wonder if it affects them differently. He didn't watch tv until he was nearly 2 (In the Night Garden calmed his night terrors down).

I think tying it to specific times of day is the right way to go, like after dinner, after getting dressed and eating breakfast, if they have a sleepy/grumpy time of day or a time of day where you really need a break.

Growing up I watched a lot of tv, had limited extracurriculars (no piano lessons or sports), but was a good reader/high achieving in school and I remember on weekends I'd get bored of tv and then read a book, or do crafts, or play, I think some children can regulate themselves more than others and for ones that can tv isn't worse than other activities necessarily. I was delighted and enthralled by movies like Bambi as a kid, there is value in what good tv shows, movies, stories can depict for children's imaginations, but if there's nothing stimulating in their environment (so they can act out what they're seeing) and no one to play with or talk to to make sense of what they're seeing it's not adding value to their life.
posted by lafemma at 11:05 AM on June 30, 2016

Caillou is a demon show made of white hot hate :)

Structure. I've found if TV is going to work for the little Fries it's got to have structure. Our timeline is morning and night. Part of the wake up and goodnight routine as those can be hectic with more than one kid. So by default we use 15min shows (30mins total) and more time can be earned through getting bath/breakfast done quickly bumping to 30min shows (60 mins total). Our oldest is leisurely, so this is good incentive.

Before this method there was a lot of anger/rage/resentment around turning the TV off. I think objectively even great TV is probably bad for kids, but it's hard to live without, and it's a "best practice" I'm willing to compromise on.

Netflix/Amazon Prime are great due to the lack of ads.
posted by French Fry at 11:13 AM on June 30, 2016

My One Great Trick for this is to get an old-fashioned egg timer, preferably shaped like a pig or something. You set it for the length of the episode and then you say "Piggy says time's up!"

You still may have some tantrums but sometimes they are amusingly at Piggy.

Toddlers are weird. My son did okay with Piggy but screamed at me every. time. we were leaving the Wholesome Fun of the park. Where he also bugged me to go every 15 minutes. Sometimes they fixate.

(I hope this is a helpful statement. I do think screens have a very particular cachet, but my own view was that I would rather work it out while the kids still think I am amazing and not be trying to influence them belatedly.)

I like Caillou in part because he has parents who actually seem to have a limited income and rather than buying him map backpacks that talk and speedboats (hello Diego), they have conversations like "our washing machine is broken but we will try to fix it" or "we looked at a new car today but decided the old one would have to do." It's odd, but in the world of children's programming this seems revolutionary.

Mind you, I've dated French-Canadian men and while I may have had a bad batch, the whining does not seem completely out of the national character (along with generous hearts.)

(Definitely check out Thomas the Tank Engine as Imperialist Brainwashing. Also the girl trains are few and far between and always causing trouble!! I know this because my boys have watched most of the canon...sigh. Whatever you do do not give your precious child access to the live-action movie starring Alec Baldwin.)
posted by warriorqueen at 11:35 AM on June 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

"Ads are the worst for kids, and youtube now has so many ads on kids' videos."

For what it's worth, you can turn that off for a fee with

(Obviously means nothing for product placement or other cases when the content itself includes the advertising. And doesn't solve the problem of figuring out which videos to show them. Or the problem that our son appears to believe that "just one more" means "at least one more".)
posted by bfields at 12:31 PM on June 30, 2016

After further reflection, I think many of the comments above (mine included) can be summarized as:

Establish an external structure, so that everyone knows "the rules", and you - the parent - are never an arbitrary decision maker. Toddlers are like sharks. If they sense there is any wiggle room, they are liable to attempt everything in their power (read: unholy screaming) to make you give in. If they are certain that This Is How Things Are and Thus They Ever Shall Be, you have a fighting chance of getting them to comply.

Also, if you have an external authority (see: clock or piggy timer) you and kid can band together against it: "I want to watch another show too, but the piggy dinged! We are mad at you, piggy!" This (sometimes) at least keeps you from being the target for the rage, and humor can be an effective tool in interrupting a rage-cycle.
posted by telepanda at 12:36 PM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Good thread, as you can see very kid dependent. Do what works for you and balances keeping yourself sane and doing what you think is best for the kids. Sometimes, you just have to say fuck it and break the rules. But having rules in the first place makes that possible.

Our 2 year didn't do screen time either until 2. We have a tv and actually I think it's easier to control that than introducing the idea that shows live everywhere especially on phones. We watch 1-2 episodes or 1 short film like Winnie the Pooh at the same time every night.

I think it's really important to find a show that you can stand to have on as well, some people don't care but that's a deal breaker for me. We found some great threads on here about gentle toddler tv, thanks to that currently she's really into Little Bear which is a extremely delightful and sweet and calm.

When we turn it off she sometimes used to throw a major tantrum which we dealt with like we do all tantrums. Give her space, tell her we're sorry she's upset, but don't change the subject or distract until she's done. After a few months of that, when we say it's that was the last episode she knows we're not messing around. And we always follow tv time with "prancing around the house squealing loudly" time, which frankly is the best. Good luck!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:52 PM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

So, speaking from the far other side of this: we have a real television, and a cable subscription, and if we're home, the TV is likely to be on in the background. Most days, it's a routine of PBS in the morning, until Tavis Smiley and Charlie Rose comes on, and then Sprout or Nick Jr. PBS is awesome. Sprout is great. Nick Jr is of a more dubious quality but my kid (2.5) really, really loves it, especially Paw Patrol (ugh), Bubble Guppies (yay), Peppa Pig (yay) and the new Teletubbies (?!).

The exception is dinner time. We have a family-wide ban on screens during dinner time.

So. My daughter still spends the entirety of her day immersed in imaginative play. She loves play-doh and finger paints and stickers and dancing. We do cooking projects together. We garden outside and have playdates and go to storytime and the park and read many many books before bedtime and she can say the better part of her ABCs and can count to 20 except she's always skipping 6. On hot days, we spend all day outside splashing in a kiddie pool without TV.

She pretty much never tantrums about TV. I always give her warnings when I'm going to turn it off (but then, I try to give her warnings with everything). I basically give her the courtesy I would an adult watching a TV program, which is that if she's really engrossed in something, we'll wait until it's over or we'll pause it.

I grew up being what my mother considered a TV addict. I was an incredibly imaginative kid and that TV habit fed that habit rather than turning me into a braindead zombie. My first pieces of fiction were essentially proto-fanfiction. I'm now a published writer with a graduate degree. My daughter seems much the same way that I was as a kid. She often pretends she's Marshall from Paw Patrol or Peppa Pig. Daniel Tiger has given us both a better emotional vocabulary. We watch old episodes of Mr. Rogers when she's having trouble sleeping--there's nothing more soporific.

Watch TV with your kid. Let media be a normal part of your lives. Talk about it. Don't discount the creative and educational opportunities it can offer. I say don't fear TV.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:27 PM on June 30, 2016 [3 favorites]

Oh, and seconding the suggestion for a timer (we just use the one on the phone or microwave). For anything, really. My daughter will ask for a timer when she knows we're going to leave a place soon. It seems very fair--they get a little more time but with a structured and easily understood endpoint. And it's the timer's fault when it goes off, not yours.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:33 PM on June 30, 2016

One last thought is that actually, I found streaming (especially on hulu, where the episodes play endlessly, or youtube, where if your kid is anything like mine they'll just click through endless Daddy Finger and kinder egg vids) to be much worse than broadcast TV. There's no natural break and it's very easy to just lose an entire Saturday. Whereas if you're watching broadcast TV, even of a kid's channel, eventually something like Chloe's Closet comes on and everyone feels bored so you just decide to just go play in the garden.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:37 PM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Basically, you just pick an amount of time and stick with it as a hard limit. You stick it out through the tantrums, and they eventually learn that when you say no more TV, it's like the sun coming up and going down and the rain falling and the wind blowing, just a simple real limit that no amount of screaming will change.

Honestly, we don't limit TV much these days, because our kids are usually playing or doing something else while the TV is on. We do have hard limits on the iPad, though, and my son basically accepts these limits as a reality and doesn't argue. YouTube Kids has a timer function that we use.

We do have friends who don't have limits, and what they've noticed (and we have noticed this too, within our limits) is that with no limits, most kids will wax and wane with their interest in the screens.

Also, the Caillou hate is because Caillou whines a lot. But if it doesn't bother you, I don't think it's actually that awful.
posted by hought20 at 8:24 AM on July 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

2nding don't fear the TV. We don't limit TV and used to feel guilty about it, but then the toddler got older and he is way, way more interested in imaginative play than TV, so it has naturally limited itself to moments when we need kids contained in one room and entertained (while cooking meals mainly).

I was one of those kids who wasn't allowed to watch TV and I am still super resentful about it (and have made a career in TV. So.)

They actually don't study TV use for kids under 2 for ethical reasons, so no one really knows if it's bad for them or not, our kids watched TV younger than 2 and are developing just fine on all metrics.
posted by rainydayfilms at 5:05 PM on July 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Coming back into this Ask to give you a heads up that as of yesterday, Netflix no longer has PBS kids content and its has all moved to Amazon. It's still all in the PBS kids app.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:35 AM on July 3, 2016

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